Jonathan Quinn of Pregis Talks Making a Positive Impact in Packaging

Jonathan Quinn, director of market development and sustainability at Pregis LLC, was raised by a father who also worked in the packaging industry and set a great example of someone who works in such an important yet often under-recognized field.

Jonathan Pierron, Associate Editor & Content Producer

July 8, 2022

7 Min Read

Jonathan Quinn, director of market development and sustainability at Pregis LLC, was raised by a father who also worked in the packaging industry and set a great example of someone who works in such an important yet often under-recognized field.

Growing up Quinn always knew packaging was what he wanted to do with his life and how he was going to get there, but one big thing that didn’t cross his mind until later is the importance of making strong connections within the sphere.  

Quinn’s career at Pregis, a protective packaging company, is just one of the positions he holds where he can work out his leadership abilities and make meaningful connections. As FPA board member, chairman and founder of the emerging leadership council, and a global board of directors of ISTA he is able to develop the relationships he finds necessary for establishing cooperative communities and influencing important changes in the waste and packaging industries. 

In this Q&A, the Waste360 40 Under 40 recipient goes into detail about the critical role connectivity and proper leadership has in initiating and cultivating change. 

Waste360: Can you tell us about Pregis and your role as Director of Market Development and Sustainability? 

Quinn: Pregis is traditionally been known as a protective packaging company, so if you buy anything from Amazon or Walmart, or any of those, and you get the air pillows or mailers or anything, those are the kinds of products Pregis produces. My role is focused on the flexible packaging and blown film sides of things. That is making a film that a converter prints and laminates to turn into a stand-up pouch, bag, shrink film, or several different things. I am especially focused on enabling sustainability, whether that's recycled content or recyclability.  

It's really about developing applications and creating opportunities for sustainability and circular economy to be at the forefront of the conversation and enabling our customers to bring forward better and more sustainable solutions. 

Waste360: What led you to get into this industry? 

Quinn: I grew up around the flexible packaging industry. I have pictures of me in a box of resin when I was two and I was in the lab doing testing by the time I was five, because it's what I always thought was the cool thing to do. 

But throughout my career and my life, my number one goal in life has always been to beat my dad; both professionally and personally. My dad was the CEO of a couple of different packaging companies, and for years and years, I don’t think the industry as a whole did enough to enable sustainability or push sustainability initiatives.  That's where I've seen an opportunity to really wrap my arms around it to push these initiatives forward and be a voice and advocate for the flexible packaging industry—and for the broader packaging industry—to make sure that we're bringing forward sustainable solutions and helping brands and retailers meet their sustainability initiatives. I really want to showcase the science and facts associated with plastic packaging and back the value that it can bring. 

Waste360: Do you feel like you are accomplishing your goal of “beating your dad?” 

Quinn: My dad was the president of a company by the time he was 32. I am no longer 32 and my 32nd birthday was probably one of the the hardest birthdays that I've ever had, because I wasn't yet a president of a company. But what I can say is; I think there are a lot of ways that I am beating my dad. One of those ways being my focus on sustainability. I want all of my efforts in driving the industry towards a circular economy and supporting sustainability initiatives to help turn the packaging industry into one that my kids not only want to be a part of, but are also proud to be a part of.  

So ultimately I would say I am accomplishing this goal, just in a different way than I expected. I’d love to hear what my dad has to say about where I am today in relation to where he was, because we are working in entirely different worlds. 

Waste360: Can you pinpoint something within the position that you view as a large achievement of yours? 

Quinn: Both Pregis and my previous company have been a part of an organization called the Flexible Packagaing Association. Within this group is where I created an emerging Leadership Council designed to be the next generation of leadership within the flexible packaging industry focused on bringing people in all areas of this trade together. The council is led cross-functionally across not only my own company but also external industry associations, competitor companies, and customer companies to create something that's really become very powerful.  

My main focus was to make sure that this didn't just turn out to be a millennial party, and that it was actually action-driven and oriented so that we're delivering and making the industry better and advancing the conversation. That's one thing that I would say I'm most proud of.  

Overall, I think a more overlying thing that I'm very proud of, that is a separator between my dad and I, is the network and relationships that I have within the industry. I believe that at the end of the day, partnership and collaboration is the only way we're gonna be able to advance the circular economy conversation. 

And I think that's one of the most valuable things that I bring to the sustainability conversation. I am an orchestrator able to pull strings to match people with others and various technologies in order to successfully complete a mission. 

Waste360: Can you tell us what you believe makes a good leader? 

Quinn: I think the most important aspect of a leader is the ability to motivate and connect with people. A leader has got to understand that there are different things that make each individual tick in different ways, and can then utilize that knowledge to make sure everyone is successful and feels valued. 

Too often organizations and companies believe that the single most important aspect of their business is their technology or their customers or whatever it may be, but at the end of the day, the single most important aspect of any organization is the people. Without the people, you don't have the technology. Without the people, you don't have the customers. Without the people, you don't have the partnership. All of that is fundamental in advancing. 

My number one goal and in life is to positively impact people. That's what matters most to me. And hopefully I'm able to do that through packaging. Hopefully I'm able to do that through my roles and responsibilities. You've gotta be an ear, you've gotta have a heart, and you've gotta be a mind for the people that work for you. A leader looks out for everyone.  

Another thing is you have to be authentic. You can’t fake it. Being a leader is being vulnerable and not assuming that you have all the answers. It is okay to admit when you don't have the answers. 

Those are just a few of the things that are key to being a great leader in my mind. 

Waste360: How do you feel to be receiving the nomination? 

Quinn: It is very humbling to to be included in this group of just tremendous people. Ultimately, it really is an attribution to all the teams and people that I've been a part of in my career, because for not for one second can I assume that I would be here or be given this award had it not been for all of them. I attribute some of this award to them, the support of my wife and kids, and the encouragement and belief from people that I worked with—whether it was my first job or my current job. I have received credit for this, but I definitely believe that some of it goes to everyone that I've been on a team with because it wouldn't have happened without them. 


About the Author(s)

Jonathan Pierron

Associate Editor & Content Producer

John Pierron is the associate editor of Waste360. He graduated from Ohio University.

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