AMERIPEN, The Sustainable Packaging Coalition, The Recycling Partnership, and the Carton Council of North America—industry organizations that operate at the intersection of packaging and environmental issues—were all established partly in thanks to two vibrant packaging leaders we lost in October 2021: Laura Rowell and Elisabeth Comere.
Both women were passionate believers in the value of packaging to address social and environmental needs and the need for packaging to be responsibly recovered at its end of life. Due to these beliefs, their efforts drove the development of initiatives focused on advancing holistic policy, advanced packaging recovery initiatives, and sustainability education. To many in the sustainable packaging space, they served as mentors—generous with their time and insights.
With nearly 30 years in the packaging industry, Rowell became recognized for her expertise on global packaging regulations, government policy, and scorecards. She served as the Project Lead for the ISO Packaging and the Environment Standards and was instrumental in the development of the Consumer Goods Forum Global Packaging Project to develop internationally accepted metrics for sustainable packaging.
Prior to launching her own consulting business, Rowell worked for Sonoco, WestRock/MeadWestvaco, Sweetheart Cup Company, and Southeast Paper Manufacturing. Noted Russ Martin, CEO of the Global Products Stewardship Council in Australia on Rowell’s Facebook page after news of her passing, “Laura was a true global leader on packaging sustainability—highly respected for her knowledge and effectiveness. Like a chess master, Laura could see the whole board, the whole game, and be several moves ahead. I could always check with her about key issues because chances are, she’d have been involved in their development.”
Whether she was in Spain, Brazil, Australia, or North America, Rowell developed friendships that lasted through the years and that were valued by those who knew her. All of her friends and colleagues knew about her beloved golden retrievers, Shilo and Morgan, and the pride she had for her nieces and nephews as they launched their own careers.
Arriving in the U.S. in 2010 from Europe, Comere was struck by what she perceived as minimal focus on packaging recycling and immediately set forth to strengthen the mission of the Carton Council. She had been with Tetra Pak since 2006, both in Europe and the U.S. Before that, she served as a political adviser to a member of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, and headed the Environment Department of the Food & Drink industry group in Europe.
Comere had a law and a master’s degree in environmental science. Jason Pelz, VP Sustainability at Tetra Pak Americas, shares, “Elisabeth was a dear colleague and friend and a catalyst for change in the area of packaging sustainability. She used her knowledge, her leadership skills, and her ever-optimistic view on life to create common agendas amongst all segments of industry with the goal of making the world a better place for future generations.”
For those who knew Comere, she had a love for culture, good food, and wine. She was a strong advocate for women in the industry and held a passionate belief that packaging could be designed for environmental and social justice.
Says Scott Byrne, who worked with both Rowell and Comere, “Reflecting on the passing of Laura and Elisabeth, you can appreciate that those of us in sustainability are truly standing on the shoulders of giants. These women brought unbridled passion and innovative ideas that showed us what sustainability could mean for the packaging industry and laid the very foundation of organizations we take for granted today. Whether through their work, their mentoring or their friendship they have both left an indelible mark that will help move us all forward for years to come.”
Adds Kyla Fisher, Program Director at AMERIPEN, “As I reflect on the loss of these two dynamic advocates for sustainable packaging, I honor their mentorship and friendship throughout my career. I believe the best way we can honor them is to collaborate and continue the difficult dialogues towards a vision where packaging’s value in protecting our communities and environment is realized. The legacy Laura and Elisabeth leave us is a community they were instrumental in building and, despite the different paths we may take to get there, unite us in our dedication towards one common goal—realizing the value of packaging to create beneficial outcomes.”