International MBA alumna focuses on sustainable packaging at Electrolux

Moore School alumni are elevating corporate social responsibility at employers around the world. One is Renee Paris (’14 International MBA), a sustainability manager for Electrolux in Anderson, South Carolina.

At the home appliance company, Paris is the sustainability manager for food preservation in North America and focuses on sustainability goals for refrigerators and freezers.

“Electrolux has aggressive sustainability goals, including implementing climate neutral operations by 2030, making products more circular and driving the use of energy-efficient products,” Paris said. In my area, “we’re working on all sorts of exciting projects — increasing recycled content in our appliances; promoting sustainable eating, which focuses on reducing food waste and encouraging a plant-forward diet; and sustainable packaging initiatives — and much more! I work closely with the Stockholm team as well as coworkers in the U.S. and around the globe.”

Paris has always been civic-minded. As a student, she was part of an economic development project in Mamfe, Cameroon, while serving in the Peace Corps. After graduation, Paris joined a global packaging company, where she served and eventually led the supplier sustainability team. Later, Paris transitioned to a full-time focus on sustainable packaging due to the global plastic crisis. After National Geographic published an article about the plastic crisis, and China and other southeast Asian markets started declining U.S. plastics because of possible contamination, many consumer packaging companies created sustainable packaging goals and joined the New Plastics Economy initiative, says Paris.

“That decision fundamentally changed the economics of recycling in the U.S. New packaging legislation including Extended Producer Responsibility laws have passed in increasing numbers recently,” she says. “It’s all culminated into a large focus on sustainable packaging. Consumers value it, lawmakers are legislating it, investors are spending based on it and companies are pledging to do it. Companies are creating positions in sustainability that never existed before. The last three positions I’ve held — including my current one — were all brand new roles in the companies where I was working.”

Paris adds that corporate social responsibility is an expectation of many consumers. In addition, buyers don’t have issues purchasing other brands if one does not meet ethical standards.

“It’s no longer a delighter; it’s a gatekeeper,” she says. “A growing number of consumers expect companies to meet basic responsibility standards, and they have no problem calling out brands that do not play their part.”

With Electrolux, Paris says she uses the communication, data analysis and operations management skills she gained from the Moore School’s International MBA program every day. She especially appreciates the curriculum’s focus on cross-cultural communication, cultural values and similar topics.

“Understanding the different ways people think helped me immensely, both in foreign countries and back home,” she says. “The next big skill is data analysis. There are lots of vast spreadsheets that need to be interpreted. Being able to communicate with data is as valuable as being able to communicate with people.”

Finally, Paris said, many employers have a growing interest in lean operations.

“People do a lot of unnecessary, non-value-added work, sometimes only because it’s always been done that way.”

Learn more about another International MBA graduate’s experience in sustainability at Henkel, a German chemical and consumer goods company.

To learn more about MBA options at UofSC, email Diondra Black, Assistant Director of Full-time MBA Programs, or call her at 1-803-777-3709.

Claire McGrath

Photo Credit: Grant Emory, (’17 IMBA, Spanish Track)