It’s not all doom and gloom!

Most of us talk about the hardships that Covid-19 has brought but there have many positives, as we say in the UK “every cloud has a silver lining”. In the carton industry in particular, I think we have reason to be confident that overall we will come out of the pandemic stronger and with new and better ways of working. So, let’s take a look at some of the benefits coming out of the last nine months, some serious and some a little more jovial (well it is nearly Christmas!). 1) More Environmental Awareness There was concern that short term practicality caused by the pandemic would prevail over the longer term need to act more environmentally-friendly. Sure, there have been some undesirable but unavoidable increases in non-recyclable protective clothing but overall the pandemic has actually made us more concerned about the environment rather than less. A survey conducted in November 2020 by Pro Carton, amongst 10,500 Europeans, revealed that Climate Change was consumers’ biggest concern after Covid-19 and that only 21% of respondents said they were less concerned about the environment than they were before Covid-19 with half saying they were MORE concerned. Clearly, the environment remains way up on people’s agenda and that can only be good for cartons and cartonboard. environment graphic 2) Packaging is essential The European Commission, and the public in general, recognised that packaging and the workers within the industry were essential. Packaging has wrongly come in for some bad press over the last few years and it’s also heartening to see so many brands switching to packaging that is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable – such as cartonboard. 3) Connects all generations Technology is adopted more naturally and quickly by the young. But now people of all ages have become more computer/technology literate and are comfortable in joining online video conferences be they Zoom, Microsoft teams, Go to Meeting, Skype, Webex or even House Party! 60 is the new 40 after all. 4) More efficient Whilst face to face meetings will make a comeback (I hope!) video conferences are here to stay. The key benefits are time and money; less travel and unnecessary costs – what more can a Financial Director ask for (unless they work in the airline business)? 5) More co-operation We’re all in it together. Never before has there been such global collective action and also a sense of recognising those that help others. Maybe we’ve regained some compassion as well as resilience, although selfishness was still clearly demonstrated when the panic buyers went into overload and cleared our supermarket shelves of toilet paper and other essentials. 6) Need to look after ourselves With visits to doctors becoming difficult to arrange and no one wanting to go to a hospital, we’ve had to self-diagnose and perhaps realised that our health is our own responsibility. More people are enjoying the outdoors both as a form of exercise and also as respite from being at home. Sales of spin bikes and dumb bells have also gone through the roof. 7) More home cooking With restaurants closed, more people have reverted to cooking at home. And not just warming up a frozen microwave meal but preparing healthier and better quality meals. Two of the items that sold out in-store early in lockdown were flour and yeast which suggests a huge rise in the amount of home baking. Many have found they enjoy the cooking experience although the best bit is the recognition from the family when something turns out well. Remember, we all like praise. 8) Improved hygiene The importance of washing our hands properly (with soap!) and using sanitisers has been stressed endlessly and the numbers that are doing so have increased significantly. However, there’s still too many mask wearers that seem to think just covering their mouth (but not their nose) or even just their chin provides adequate protection for themselves and others in their vicinity. 9) Reduced pollution With less air travel and also less car travel, the air is a lot cleaner than for many a year. Have you noticed that the air smells different and you can hear the birds much more clearly? Let’s hope that this isn’t a temporary benefit. The rise of video conferencing and the increase in electric cars will surely help. 10) Santa is exempt Great news for children of all ages is that it has been confirmed that Santa Claus is exempt from the quarantine and travel restrictions as he is an essential worker. The Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, confirmed in parliament on November 26 that: “We regard Santa Claus’s travel as essential travel” meaning Santa would be exempt from the requirement to self-quarantine. “Santa will be able to come into our airspace, and indeed … homes,” the minister said, “without having to restrict his movement.” Coveney did request, however, that children stay in bed, to ensure social distancing when Santa was delivering their presents. Santa’s reindeers are also fit and healthy as they have herd immunity! Have a great Christmas and prosperous New Year.