Tips for Integrating Sustainability into the Supply Chain
Almost 150 publishers in the United States, Canada and Europe are committed to eliminating their use of papers that contain fibers from endangered forests. Nearly 15 book papers with strong environmental attributes have been developed in North America in the past few years.
But what came first—the chicken or the egg? Was it market demand from publishers and printers that spurred paper development? Or was it the product development efforts of mills and suppliers that made available new options and prices that appealed to publishers? It was and will continue to be both, and the more each link in the supply chain talks to one another, the more options that will become available.
To avoid affecting endangered forests, publishers are seeking out papers that contain the highest amounts of recycled fiber and/or fiber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). From a procurement standpoint, these two paper attributes have the most beneficial impacts.
But having goals isn't necessarily enough. It helps for publishers and printers to communicate these goals as early as possible throughout the supply chain.
"With the high cost of new product development, it helps to have reliable signals that you will find buyers for your product once you bring it to market," says Robert Zbikowski, general sales manager at Cascades Fine Papers.
SUPPLY CHAIN RESPONSIVENESS: MILLS
Glatfelter has been a leader in the development of recycled book papers for quite some time, and its recent addition of the Natures line, manufactured with 50-percent postconsumer recycled fiber, is a testament to this leadership.
"Developing scale and equivalent economics depends on customer interest and manufacturing costs," says Mark Pitts, corporate director of Glatfelter's fine papers division. "Any future shifts will continue to involve cooperative understanding and endorsement on both the demand and supply sides of the equation."
Domtar makes a wide range of papers, including some that are suitable for the book market. The company is currently taking steps to obtain FSC certification for all of its forestry operations—over 20 million acres.
"We plan to expand the range of papers certified to this [FSC] standard and open up access to a large and untapped potential market," says Raymond Royer, Domtar's president and CEO.
Domtar has also participated in efforts to preserve the unique attributes of Canada's frontier forests.
Stéphan Larivière, product line analyst at Domtar, says that when publishers and printers communicate their goals, "It generally means opportunity. … If publishers ask for papers with certain environmental criteria, Domtar will produce [the paper], if it makes good business sense."
GROWING THE MARKET
New Leaf Paper also has been a leader in bringing environmental papers to market. It actively researches and works with mills to develop book and other papers with some of the best environmental attributes available.
"Publisher commitments to environmental goals is critical. … Clear demand from the publishers enables us to achieve manufacturing efficiency necessary to compete with existing paper options," says Jeff Mendelsohn, president of New Leaf Paper.
When asked what it will take for widespread industry shifts to take place, Mendelsohn says, "The most critical issue for a lasting shift toward sustainability in the paper industry is a consistent growing market for better environmental papers. Over time, this will result in more permanent shifts in supply-side design and infrastructure."
Printers are essential to the equation since they link publishers to paper suppliers. Constant communication throughout the supply chain about environmental goals would be helpful to printers as well. CEO Myron Marsh, of Thomson-Shore—the first printer to commit to the goals of the Green Press Initiative (toward paper use that conserves natural resources and preserves endangered forests)—says, "Our experience has been that publishers plan their paper selection close to [the] release of the title. It would be great
if more customers would state their environmental goals. That would help us [and other printers] greatly with planning."
At the end of the day, market competition leads to market innovation. As one executive from Midland Paper puts it, "If the publisher or printer wants it, and we cannot get it for them, someone else will."
- Tyson Miller
Tyson Miller founded and directs the Green Press Initiative and serves on the steering committee for the Environmental Paper Network. He can be reached at Tyson@GreenPressInitiative.org.