Why a former Cirque du Soleil CMO has joined a B2B recycling startup

Loop Industries' Sheila Morin plans to use a mix of co-marketing and D2C strategies.

Sheila Morin

Humanity’s dependence on single-use plastics for everything from yogurt cups to bottled water remains an environmental problem with few immediate solutions.

According to a 2019 study conducted by Zero Waste Europe, 70% of the 8.3 million tonnes of plastic produced since the 1950s has gone to waste. Of that, 84% (or 4.9 million tons) has ended up in landfills or in the environment. In response to consumer concerns (for the most part), many of the world’s largest brands are taking steps to reduce or eliminate plastics from their packaging and products. But for many that process will take years, if not a decade or more.

Montreal’s Loop Industries promises to help them get there faster – all while keeping plastics within the supply chain.

Using proprietary technology, Loop Industries (not to be confused with TerraCycle’s Loop) is able to deconstruct waste PET plastics and polyester fiber – including plastic bottles, packaging of any colour or condition and ocean plastics – into their base components (called monomers). It then uses those materials to produce virgin-quality PET resin and fibre that can be recycled an infinite number of times.

That process, the company says, can help organizations meet their CSR goals by creating an endless “loop” in the supply chain, while enabling firms to continue using plastics that are lightweight, cheap, durable and safe.

The company has only just started commercializing its technology. But it has already signed multi-year supply agreements with brands including L’Oreal, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Danone. Through an expanded partnership signed in November, French cosmetics brand L’Occitane now expects to transition to 100% sustainable PET plastic and meet its 2025 goal ahead of schedule.

Now, as Loop Industries looks to scale, it has set out to build its own brand and raise awareness among eco-conscious consumers, hiring Sheila Morin, a marketing vet with extensive experience in CPG, to serve as its first CMO.

Based in Montreal, Morin arrives at Loop from Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, where she was EVP and CMO of brands and consumer experience, leading branding and marketing, social media, advertising and content. At Loop, she will also pull from her time working in consumer-facing marketing at L’Oréal, Danone and P&G.

Morin concedes that traditional B2B business development will be a significant part of her mandate. However, she will also work to “elevate” Loop’s brand platform, to create a direct relationship with consumers and help educate them on how the tech works and how it’s different from traditional PET plastic recycling.

“Loop is a brand, and it’s going to be a visible brand for consumers,” she says. “That’s why my experience from the past makes sense here, because I know how to sell a consumer product to consumers, I know what they want, I know how to talk to them.”

When brands sign on to use Loop’s PET plastic, they agree to having the company’s logo on their packaging and to develop and execute a co-marketing strategy. This enables Loop to have a presence on the products of iconic brands, to drive brand awareness and to take part in brand marketing campaigns, according to an investor presentation shared with strategy. 

Barely two weeks into the job, Morin says it’s still too early to discuss specifics of its marketing plans. However, she believes there’s an opportunity to work with partners like Danone on consumer-facing product launches, thought leadership and events and to use content to better tell its story and those of its customers.

She also wants to create more opportunities for PR, social media and consumer activation to develop a one-to-one relationship with consumers, so that they understand “there’s a solution where you can have an impact, [where] your bottle of water will actually be recycled for real and be upcycled into another water bottle.”

Loop’s PET plastic is currently not available in Canada, though the company hopes to achieve global expansion of its technology through a mix of fully-owned facilities, partnership and licensing agreements.

In 2018, petrochemical giant Indorama Ventures agreed to retrofit its facilities in the U.S. with Loop technology, with plans to begin production this year – although, COVID-19 has delayed the launch until early 2022. And last month, Loop announced plans to open its first manufacturing facility in Europe through a partnership with French-based utility company Suez, which is projected to go live in 2023.