Achieving growth and innovation in the plastics industry through diversity

“The plastics industry isn’t that diverse,” says Alex Fung, President of Conventus Polymers. The 36-year-old Asian–American remembers his first days with a leading material supplier where he was one of three Asian–Americans among a team of more than 100 people. Similarly, Fung says women are underrepresented broadly in executive roles and even more so in the plastics sector.

“Our company has people from all walks of life that provide perspectives and I am so thankful for that,” says Fung. Conventus prides itself on building a staff rich in ethnic diversity, and balanced in areas of gender, age, professional experiences, and education.

Fung jokes that he was a “diversity hire” when he entered the industry. “I'd like to think I've made a positive contribution to this industry and would have been unaware of plastics if it wasn't for being that diversity hire, said Fung. He recalls one experience as a member of a technology venturing team exercise where five of the six team members were from different countries. “The ideation that came out of our 2 weeks together was incredible and that's something that we want to foster at Conventus Polymers,” explained Fung.

Part of being an employer of choice and leader in the industry requires not just having a diverse group of individuals on your team, but also ensuring that the company is fostering and encouraging inclusion throughout the organisation, says Fung. “We want everyone to feel like they are a part of not just a team, but their efforts and ideas provide unique perspective that other people wouldn't normally think of,” said Fung.

Fung frequently cites a 2015 McKinsey study which reveals that more racially and ethnically diverse companies have better financial returns. More specifically, the report states that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Meanwhile, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. In the US, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8%, says the report.

Establishing a diverse and inclusive work environment allows companies to win and retain top talent by improving employee satisfaction, and decision making, all which directly impacts ROI, according to Fung. “As a global business, this is really important to connecting with our employees, customers, and vendors,” he said.

Conventus’ workforce is composed of a wide-ranging age demographic (20–71 years), and includes 47% women and ethnicities such as Chinese, Venezuelan, Swedish, Italian, and others. Diversity is a major business asset in international negotiations, technical expertise, and navigating the nuances in cultural differences between suppliers.

The Conventus team includes many who have run their own companies, grown compounding businesses from the ground up, worked at major auto tier companies, and attended Ivy League institutions. “A unified team of diverse individuals sharing talents is at the core of creative problem solving,” said Fung. “At Conventus, ideas, innovation, and new opportunities are borne of collaboration of a group with a variety of educational backgrounds, and work experiences, and languages. Our individual differences enrich and fuel our growth.”