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DS Smith: thinking outside the box

We meet DS Smith, one of the companies in the portfolio of the Triodos Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds, and find out how they’re redefining packaging for a changing world.

More information on the Triodos SRI funds available at: www.triodos.co.uk/SRI


DS Smith is listed within the portfolios of both the Triodos SRI Sustainable Pioneer and Equity Fund. With SRI funds, capital is at risk and the value of an investment can fall as well as rise, income is variable and not guaranteed, and individuals may get back less than invested.


DS Smith is a global packaging company leading a shift in mindset to a circular economy, from supply chain to supply cycle. They have pioneered recycling methods and are currently Europe’s biggest recycler of fibres. They source used paper and old corrugated cardboard cases from retailers and traders and use the fibre to make recycled paper, which in its turn is used to create corrugated board – a material that many companies are returning to, given widespread concern about extensive use of plastics.

The Colour of Money spoke with Rachel Stevens, head of investor relations, and Sam Jones, sustainability manager.

TB: What’s driving your sustainability focus?

“The huge growth in online shopping means that innovative packaging has a bigger role than ever in helping to address several global sustainability challenges. As shopping habits evolve, consumer expectations change, and supply chains become more complex, and so packaging must work harder.

The rise of social media and the ‘unboxing’ video craze also means ‘bad packaging’ is reviewed and shared with the world. Brand reputation and packaging have never been more closely linked. Online shoppers complain about receiving huge boxes full of air with a tiny product inside, and we have developed solutions to help retailers avoid that.”

TB: How does sustainability fit into your business strategy?

“We are proud to run our business around strict sustainability criteria – it’s at the heart of everything we do: creating and delivering innovative, sustainable packaging solutions that consider the entire supply chain.

After announcing last year that we had achieved our 2020 carbon target three years early, we have just created a new set of nine ambitious, long-term targets, including zero waste to landfill by 2030 – a lot harder than it sounds for a business of our size.”

DS Smith: a company redefining packaging - 2nd image

TB: What trends do you expect to drive future change?

“Increasingly, we have seen a change in our customers’ attitudes to packaging, as they look for transparency about the impact of corrugated versus plastic packaging and the life cycle of recyclable and non-recyclable packaging.

Public awareness of and interest in sustainable packaging is high. According to Nielsen and Unilever, 21-36 per cent of consumers in North America and Europe say that packaging has the most significant influence on sustainable purchasing decisions.”

TB: What does it mean to you to be part of the Triodos SRI funds portfolio?

“The fact that Triodos Investment Management is amongst our shareholders is an important endorsement for the efforts we are making. We are delighted to have them as investors.

It is good to see ESG and SRI funds now becoming more and more important and not just a tick box exercise. This is being driven by consumer change.”

DS SmithDS Smith logo

DS Smith is a leading corrugated packaging company that produces customer-specific packaging with an emphasis on state-of-the-art design. Find out more about the company in their 2018 Sustainability Review.


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Andrew Preston 1 year ago

Interesting article. I’m a Triodos Depository Receipt holder, and also run my personal current account with Triodos.
Also, I’m just about on the point of investing further in a Triodos equity fund.

This time, 50 years ago, I lived in Watchet , Somerset. The major, indeed only signifciant;y sized emplyerinthat town of 5000 people, was a paper mill. Then it was owned by acompany called Reed & Smith, then by Bowater, eventually over the years D S Smith owned it. As a student, whose family lived in Watchet, I worked in the mill for 2 summer vacations from university. I remember reading in the local newspaper the words of the newly elected Conservative MP for that area….. “No impediments to business here..”. A couple of days later, I looked over the parapet of the bridge over the river outflow from the mill. Bright blue in colour from paper dyes. Ans huge billows of chemical foam covering the river banks. As I recalled the MP’s words, I thought…. “You’re certainly not wrong…”.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago, by chance I read that the mill was to be closed down .
I checked out the owners D S Smith. This is what I concluded….

They are a massive international conglomerate. Rather than grow organically, they have grown by mergers and acquisitions, with a particular focus on economies of scale, rationalisation, and the bottom line. As far as I could see there was near enough blank refusal to invest anything more than token amounts in smaller mills such as Watchet. So they just closed it down. No arguments, no real discussion. Somewhere between 200 and 250 jobs just gone, like that , in a small community.

They might be carbon neutral. But they are just about everything I despise about global corporatism.

Reply to Andrew Preston
Andrew Preston 10 months ago

Further to my comment above.., some weeks ago.., November 2019, I visited Watchet. As I drove down the hill into the town, I came to the entrance of the now closed paper mill.  I pulled in, to see if I could enter the site and have a wander round.  The huge metal gates, were however very locked and chained. At the entrance there was a police car parked, with a couple of the local police inside.  I walked over and chatted with them for a few minutes.

The summary of that conversation is thus….
I asked what was going on at the site.  The reply was that machinery had been taken away.
I asked if further businesses, industries were coming in.   No.
The policeman went on to say that the site was polluted, and nothing could be done with it
for a couple of decades.

I asked the policeman what was happening in the town. He didn’t say much, just that the town had been hit very hard. 

To Triodos….   Maybe you could raise this the next time you and DS Smith meet up.  Because, from where I’m sitting DS Smith do not look remotely like a ‘clean’. company, nor  a socially responsible business.  Expand by huge corporate acquisitions, starve smaller operations of funding… which is exactly what they did at that mill…., then close them down. Walk away, and leave their sh*t behind them .

To confirm….. I run a current account account with Triodos. I’m a shareholder ( depository receipts) of Triodos. I’m an investor in one of your funds.

I’ve also read this….

They look more like cowboys to me.