45th Annual Society for Case Research & Global Jesuit Case Series Summer Workshop

Experience level: 
Intended Audience: 
Neil Tocher, PhD; Tesia Kellar; Tyler Burch, PhD; College of Business; Idaho State University

Growth in the Plastic Replacement Sector: Balancing Sustainability, Profitability, and New Business Opportunities at WestRock Company

This decision-based case considers whether the WestRock Company (WRK) should enter the green-coated paperboard market sector via paperboard production only, completely integrated paperboard and packaging provider, or partner as the paper provider with a different packaging company. Importantly, WRK’s recently developed advanced barrier-coated paperboard had the needed features to replace many plastic packaging applications, and the firm’s recent record profitability provided it the financial flexibility to launch new offerings in growing market segments. However, WRK’s market entry strategy must balance its commitment to sustainability, diversity, and maintaining profitability in its other business segments. Producing and converting paperboard provides WRK full control but requires a much higher resource commitment. Conversely, doing paperboard production only would require far fewer resources but leaves the success of their newly developed sustainable paperboard in the hands of either a package-making partner or the paperboard wholesale market in general.