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Sustainability's three Ps - Part II

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Sustainability's three Ps - Part II

September 26, 2011 - 00:48
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BRUSSELS, Sept. 26, 2011 (RISI) -For many forest products companies, the issue of sustainability has been focused on the trees. But Sappi says there's a forest out there, and it's redefining sustainability to include prosperity, people and the planet. As Graeme Rodden writes, sustainable development at Sappi is a much about the present as it is about the future. Read Part Ihere.

The mill floor is involved

How does all this relate, for example, to a millwright in Somerset in rural Maine? Miller explains that the workforce has signed on. "At our Cloquet Mill in Minnesota, we have explained the trade case against China (coated paper) to the workers there. The United Steel Workers stewards at the mill asked how they could help. The unions are a very effective voice in Washington explaining the good work the industry has done.

"Our workers understand that we operate the business the right way."

The words are nice but the company is working to show that it walks the walk as well. In terms of objectives, it set a series of five-year goals in 2007 that were revised in 2009 with the closure of the Muskegon, MI, mill.

Planet:By September 30, 2010, SFPNA had reduced its fossil fuel use by 54%. The target was 40%. With the recovery boiler rebuild at Somerset, that mill will be even further ahead. Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 50.3% compared with a target of 40%

For solid waste, SFNPA has a five-year goal of reducing the organic content of solid waste by 50% by 2012. It has already exceeded this objective, reducing organic content by 61%.

At the end of fiscal 2010, forest certification levels had risen to 61%. Miller says the company is continuing to make a sizable investment in the programs it recognizes: SFI, FSC and PEFC. As SFPNA buys all its wood, it realizes small landowners may have some problems with the certification process. In conjunction with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® Inc., the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Time Inc., Hearst Enterprises, National Geographic, and Verso Paper, SFPNA is working with smaller landowners to help them through the complexities of the process.

Prosperity:The goal was to generate 25% of revenue from products and services that were less than five years old. SFPNA is now at about 45%. "We are constantly replacing brands and goods," says Miller. In its 2010 Sustainability Report, Sappi admits this is becoming more difficult for the core business. New products from the specialty business and product modification from the core business are seen as key to maintaining customer satisfaction.

People:By 2012, SFPNA wants to ensure its employees, salaried and hourly, receive 60 hr/yr. At end of fiscal 2010, the level was at 46 hr/yr, above the 40 hr/yr target set for then.

But training does not stop at the employee. SFPNA has an extensive customer training program as well. This is not to say the company teaches its customer show to run a paper machine or bleach plant, but includes information about sustainability and topics such as paper math, paper attributes, printing techniques and even print's effective role in a marketing mix. "We offer and they all want it," says Miller. "Our paper is not a commodity but it is bundled with all our value-added services including training."

Looking at the life cycle

One of the issues demanding more attention recently is life cycle analysis. Some printers and end users want a better way to talk about the life cycle of paper. "We are looking at further work in 2011-12 to give them a fuller picture of the life cycle of paper," Miller explains. "We're talking to printers and users to join TwoSides (recently formed in the US, Sappi is a founding member,PPI, June 2011). We are very involved with the Check Off campaign of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA).

"We do a lot of one-on-one work with customers to explain the footprint of their decision to work with Sappi, in addition to making resources available to them. And we're finding that our resources like our eQ Tool are being well-received in the marketplace, as customers such as Coca-Cola have included the eQ Tool's Environmental Benefits Statement in their annual reports, to show audiences the greenhouse gas emissions that they avoided by going with Sappi."

Although SFPNA is working hard on its sustainability message, it realizes communications play a key role. "We are trying to tell our story in straightforward, accessible ways," says Miller. "For people to understand, accept and believe what we are doing needs enormous trust and integrity. We need to be open, willing to share and transparent."

"Our commitment to sustainability is sincere. It is critical to the health of the company and industry to be able to answer the questions asked of our industry candidly."

Back to the farm
Sappi Fine Paper North America’s Cloquet mill partnered with the University of Minnesota’s Carlton County Extension Agency, to reduce the amount of waste sent to onsite landfill. Through this partnership, Sappi identified an opportunity to beneficially reuse lime mud and boiler ash, byproducts from pulp and paper manufacturing, to improve crop yields by enhancing soil characteristics. As part of this process, the Carlton County Extension Agency visits local farms to test the soil and makes recommendations to Sappi and the local farmers for application rates of these byproducts. In addition, Sappi also coordinates and pays for the hauling and spreading of the material, which saves the farmers time and money while ensuring that the byproducts are applied at the optimum rate. Annually, the company distributes 25,000 to 30,000 tons of these byproducts to local farmers in the Cloquet area, saving them more than $1 million/yr in soil amendments, while significantly reducing Sappi’s landfill volumes.