SCA Americas president's global reach

Somewhere in a drawer at home, Donald E. Lewis has a package of adult diapers - actually, adult pull-ups - that are his size.

"I brought a pack home," said Lewis, 52, president of SCA Americas. SCA makes and sells adult incontinence products, paper napkins, tampons, diapers, and towels worldwide.

The 44,000-employee company, Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget, commonly known as SCA, is headquartered in Sweden.

From Philadelphia's Cira Centre, Lewis oversees SCA Americas' operation with 8,000 employees, 23 factories and a sprawling sales territory that runs from Canada through South America.

"We have a large research and development department in Sweden. They all wear them [for] R&D," Lewis said.

Question. Are you working up your nerve to try them?

Answer. I'm trying to find the opportune time, but I guess any time is the right time, if you really think about it. I think it's really important to do it.

Q. How did you get into the paper business?

A. I was actually in finance earlier and I found although I did it pretty well, I was getting promoted because I was able to sell. It seems like I had a knack for persuasion.

Q. Yes, but why paper?

A. Nobody goes into life with an affinity to selling disposable paper products. It's not the most glamorous, but it's almost recession proof. When you think about tissue paper, people need it no matter what. No matter how the economy is going, the business is extremely stable.

Q. I don't see SCA napkins in the supermarket.

A. We don't sell retail. If you go to a Dairy Queen, or Dunkin' Donuts, those napkins are ours.

Q. You've won a lot of design awards for your Tork napkin dispenser. Why?

A. It allows the napkins to come out one at a time. You don't have to reach into it. The customer can advertise on it and it's environmentally friendly [because napkins aren't wasted].

Q. Isn't it awkward to be in a business where you are always talking about incontinence?

A. So often people don't talk about it, but to have a product that really makes somebody feel secure and allows them their dignity and a lifestyle to be active - we're really bringing something important to our customers.

Q. Selling feminine products such as tampons and pads, you have a window into women's minds that most men don't.

A. I don't know what that window does for me. It's an interesting window.

Q. Any insights?

A. [Women] want women to be involved with the product. They don't want a man making the product or developing the product. I've also found that women are very loyal to those products from a brand perspective. It's not as commoditized a product as I thought it would be.

Q. Hygiene customs vary by society. Your company's reach is global. How do you handle that?

A. It's pretty eye opening when you look at the world like that. It's easy for people to criticize what happens in different cultures. But, if that's how you were raised, that's [what is] right to you.

Q. How do you relax?

A. I don't mind being trapped in a mall. Some people think it's a chore. I like going shopping with my daughter. We'll just window shop and shop for deals. I find that relaxing.

 


DONALD E. LEWIS

Title: President, SCA Americas, since 2011

Weekdays: Center City

Weekends: Canfield, Ohio

Family: Wife, Leslie; children, Donnie 3d, 24, Lauren, 21, and Brett, 17.

Diploma: Youngstown State University, business administration

To unwind: Mows the lawn.


SCA AMERICAS

Where: Philadelphia

Products: Tena (Serenity) adult incontinence products; Tork Xpressnap dispenser; paper napkins, bathroom towels, in U.S., Canada and worldwide.

Abroad: Nosotras feminine products in South America, Saba in Mexico; Pequenin diapers in South America.

Employment: 44,000 globally, 8,000 from Canada to South America, 207 locally.

Global 2013 revenues: $14 billion

SCA Americas revenues: $3 billion


MORE ONLINE

SCA Americas' Donald Lewis on what scares CEOs. www.inquirer.com/jobbing


Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.

jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen