Life Cycle Analysis for Printing and Writing Papers Go

At Sappi we have developed our sustainability communication platform on the premise that we will deliver science based information from a holistic perspective. Nothing embodies this approach more than the practice of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).  In our most recent addition to our white paper series, eQ Insights, we offer an overview of LCA as it applies to the paper and printing industries.  We explain how the information gleaned from LCA’s can be used to help make informed decisions when buying paper and in developing responsible procurement policies for paper.

For example, many life cycle studies have concluded that the two biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions for a publication are the manufacturing of the paper (the paper mill) and methane emissions from landfills. In other words, it is important for paper buyers to select the mill with the lowest carbon footprint and to promote the recovery and re-use of paper products to keep paper out of landfills.  These same results and conclusions have served as the cornerstone for Chapter 1 of our eQ Tool.

We are not proud of the fact that papermaking has the biggest share of the pie when looking at the life cycle of print.  But nor are we going to hide from the science – because we believed that armed with this knowledge buyers can make better decisions.  For example, in a recent interview, Guy Gleysteen, Sr. Vice President of Time Inc was quoted as follows*:  

We’re a publishing company.  We don’t have much of an environmental impact in terms of our employees or our process.  Where we have the biggest impact is in our paper procurement, and then the end of life of our magazines once consumers are done with them.”

Similarly, I usually boil this down to two basic tenets:  Buy from the supplier with the lowest environmental footprint and try to use “please recycle” logos or claims on everything you print.


*”Our Most Direct Impact” an interview featured in Tree Farmer Magazine, November/December 2011 edition, page 34-35.

Customer Council Series: Karyne Bouchard Go

Karyne Bouchard

Karyne Bouchard began her career with Transcontinental as a paper purchaser in 2004 prior to transitioning to corporate purchasing in 2007, where she was for the procurement of both sheet fed and coated paper. Karyne’s current mandate focuses on the environmental aspects of paper and she is responsible for the attainment and maintenance of Transcontinental’s triple certification designation and is a member of the Sustainable Development Steering Committee at Transcontinental.

Primary reason to be on the Customer Council?

I have chosen to sit on Sappi’s Customer Council primarily because I knew that I would have access to some of the leading minds involved in environmental paper discussions, as well as be able to contribute on certain thought leadership topics from a printer`s perspective. Additionally, being able to source leading information helps me add value in my current mandate, allowing me to incorporate these elements within the overall context of the Transcontinental Sustainable Development Steering Committee. To be honest, Dr. Laura Thompson might be the number one reason!

What is your favorite aspect of the meetings?

Being on the Customer Council has enabled me to understand that sustainability does not involve just one person at Sappi, but rather, it is a holistic, team effort. Just as sustainability touches on various aspects of an organization and impacts many, it takes just as many people to ensure the success of the Customer Council programs at Sappi. All of the speakers address the audience with passion and provide critical insights on a variety of topics, with a range of perspectives - it has become one of my favourite meetings during the year.

Everything I need to know I learned from… Go

Robert Fulghum wrote “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten”.  Others would tell us they picked up life’s wisdoms from their cat.  And of course our mothers taught us a thing or two.  Frankly I can’t recall much from kindergarten, my cat mostly just wants to be petted, but I did take away a lot from my mother.

“Don’t run with scissors” might be currently thought of as “Don’t text and drive” – but the inherent safety message resonates whether you are a machine operator in a paper mill or an insurance salesman.

“Eat your vegetables” remains a popular lesson.  After all they are good for you – and they are a renewable resource.

I also learned a few things in graduate school.  It is probably fair to say that at any given moment there is a grad student somewhere that knows more about a particular subject than anyone else on the planet.  My classmates and I used to joke about thesis titles and wonder why anyone would chose to spend a significant portion of their life looking at things as finite as “Interactions of enteric bacteria with american cockroaches (periplaneta americana) and pharaoh ants (monomorium pharaonis)or Surface and interfacial chemistry of poly(vinylidene fluoride)

So yes, I learned an awful lot about a certain topic* but here’s what else I learned in graduate school:

Technical issues get very complex very quickly and they can be extremely difficult to communicate. 

Not everything we read in a journal is the absolute truth.  I always knew this to be the case for newspapers, but it was a bona fide shock to learn that scientists could be “wrong” - after all, numbers don’t lie. But data can be interpreted in more than one way and there are ongoing debates (and theses written) about bias in science vs honest errors. 

So, when someone tries to take a complex subject and break it into a sound bite we need to be careful and keep messages in context.  Whether or not to print or put something on line, or how to put recycled fiber to its best use are complicated subjects.  And when issues are important, the key is to do your homework.  (Yet another lesson from your mother).


*My dissertation: “The depletion of nitric oxide by reaction with molten sodium carbonate and sodium carbonate/sodium sulfide mixtures”.

If there’s a lesson in the “don’t print this email” debate, it’s that we should be suspicious of any dialogue that suggests complicated environmental problems can be reduced to simple actions. Environmental challenges are real, they’re complex, and we need to be diligent about using facts to lead us to solutions even when there is a strong emotional component. Tom Pollock, GreenBlue