CEO Q&A: Jerome Peribere, Sealed Air

Sealed Air's Jerome Peribere talks about significant branding changes the company has made and its plans for relocation.

CEO Q&A: Jerome Peribere, Sealed Air

In 2012, you joined Sealed Air as president and COO. Six months later you became CEO. What changes have you implemented since taking on that role?
In 1957, Sealed Air invented Bubble Wrap, but since then we have branched out into other divisions aside from product care, including food care and Diversey Care, a sanitation and cleaning products division.

When I joined the company, the logo was composed of nine bubbles, symbolic of Bubble Wrap, but I was confused when I found out it only makes up 2% of the company’s sales. I also noticed the tagline, "Our products protect your products," was not representing the whole company.

When I became CEO, we changed the tagline to Re-imagine and changed the logo. It now represents the trillion cut of a gemstone. It stands for our three main values as a company: Everything we do is about sustainability, performance, and cost competitiveness. Our branding now represents all of our staffers and different business units.

What is Sealed Air doing with customers and staffers regarding the Ebola virus?
We are taking steps to address the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and beyond through the creation of healthy and clean environments that prevent the spread of disease and infection.

We have created an internal task force and a suite of training and education materials for customers and communities, as well as products that meet CDC recommendations for environmental infection control of Ebola.

Sealed Air didn’t have an intranet until last year, which was implemented to boost employee engagement. Tell us about this.

As part of the intranet, we have a section called Good News Friday. Each week, staffers are encouraged to email the comms team about a positive customer story, business win, or a great thing they did around the world as part of their job. Then we share the best stories in that section. We also created a blog where staffers can talk freely.

We also post our division information, social activities we are having or taking part in, and news interviews, so all of our 25,000 staffers selling products in 170 countries can see what is going on.

How large is your communications team and what PR agencies do you work with?
We have about 15 people on the comms team across all divisions. We also brought Weber Shandwick on board in December to help us engage with media groups.

Sealed Air announced it would be moving its global headquarters to Charlotte, North Carolina, from New Jersey in 2016. How did you relay the news to staff?   
In July, we simultaneously communicated the news internally and externally. We knew this would be disturbing for employees that were impacted, so our communications department proactively thought about all the questions staffers would have about the relocation.

They compiled an FAQ document about Charlotte’s schools, climate, housing affordability, cost of living, local taxes, and spouse employment opportunities, and provided it to employees when the announcement was made. We got a lot of kudos for this.

On our intranet, we created videos featuring me, a welcome from North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R), a city overview and new office concept, and press releases. We also held town halls.

What message are you stressing with the impending move?
We are consolidating about 1,300 jobs by closing our headquarters in New Jersey and other offices in Wisconsin, Connecticut, and South Carolina.

The message is focused on the fact that we are now building a unified company with all three divisions under one roof. We can provide new opportunities to staff because we are all going to be in the same location so people can move easily from one division to another without having to relocate.

Any M&As on the horizon?
We’re focused on growing with our organic opportunities. We do plan to make small bolt-on acquisitions, but we have a high debt level as a result of acquiring Diversey in 2011, so before we make any further acquisitions, we need to reduce that. 

Sealed Air announced a 5% price hike on certain products in its product care unit in North America, effective October 1. How are you communicating this change?
We are explaining to people that we are doing this to combat continued escalation of raw material and other input costs. We are not in the business of absorbing those costs.

While this kind of action is new for us, it isn’t for the industry. Our suppliers are communicating their price increases via press releases. We decided to do the same. By doing this publicly, you are announcing to your customers that you are not doing this solely to them, but to everybody.

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