Sustainability Infographics from Sappi Go

We are all familiar with the phrase that “a picture paints a thousand words.”  And perhaps more to the point - with visual communication - we don’t have to take the time to read a thousand words to fully grasp a concept.

Our 2013 Sustainability Report is full of original photographic images that showcase the investments in our mills, our employees and our engagement in local communities.  We have also introduced another powerful infographic that focuses on Water Usage in the Papermaking.   In prior years we have used infographics to convey the life cycle of papermaking and another to illustrate the challenges and trade-offs associated with using recycled fiber in coated fine papers.  Due to popular demand, each of these infographics is now available for download on our eQ microsite as well as our etc site.

The environmental impact of paper in an ever expanding digital world Go

We all have a need to communicate – to share and consume information.  For marketing and advertising professionals it is no longer a choice of how to spread dollars between print, radio and TV.  The breadth of online options is simply staggering.  Meanwhile, sustainability-minded media buyers are juggling a myriad of additional factors – along with cost effectiveness, their choices reflect consideration of environmental and social impacts. 

I have often been asked to compare the environmental impact paper vs other media choices; e.g. e-books, electronic greeting cards or online billing vs paper based options.  I have refused to embark on this type of comparative study for two basic reasons.

  • because nobody “wins” in this type of analysis
  • because nobody makes sound choices this way

In other words, no responsible CMO is going to care if an advertising campaign reduced water consumption or cut carbon emissions by 10% if half of the target audience didn’t receive the right message at the right time.   The key to a successful campaign is to get the media choices right (most often through multiple platforms)  and then design and execute responsibly within each channel.

Companies should buy and dispose of electronic equipment responsibly (tools like EPEAT can help).  Good strategies for information storage and retrieval can reduce server loads and the associated environmental impact associated with the use of electronics. 

Similarly, when putting ink on paper, it is important to source, use and dispose of materials properly (consider using EPAT or other paper procurement guidelines).  Good list hygiene, right-sizing pieces and co-mailing can further reduce the environmental impact associated with printed materials.

It is time to stop pitting paper vs pixels and instead to focus on integrating media choices effectively.  The ultimate goal of communications is to deliver the right message to the right person in a means that can be absorbed.  Choose your channels for effectiveness and then design and implement with sustainability at top of mind.

Papermakers partnering with cloud computing experts on key sustainability issues Go

There is an endless stream of information regarding the impact of e-media in the realm of communications; impacts affecting business trends – as well as environmental impacts. 

On the business front, it seems for every article I read about declining magazine ad sales or a lost title, there is a counter story about new channels driving print revenue.  Magazine publishers report that online media drives high traffic for new print subscriptions. Televisions shows and video games are leading to new titles.  In advertising, the pendulum swing that resulted in huge growth in social media spending seems to be falling back.  Focus is shifting to integration of the media mix and leveraging the strengths of both print and digital applications to drive efficacy.  At the end of the day, advertisers and communications experts want to reach their audiences, and we all absorb information in different ways.

Just as our society has long depended on paper (and will continue to do so) we simply cannot function without electronic devices.  Our papermaking operations depend on computerized control systems. Our sustainability metrics are tracked, monitored and managed using data.  Digitally stored data.  While we offer the eQ Journal in print, our eQ platform is hosted on a website and this very blog is an element of our sustainability communication strategy.

Amid a turbulent business environment, it troubles me that some marketers have opted to leverage unfounded emotional arguments (usually about saving trees) to drive users online instead of using paper.  The benefits of certain electronic applications are very clear.  Speed of use, centralized information storage and reduced costs of mailing can make transactions like paying bills seem archaic on paper.  But marketers also know that when it comes to pulling heart strings, paper works.  Ask anyone in fundraising whether they plan to discontinue their print campaigns and subsist solely on digital outreach.   

First and foremost, communication channels should be selected based on effectiveness. And, of course, we also need to consider environmental impact of our choices.

