Interview with the newly elected Director General Marco Mensink

Making Europe more competitive vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

On June 1, 2014, Marco Mensink, a man who has always given enthusiasm and professionalism to the European Pulp and Paper Industry, was elected as the new Director General of Cepi.

Former Deputy Director-General of Cepi in Brussels, supporting the DG Cepi in leading a team of 20, author of the Cepi 2050 Roadmap, coordinator of the bio-based industries public private partnership, initiator of the Cepi Two Team Project  and expert on emissions trading, renewables and energy legislation. Marco Mensink has dedicated all his professional enthusiasm to the European Pulp and paper industry. Paper Industry World interviewed him to learn something more about his professional and personal history and about his opinions on the situation the paper industry is currently facing, as well as about the next steps of Cepi‘s future activity.

Marco Mensink, Director General of Cepi.
Marco Mensink, Director General of Cepi.

Mr Mensink, can you tell us about your background and the most significant work experiences, which have influenced your job and career decisions?

«I am from Dutch origin, 46 years old. We have three kids, two daughters and a son and I live just south of Brussels. I have studied Forestry at Wageningen University. After military service I joined Ernst & Young management consultants for 6 years. In 2001 I started working for the Royal VNP, the Netherlands Paper and Board Association. As with many who get to know the sector, I have never left. I came to Brussels to work at Cepi 8 years ago. I am the son and grandson of a politician. Therefore our work at Cepi combines all I have done so far, The Director General function in Cepi is one of the most fascinating and interesting positions one can have. It is about content, about industry, real issues, about politics, environment, Brussels and about keeping this industry competitive in Europe. It is a job where one is hired to be curious, to explore and to solve the problems ahead».

How would you define the current moment for the paper industry and what will your approach be as new Director General of Cepi?

«The industry operates in an ever changing world. Our sector itself is in full transformation, and has become much more diverse than before. One side of industry is the decline in the graphic paper markets. Then again, the packaging sector is growing and so is the hygiene business. Next to closures, restructuring and consolidation we see investments and growth in other areas. New products are invented. New innovations are ahead. Our companies start branding themselves, building relationships with key customers we have not seen before. The bioeconomy shows a way to the future. In short – these are very exciting times. Cepi will support the sector in these transformations, by showing a way forward as we have done with the Two Team Project and the Cepi 2050 Roadmap. And by seeing the positive elements in between the less positive. By focusing on innovation. And by being the best possible advocacy group in Brussels that this sector can have, adding real value. We need Europe’s investment climate to improve – and the Cepi team will do everything possible to support the industry in this respect».

Between 2006 and 2010 you were Energy & Environment Director in Cepi: are energy and the environment interrelated and how can projects on both aspects be implemented?

«Energy and Environment are two aspects of the competitiveness of Europe and the competitiveness of our sector. Europe has a high regulatory burden and too high energy costs. In the past years we have worked hard to persuade policy makers to find solutions that indeed solve the environmental and climate challenges that our world has. But at the same time, these solutions need to be targeted and keep industry competitive. Issues are increasingly integrated, you can nowadays hardly put them in a specific basket. Energy policy for example has an economic, a climate, an environmental and a health aspect all at the same time».

What areas of Cepi’s current activities do you intend to focus on and what will the first steps be?

«The Cepi Board recently approved the so called Cepi 2020 proposal for a new organizational structure that makes Cepi future proof again. Core of this proposal is to focus Cepi’s activities as much as we can. The Cepi team is great. The environment we work in changes every day. Cepi is strong, and needs to remain strong and even gain in influence. We will focus even more than before and put the power we have to win our lobbies in Brussels. With arguments and conviction».

What role does Cepi play among industrial associations in Brussels? For example, what relationships exist between energy-intensive industries?

«And do you think you will develop others and in which direction? In the last years Cepi has gained influence in Brussels. We are known. But we are a smaller sector in the large landscape in Europe. Alliances are a key answer to that. Cepi is one of the leading sectors in the Alliance of Energy Intensive Industries. We work closely together with the Steel sector, with cement, chemicals, metals ecc. This is crucial to make our voice heard on all energy related files. But there are more alliances. We are part of the Alliance of Competitive European Industries (ACEI), which combines the largest industrial trade federations in Brussels».

