Proud to produce pulp and paper Go

 In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama talked about a roadmap for rebuilding our economy.  I quote:

“We will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last, an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.  This blueprint begins with American manufacturing.”

It likely comes as no surprise to economists that a key to reducing unemployment and reviving our economy lies in manufacturing rather than service industries. Manufacturing has direct ties to other business sectors. The economic impact extends well beyond mill gates - on the supply side as well as through distribution and retail.  In other words growth in manufacturing creates a multiplier effect and helps to generate jobs and investments in other sectors.  

According to our trade association, AF&PA, the forest products industry

  •  accounts for approximately 5 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP.  
  • employs nearly 900,000 men and women, exceeding employment levels in the automotive, chemicals and plastics industries. 
  •  meets a payroll of approximately $50 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 47 states.

 And these statistics don’t speak to the multiplier effect of our industry.

Yesterday, I quoted our CEO from our recently released Sustainability Report wherein he proclaimed he has never been more proud to work for Sappi.  I echo these sentiments in a broader sense.   I am proud to work for a pulp and paper company.  I am proud to work in an industry that makes products from renewable and recyclable resources.  In the grand scheme of manufacturing, I am hard pressed to think of an industry that is more sustainable.

Sustainability is not simply synonymous with environmentalism Go

It often seems that people have lost sight of the most basic definitions of sustainability. Sustainable development rests on three pillars: social, environmental and economic responsibility.

Andy Savitz, author of The Triple Bottom Line, writes:

"A sustainable corporation is one that creates profit for its shareholders while protecting the environment and improving the lives of those with whom it interacts."

When it comes to manufacturing, it is clear that stakeholders are mostly interested in environmental performance. But without a strong financial bottom line, companies do not have the resources to invest in driving significant social or environmental improvements. Indeed saving energy and reducing waste will often create quick returns. But to get beyond the low hanging fruit capital investments are required to really move the needle.

At Sappi Fine Paper North America, we recently invested $49 million to upgrade assets in the chemical recovery system at our Somerset Mill. These improvements increased energy efficiency and increased our ability to consume more black liquor, ultimately leading to a lower carbon footprint per ton of paper. The investment also qualified the facility to become Green-e certified. None of this work could have been completed without solid financial performance.

For more insights on the business case for sustainable development, I invite readers to check out our eQ Journal Volume 3.