Is electronic communication “better” for the environment than printing?  The answer is far too complicated to condense into generalizations.    Every life cycle analysis that I have seen attempting to contrast “paper vs pixels” is dependent on a vast number of assumptions.   There are more exceptions than rules and thus conclusions are hard to defend no matter how hard one tries.

We certainly don’t want people feeling guilty about using trees.  Sound forest management is supported by strong markets for wood products.  But environmental impact extends beyond the forest.  Our position on this front is clear: Sappi does not promote wasteful consumption of resources—renewable or otherwise. We want our customers to use paper wisely and purposefully.  And we also want to create an understanding that one need not feel guilty about the impact on the forest when products are sourced responsibly. As an industry, we must strive to meet society’s needs for wood and paper products.   

So where does that lead us?  Rather than continuing to fight meaningless battles, how about working together to drive meaningful change?  Toward that end, we recently hosted a visit of sustainability practitioners from EMC.  Yes, EMC – the global leader in cloud computing, digital storage, big data.      

We came together to learn from each other about issues that keep sustainability practitioners awake at night: 

  • We discussed strategies for enhancing employee engagement. 
  • We explored the concept of zero waste manufacturing.
  • We talked about challenges in defining metrics that are both meaningful to stakeholders and can be translated into practice in our operations.  
  • We put our heads together over supply chain management issues and chain of custody systems. 
  • And we reviewed emerging issues surrounding water disclosure and risk management.  

Making paper has environmental impact.  As does the manufacturing of electronic devices.  And cars.  And food.  And clothing. And furniture. And so on.  The key is to source, use, and dispose of “stuff”  responsibly.

Finger-pointing never solved a problem.  But collaboration can lead to discovery.

Sappi is proud to be a partner of the e-Waste Alternatives program.

Learn more by clicking here and here.

Advancing the paper life cycle dialog Go

Life cycle analysis (LCA) is being utilized across a breadth of industries to better understand the environmental impacts of products and services.  This is not a new tool among the scientific community.  There are LCA courses taught at colleges and universities, dissertations written, books abound, and every scientific field benefits from a credible journal. 

For those of us not subscribing to the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, BoSacks is creating much needed, broader visibility to this issue through his blog and newsletter.  As is the mysterious writer behind the Dead Tree Edition.  And, of course, there are many others.

If you are not directly involved in conducting this type of analysis, the concept is fairly straight forward.  Stuff doesn’t just exist – it comes from somewhere and has to end up somewhere - and every step along the way has some form of environmental impact.  Through Life Cycle Analysis we aim to take a systematic approach to study a given product from raw material acquisition through manufacturing, distribution, use and it’s “end of life”.  For many products (including paper) the end of life can mean disposal in a landfill, incineration or recycling. 

At a high level, I have yet to find anyone disagree with the conclusions we’ve summarized through the opening chapter of our eQTool, and reinforced most recently in a blog posting by Christine Burrow of The Sustainability Consortium.  In short, for printing and writing papers, the most significant environmental impacts are created by pulp and paper manufacturing and disposal.

If you want to convert these conclusions to actions, it’s quite simple.  Buyers should procure paper from the supplier with the smallest footprint and we all need to do our parts to keep paper products out of landfills.  Corporate marketers and the creative agencies are encouraged to use “please recycle” claims and logos and as individuals we should pay attention.

But beyond these basic tenants, the plot thickens and controversy abounds.  Our instincts tell us that if recycling is good – then using recycled fiber is also good.  Furthermore, many people will assume that if something is good, then more must be better.   But papermaking systems are complex and the use of recycled fiber is not a one size fits all solution.

In LCA lingo – many paper mills are seen as “open loop” systems.  We take recycled fiber from one grade of paper and routinely turn it into another type of paper.  For example, at our mills we utilize recycled fiber derived by deinking uncoated papers (e.g. office waste).  And our coated freesheet paper (most often found in magazines, catalogs and brochures) often gets converted into packaging grades.  Many people use the term “down cycling” to describe this type of material flow.