How do you expect the new Parliament formed after the European elections will look like and what activities will Cepi carry out in view of the election of the new EU Parliament?

«The new parliament will be different than before. The centre parties will get smaller, and the right and left wing parties will get stronger. We might see a grand coalition between the conservatives and social democrats in the parliament. All sides of the parliament combine very different national voices. Cepi will engage with the new members of the parliament as soon as they arrive. Already, the national associations, which are our members and the pillars supporting our work, have been taking an active part in the national discussions with new candidates. It is important to be heard and explain what we are and what we do. We can never assume people understand or know our sector from day one. Explaining the impact of legal proposals is a key element of our work. We have a good and pro active story to tell: about the bioeconomy, about the jobs we provide for Europe, about our role in the recycling society. The key focus of the new generation of policy makers will have to be on the huge unemployment we still have in Europe since the crisis. The only solution is to make Europe more competitive vis-a-vis the rest of the world. The real solution for jobs and growth is industry. And especially industry that exports real goods.»

Marco Mensink’s profile

An experienced Brussels based public affairs professional, who has dedicated his professional enthusiasm to the European Pulp and paper industry. Deputy Director General of Cepi in Brussels, supporting the DG in leading the excellent Cepi team of 20.

Author of the Cepi 2050 roadmap, which has become a leading vision for the industry in Europe. Now responsible for rolling out this roadmap, creating the future opportunities in EU funding and legislation for innovations in the sector.

Coordinator of the bio based industries public private partnership, a 40 company consortium of several sectors, aiming to bring together 3,8 billion euro to make the bio economy become reality, asking the Commission for 1 one billion euro grant as Joint Technology Initiative within Horizon 2020.

Initiator of the Cepi Two Team Project, which aims to develop the 2030 breakthrough technologies for the sector. Member of the European Commission High Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies. Active in the European Innovation Partnership on water. And member of the standard setting committee of the Global Alliance for Water Stewardship and the Steering Committee of the European Water Partnership.

A Brussels expert on Emission Trading, renewables and energy legislation. A strong and extensive network of contacts with the European Commission, European Parliament and Member states, Business Europe and ENGO’s. 14 years experience bring a wide network on this issue, in Europe and worldwide.

A networker, a professional speaker in public events, having a strong drive to move the organization, the issues and the sector forward.

Basta! Get back on track!

Cepi also launched a campaign calling for the EU to put the manufacturing industry at the heart of the European economy. «Basta! Get back on track!» calls for the EU to reduce red tape, help win the global competitiveness race, rethink existing policies and put the focus back on industry.

It intends to show how Industrial Renaissance can be put into practice. To make Europe a better place for manufacturing means creating a legislative environment in which European manufacturers can compete on a level playing field with other manufacturers throughout the world. By ensuring legislation is appropriate, affordable and consistent. Demonstrating where European policy has gone wrong, the Basta! campaign will also highlight where EU policy has been well-implemented to support industry on a national level. Other industry sectors are invited to join Cepi and several have announced their interest in supporting the campaign, which will run throughout 2014.

Four elements are part of this campaign:

1. Reduce red tap The EU managed to create a staggering 2,314 new regulations and directives in 5 years, while producing 700 measures to reduce the amount of red tape that was created.

2. Help win the global competitiveness race Europe is competing with regions that have lower taxes, lower wages and less strict legislation. The Commission must balance the playing field for European businesses.

3. Rethink existing policies There is a considerable price gap between the costs for energy in Europe and those in the rest of the world. Words have to be put into practice now to create a level playing field on which European businesses can compete.

4. Focus back on industry The European Commission needs to bring an industrial competitiveness dimension into EU policies at an early stage and keep in mind the importance of the value chain in manufacturing. Incentivising resource efficiency and innovation and allowing companies to choose their own methods for doing this instead of micromanaging will be more successful, according to Cepi.