Sappi Fine Paper chases sustainability leadership

Approximately 60 percent of the company's fiber is covered by a sustainable forestry certification, and it is striving for 'triple chain' recognition wherever possible.

From my previous blog posts about the topic, I know that sustainable forestry and related best practices that paper companies are using to minimize their impact are topics about which many of you have a very strong opinion. That's why I recently took a briefing with Sappi Fine Paper North America, which creates the sorts of paper that is used in high-end printing for things like magazines, books and catalogs. Sappi Fine Paper doesn't sell paper to you and me as individuals, it is strictly a business-to-business player.

Based in Boston, Sappi Fine Paper caught my attention earlier this summer when it introduced a Web-based information resource called eQ (which is short for Environmental Quotient). Jennifer Miller, executive vice president, strategic marketing and communications, and chief sustainability officer for Sappi Fine Paper, said eQ is intended to help customers better understand how her company procures different products. So, for example, you can see what the company's philosophy is related to carbon offsets (it prefers to generate renewable energy wherever it can) or forest stewardship.

The latter item, of course, is the big one for Sappi Fine Paper . Miller said that to eliminate any arguments over any particular sustainable forestry certification, her company opted to take a "triple chain of custody" approach for its fiber. That means that it will certified against the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standards, Miller said. "We choose not to take a position. We let the customer decide," she said.

Sappi Fine Paper  figures that only about 10 percent of the world's forests are certified. In North America, that translates into about 485 million acres. Approximately 60 percent of Sappi Fine Paper fiber is certified, she estimated. Miller said that the company also is working to encourage even its smallest suppliers to embrace sustainability measures, aiding them as they wade through the mounds of paperwork (pun intended) for certifications.

Organic waste that creates methane is another focus of the company's sustainability initiatives; since 2005 the company has reduce its solid wate sent to landfill by 60 percent. The company hasn't focused intently on water management yet, Miller said.

The most recent expression of Sappi Fine Paper  sustainability efforts came in August when the company received a certification for its Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, Maine, through the Center for Resources Green-e Marketplace program. The focus is the company's $49 million investment in equipment and renewable energy technologies related to an upgrade of its pulp recovery boiler and related equipment. The Green-e certification acknowledges the company's work to ensure that 100 percent of the energy used to create its Opus web paper at the mill is generated on site. Sappi Fine Paper has a number of other Green-e certified offerings, through its Cloquet Mill in Minnesota.

The Somerset Mill is now generating about 250 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy annually as a result of its recovery cycle upgrade product.

As a corporation, Sappi Fine Paper established a goal to reduce its emissions from fossil fuels by 40 percent between 2008 and 2013 against a 2007 baseline measurement. At the end of the company's fiscal 2010, it had already achieved that 40 percent reduction.

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