In contrast there are  “closed loop” systems where a product is converted back into itself - like taking an aluminum beverage can and turning it back into a beverage can. Or in the world of paper, turning a corrugated container back into a corrugated container.

To complicate things further, no two paper mills are identical.  One must consider if a product is bleached or unbleached (white or brown), whether a mill is integrated or not (i.e. does it make its own pulp or buy it), where the mill’s energy is derived from (fossil fuels or renewable sources) and so on.  At the 2010 GAA environmental workshop, the conference chair summarized LCA analysis by saying, “It’s complicated – and it depends.”  So very true.

At Sappi, we’ve studied our mills and our supply chain.  The conclusions are quite clear:  Because our mills are so well integrated - utilizing high levels of renewable energy - adding deinked pulp to our products actually raises the carbon footprint of those products.  And adding more just exacerbates the impact.  It is not an obvious conclusion, but nor is it unique.  Other coated freesheet suppliers face the same issue.

We have worked hard to educate our customers about this complexities of papermaking and will continue to do so.  And we applaud those stakeholders who make the effort to get beyond “sound bite” science and truly understand the issues.  Together we will advance the dialog and make informed choices.

Customer Council Series: Bill Gates Go

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is Director Paper, Print Media Services and Sustainability at Macy’s Inc. His responsibilities include managing the procurement of Macy’s marketing paper, printing and media services. He’s also a member of the corporate sustainability team leading sustainability initiatives through the supply chain.

What is the primary reason you have chosen to sit on Sappi’s Sustainability Customer Council?

Initially my interest in Sappi’s Sustainability Customer Council was to learn more about their sustainability initiatives and challenges and how they relate to our supply chain. But I have learned more about issues that challenge the paper industry as a whole. Also, there have been valuable takeaways applicable across industries through interaction with the other council members.

Could you give an overview of the type of things you have learned from working with this group?

Laura Thompson has a wealth of information on the subject of sustainability. I have used information on the “carbon cycle” and the “triple bottom line” at work and through other professional associations. Conversations on environmental, social and economic pressure points with this professional group have brought fresh perspective and solutions to some issues we face.

Congratulations to this year’s winners of the Environmental Innovation Awards! Go

Through a partnership between WhatTheyThink and Unisource Worldwide, this award program set out to identify thought leaders in the print community.  Award categories and winners are listed below: 

Environmental Sustainability and Your Plant: Sandy Alexander, Clifton, NJ

Environmental Sustainability and Your Processes: DST Output, El Dorado Hills, CA

Environmental Sustainability and Your Community: EarthColor, Inc., Parsippany, NJ

Beyond Environmental Sustainability: Premier Press, Portland, OR

Environmental “Thought Leader”: TC Transcontinental, St. Laurent, Québec

I’d like to personally add a special tip of the hat to two companies.  Both Sandy Alexander and TC Transcontinental have been working with us over the past several years as representatives in Sappi’s Sustainability Customer Council.  The Customer Council includes  merchants, printers, corporate paper buyers and graphic designers.  As a core element of our corporate governance for sustainability, this group provides a wide breadth of the customer perspective and helps us track emerging issues.


Note: Click on the tag “Customer Council” below to read profiles of several council members.

Customer Council Series: Nan Faessler Go

Nan Faessler

Nan Faessler is Business Development Director at xpedx and an xpedx Sustainability Advisory Board member. Her responsibilities include implementing the xpedx Sustainability Platform, handling outreach to xpedx Sales Professionals and clients in the Pacific Group, and new business development — partnering with clients whose sustainability values align with xpedx.

Could you give an overview of the type of things you have learned from working with this group?

