A legacy of learning and connecting!

In an unusual step for AIPIA we are publishing extracts from a recent Q&A Lindy Hughson, editor of PKN Packaging News and the current International Packaging Press Organisation (IPPO) president undertook with immediate past president of the World Packaging Organisation, Pierre Pienaar. He completed his two-term tenure in November 2023 and we publish this as a tribute to his contribution to the wider development of Smart Packaging. 

Before he left office he and his successor Luciana Pellegrino were instrumental in signing an MoU with AIPIA, recognising the importance the role Smart Packaging will play in the future development of the industry. This interview reveals his commitment to education and connecting with people and organisations, plus a generosity of spirit that has benefitted both the WPO and the wider packaging world.

As you reflect on the key achievements and highlights of your two-term tenure as President of WPO, what do you consider to be the most significant accomplishments during your leadership?

A key goal was to increase global awareness [of WPO]. When l took office in 2017 I emphasised that we all had to focus intensely and intentionally on this goal, so we stepped out of the comfort zone of previous years to embark on a journey of making WPO’s presence and purpose felt in the global packaging industry. At every opportunity presented to us and during the opportunities we created, we shared with the world what we can do to ensure a “Better Quality of Life, Through Better Packaging, For More People”.

How did the global market’s response to WPO evolve during your tenure?

We harnessed the power of social media, and this changed the landscape in which we operated. This was an untapped resource, which we capitalised on in a significant way. In the first few years we approached organisations, institutions, the corporate world for support. In the second half of my tenure, the picture we had predicted and had hoped for, started to emerge, that industry players were approaching us to be involved in their conferences, and attend their exhibitions. We have become the reference, or the packaging standard. The benefits of this new global landscape are too large to overlook, and I am confident the global connection will continue to strengthen.

What initiatives or projects do you believe will be vital for the WPO's continued success in advancing sustainable and innovative packaging solutions?

We significantly grew the WorldStar Awards program that stimulates the advancement of sustainable solutions while creating necessary, innovative ideas in packaging. It has been most encouraging to see the competitiveness amongst companies and countries. This brings out the best in those with creative minds, puts ideas into action and creates solutions for many across the world. Winners see their pack grace the global arena, gaining more exposure than they could have ever imagined. (AIPIA: Watch this space for a NEW Smart Packaging category!) 

One must never underestimate the power of knowledge and the confidence that new knowledge offers. In 2014, when I was WPO Vice President: Education, we started from a zero-base offering education and training in packaging technology across the globe. We have, during these past six years, had student participants from 32 countries, in 78 training programs. Education, coupled with newfound knowledge and the confidence that comes from training, inspires the industry to participate on a global stage. The ideas are endless. The need is endless. Opportunities to meet these needs are endless. 

In what ways do you envision continuing your involvement with the WPO, particularly in the realm of education? 

Education is in my blood. I love sharing knowledge and expertise, while also learning daily from others. I certainly hope to get back into the classroom more now that my role has come to an end and I have more time. More countries need what WPO has developed and can offer. We owe it to industry to ensure they stay abreast of current, global packaging needs and requirements. WPO is in discussion with major players in industry to significantly grow the education offerings across the world. I would love to be called on to participate again in such training, as I did before taking on the role of president.

How do you see the role of education in addressing the current challenges and opportunities in the packaging industry?

The WPO is very intentional about education content, ensuring it remains current. Having over sixty countries involved in the WPO, gives us the advantage of access to cutting edge packaging developments globally. This new learning, including new global legislation around sustainability for example, allows us to adjust training programs to ensure we are aiming for global standards and practices, wherever possible. 

All the latest technology and creative design, however, will still not complete the circle if we do not educate the consumer about their power and responsibility to generate energy from valuable recycled packaging material. We have a way to go in educating consumers. We must share our knowledge and expertise. We owe it to our planet! 

Throughout your tenure, the WPO has likely collaborated with various stakeholders. Can you discuss some key partnerships or collaborations that have been instrumental in advancing the organization's goals, especially in the education sector?

The first one that comes to mind is UNIDO, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. WPO signed the MoU in November 2017. This partnership has grown and strengthened significantly over the past six years. We have had teams on UNIDO projects on every continent. it is evident that UNIDO’s interest in an ongoing partnership with WPO, will only intensify as they see the results of mutual projects over these past six years. 

We have done similarly with global cold supply chain organisations as well as the major exhibition companies across the world. A more recent partnership has been with the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA). This relationship will go a long way to ensure these two global organisations facilitate an effective environment in which to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities.

Finally, on a personal note, what legacy do you hope to leave behind as the outgoing president of the WPO?

I hope to be remembered for encouraging WPO members to be inclusive and generous. Inclusive at Board Meetings, generous with sharing their respective cultures and respecting others’ differences. Inclusive and generous with their knowledge and ideas shared throughout the year. I have worked hard to include developing countries so they too can benefit from the shared knowledge and learning, to offer a better standard of living to more through improved packaging. 

My hope is that WPO will continue to strengthen its global profile so that many more will benefit from its rich foundation and intention. At the end of the day, I am a teacher, a consultant, and I hope to be remembered for fostering a love and a respect for knowledge and ongoing learning. We have a way to go but I hope I made a difference. I have enjoyed the ride, and it has been a tremendous privilege to work on a global platform with so many wonderful people.


AIPIA looks forward to working with the new team at WPO to build on this legacy.

AWA and AIPIA Smart Labeling Chicago

AIPIA and AWA Smart Packaging World Congress Amsterdam

« News feed