Adapting and Changing with the new normal
by Craig Saunders
IAPD President

s I write this, we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the global COVID-19 crisis. In some ways it seems like it’s been much longer than 12 months since we heard the shocking news as major event after major event canceled, from the NCAA basketball tournaments to the Olympics and more.

On a more somber note, as time progresses, it is getting increasingly more difficult to find people who have not been impacted by COVID-19. My heartfelt condolences go out to all who have lost family and friends to the virus.

Craig Saunders headshot
This past year has been a difficult one for so many people in so many ways. I thank the leaders of IAPD member companies who found ways to shift their businesses to ensure that they could be considered “essential,” and stay open, keeping their people employed and producing so many vital COVID-related products. I also congratulate and admire all who have successfully juggled working from home with home schooling your kids. Like so many of you, I am looking for signs of hope wherever they may be.
Adapting to the new normal
With 2020 behind us and the rollout of the approved vaccines, we can look to the future and start to plan for the return of a “new normal” for business. Even with mass vaccinations, it seems unlikely to go back to business as usual soon. Us road warriors who are used to traveling most weeks probably are going to be grounded for a little while longer. If your customers are accepting visitors, you may be able to start by going to locations that are in driving distance. Time will tell just how many other adjustments we will need to make as the economy opens up again, but this past year has taught us all just how resilient we can be.
Areas of growth
Some of the early economic indicators may seem counter intuitive with an uncertain business climate given the escalation of many plastic raw materials. Some segments of the performance plastics industry have been very strong, such as building and construction, automotive and recreational vehicles. This makes sense, as you think of the people who may have cancelled their dream vacation and decided to use those funds for home improvement projects instead. This trend, in turn, increased the demand for many of the raw materials IAPD members manufacture and distribute.
“With 2020 behind us and the rollout of the approved vaccines, we can look to the future and start to plan for the return of a ‘new normal’ for business.”
Cause for optimism
Several market sectors that are still facing challenging times such as restaurants, entertainment, exhibit-trade shows and brick and mortar retail. However, according to J.P. Morgan, 63 percent of small businesses and 77 percent of mid-size businesses remain optimistic that their 2021 performance will improve. The majority predict that they will see improved growth this year over 2020. Many small to mid-size business have had to expand their business model to include e-commerce, home delivery and drive-up services, for those customers uncomfortable with the traditional retail experience.
Changes in Washington
With the new administration, there will likely be a shift in the way the federal government perceives the performance plastics industry. Therefore, it is more important than ever for IAPD and its members to continue to promote the many benefits of performance plastics with a focus on healthcare, protection and prevention of diseases, light weighting and recyclability.

As with all changes, we as an industry will have to adapt and change. In addition, there will be opportunities that will benefit our industry such as infrastructure spending, renewable energy and the “Buy America” Bill. See the Washington Update article on page 27 of this issue for more information from IAPD’s team at the Capitol. I know they started working with the transition team prior to the inauguration to help educate and promote the benefits of performance plastics. Key to our success over the next few years will be our ability to collectively articulate the environmental sustainability benefits of performance plastics, including data about the overall carbon footprint of performance plastics, especially when compared to other materials in applications. The IAPD Environmental Committee is hard at work to provide these resources for you.

We’ve got this
It is difficult to predict what may happen, but I am confident that as an industry will become stronger and more focused to meet the ever-changing challenges that face us.