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No trading off - performance and sustainability go hand in hand

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No trading off - performance and sustainability go hand in hand

November 07, 2010 - 14:00
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BRUSSELS, Nov. 8, 2010 (RISI) -In speaking with various end users on their perspective of the industry for this issue, PPI also spoke with one of the world's largest papermakers, MeadWestvaco (MWV), about its view on the evolving paper business. MWV was Number 12 in the recent PPI Top 100 listing (September 2010, p. 13) and is also a member of that list's Million Tonners Club, producing 2.4 million tonnes of paper and board in 2009. Steven A. Anderson, marketing manager commercial printing for MWV, graciously consented to answer our questions.

What are your printer customers asking for now in terms of technical properties (to meet high-speed sophisticated presses) and environmental properties (certification, etc) of your products? Is it difficult to reconcile the two? How does MWV do it?

All printers cite runnability at the top of their list for importance factors, yet there is often confusion over what specific paper properties help optimize runnability. Our research indicates the following factors have the greatest impact on runnability:
1. Consistency of product run to run - caliper, moisture, smoothness, and fiber source;
2. Uniformity of coating - optimizes ink holdout, minimizes dot gain, prevents mottle;
3. Sheet stability - ensures high speed feeding, stays in register, lays flat through post-print converting;
4. Cleanliness of product - prevents shutdowns to clean blankets, reduces waste.

At MWV, we adopted a six sigma manufacturing methodology a number of years ago, which has greatly enhanced the consistency of our products. We have also developed a proprietary coating design, which has been confirmed through independent testing to provide lower dot gain and better ink holdout. As a result, our products provide better color control on press than the competition and have been shown to actually reduce make ready time and paper waste. And best of all, we can provide this level of consistency and performance using wood fiber that comes solely from certified forest lands.

Do you sell products directly to retailers? If so, what are they asking of you?

The majority of our commercial printing products are sold through merchant distribution; however, we have strong relationships with many of the major retailers who use our products. Naturally, retailers want products that help them deliver a strong message, enhance their brand identity, and capture the consumer's interest to drive revenue. Our Tango®Advantage line of coated cover products does just that by providing crisp lifelike images against a unique clean-white shade that grabs attention. Increasingly, it is also important to retailers that the manufacturers of the products they use demonstrate responsible environmental practices. We are proud that we can meet the retailers' needs for product aesthetics and performance while offering them sustainable solutions to support source reduction or increase their use of post consumer recycled fiber. Environmental considerations have become extremely important over recent times.

Is it the number one concern among your customers now? Or is technical performance more important?

Technical performance that affects the bottom line is always important to us and our customers. However, we're looking to incorporate sustainability practices into everything we do that complements and enhances performance...it's not a trade-off.

MWV has been a leader in sustainability long before it came into fashion, starting with our longstanding commitment to sustainable forestland management. We know sustainability is a focus for our customers, too. We partner with companies and develop paper and packaging solutions that meet their business needs and sustainability goals.

We have a long history of supporting sustainable forestry practices and have the necessary third-party certifications that give our customers and their consumers assurance regarding MWV's responsible environmental stewardship practices. MWV has received chain-of-custody certification from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC).

MWV has been named to the DJSI for the 7th consecutive year? How does the company regard this achievement? What did it have to do to earn the honor? Is it a selling point?

We're delighted to be recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. By leveraging our expertise in materials science, engineering and design, MWV develops optimal packaging and printing solutions for the industry customers' needs while effectively delivering on the functionality of the package or printed piece - all while helping our customers promote their brand and sustainability promises. Sustainability, in its true sense, requires a focus throughout every step of the package development process - from the sourcing of raw materials to the engineering and design of the product, to the way in which the package is manufactured and transported, used and disposed of by the consumer.

MWV scored above its peers in the Environmental dimension, reflecting our commitment to developing innovative processes and solutions that make our operations more environmentally efficient and productive, including reducing greenhouse gases and streamlining our supply chain and operational footprint.

As an average, how much recycled content is in your paper/board? If you are using secondary fiber, is finding suitable quality a problem?

MWV's Tango Advantage line is available with 10% post-consumer content for our most popular calipers. Plus, the heft and stiffness of Tango Advantage offers the opportunity for source reduction by choosing a lighter weight cover with comparable tactile feel.

MWV does not own or accept wood from old growth forests, rainforests or forests of exceptional conservation value. We scrutinize our fiber supply carefully to ensure our products contain only legally harvested, third-party certified fiber and chips from sustainably managed forests.

In the development of new products, how much importance do you place on sustainability/recyclability? Can you give an example or two?

What does sustainability mean to MWV? Everything. It represents an ongoing commitment to make responsible business decisions that benefit our people, our society, and our environment.

As a leader in sustainability, MWV approaches the concept holistically, working with customers to provide solutions that address and optimize each phase of the product's lifecycle. We incorporate sustainable practices into everything we do, from the sourcing of raw materials to the engineering and design of the product, to the way in which it is manufactured and transported, used and disposed of by the consumer.

When using paperboard made from sustainably sourced fiber, you are supporting the use of a renewable resource and helping to conserve acres of sustainably managed forests.

Harvesting trees is in fact necessary when done in a sustainable manner and where the measurable environmental impact is seen - it is often needed to maintain forest health, promote wildlife and a host of other environmental benefits.

Using certified paper helps save the world's forests...forests that are under constant pressure from deforestation and conversion to other uses. To resist these pressures and be truly sustainable, forests must continue to provide environmental, social and economic benefit. In other words, these forests must be managed sustainably.

Think about this: Using notebooks as an example, a notebook may contain 1/3 of a pound of certified paper. It takes approximately 14 acres of sustainably managed forest to produce one ton of certified paper. So, using this example, every 6,000 notebooks sold helps conserve 14 acres of sustainably managed forest (this is a very general US-based example).