I’ve learned so much from the Sappi Sustainability Council team members, and in particular, Dr. Laura Thompson. She speaks “geek” and has a remarkable ability to speak to us in layman’s terms. Because of her, I can actually describe to others what encompasses the Greenhouse Gas Protocol-Scope one, two, and three. This would not have been possible before my participation on Sappi Fine Paper’s Sustainability Customer Council.

It was an eye-opener to learn that the largest impact on Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in a printed project resides with the manufacturing of the paper. Not the harvesting of the trees, not the transportation, not the actual printing, nor the end of life, but physically making the paper at the mill.  This was eye-opening to learn and is just one example of how my understanding of sustainability in the paper and printing industry has expanded since joining the Customer Council.

What is your favorite aspect of the meetings?

Sappi is very smart in bringing together various stakeholders to educate us on their sustainability initiatives and advance their sustainability goals. Sustainability Council members have enriched my understanding of environmental issues as they pertain to paper and print. Collaboration within the Supply Chain, up and down stream, is really the only way to approach Sustainability. All the environmental issues are too big to be addressed or answered by a single entity. 

The camaraderie that has been built among the Council members has been fantastic. We have been meeting several times a year for the past three years; most members have participated at all meetings and we have recruited new members as space has allowed. Overall, the Council is a fair representation of our current industry and we have all learned a lot from each other and from Sappi. 

Paper recovery increased by 1.2 million tons in 2011, lifting the U.S. paper recovery rate to a record-high 66.8 percent. That’s up from 63.5 percent in 2010 and 33.5 percent in 1990, the base-year from which the industry’s original 40 percent recovery goal was benchmarked.

More great news about paper recovery!!

Recycling statistics from

Sappi shares the papermaker’s perspective on sustainable forestry Go

As an industry leader with decades of field experience and technical knowledge, we are compelled to show how sustainable forestry results in healthier forests and abundant wildlife

There is not a single matter related to papermaking that touches each of us as personally and emotionally as forestry.  Simply put – people love trees.  It is troubling that some people envision responsible paper manufacturer as engaging in deforestation when in fact, our suppliers are harvesting sustainability with a keen vigilance about promoting the regeneration that keeps forests thriving.  Forest management not only helps create habitats for animals that call woodlands home, but also ensures clean air, protected soil, better water quality and the promotion of biodiversity.

Explaining the benefits and values of a working forest is often a conversation that pits emotion against science.  While many people assume the best thing for a forest is to leave it in its natural state, few understand that variations in age class within a forest helps to promote biodiversity of both plant and animal species.

Management practices cover aspects from harvest planning and tree selection (or exemption) to road building and water protection.  Harvesting equipment has evolved to lessen residual damage from felling trees.  And depending on the type of environment where bunchers and other vehicles are used, there are lots of wheel options available that are light on the ground while providing just the right amount of soil disturbance to promote regrowth.  Roads are constructed with crowns, culverts and ditches to ensure proper drainage.  Stabilization and erosion protection are also added to skid trails.  Tree tops are also used on the trails which gets turned into mulch ultimately decomposing so the nutrients remain on site.

Of course, paper companies didn’t invent the concept of forest management.  As noted by Ross Korpela, Sappi’s senior wood procurement manager in Cloquet, MN, “Mother Nature has been managing forests forever”.  Natural occurrences such as fire, disease, insect infestations and high winds create landscape level events that lead to regeneration of younger forests.  But of course these events can also be highly destructive and costly to taxpayers.  In fact the USDA budgeted over $2 billion in 2012 for wildland fire management within the Forest Service budget.  Korpella adds, “Modern forest techniques mimic the gentler aspects of Mother Nature while providing the fiber to meet societies needs.  That means we are cutting trees in the manner nature intended.  The result is, we are creating better forests while also providing economic and environmental benefits to the entire population.

To learn more about sustainable forestry, aspects of ecology in managed forests, Sappi’s best practices and how the industry optimizes the use of the whole tree – visit to download or request a copy of our eQ Journal Issue 4: Taking the Guilt Out of Paper.