Domtar's Loop of Responsibility Spans Across the Paper Life Cycle

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - I spoke with Paige Goff last week, VP of Sustainability and Business Communications at Domtar, the paper company. The company has been aggressively pursuing sustainability in every aspect of their operations, going so far as to brand themselves, “the sustainable paper company.”

They established themselves as leaders in this regard years ago, by becoming the first paper company to achieve Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for their source fibers. Now, in their attempt to stay ahead of the pack, they are rolling out their EarthChoice sustainability platform.

Paige Goff: We wanted to come up with something to really simplify our sustainability platform, which is how we came up with our EarthChoice platform. Within that, we have the life cycle loop, that we break down into proof points within four different buckets.

The first bucket is where your paper comes from. That draws from a lot of our certifications, like FSC-Certified fibers and our partnerships with the Rainforest Alliance and the World Wildlife Fund. We want our customers to know that when they buy paper from Domtar, they are buying from a very sustainable source.

Justmeans: You have made a real commitment in this area.

PG: Yes. A full 100% of our fibers come from certified sources.

JM: Have you looked at what Woody Harrelson is doing with wheat-based papers?

PG: We are agnostic on the concept at this point, but we are looking into it.

JM: So what is the next bucket?

PG: The next bucket is how our paper is made. We’re talking about transparency within the industry. Everything has an impact, though it's not always apparent. We have what we call the Paper Trail that shows the impact of everything you can buy from us. It provides an apples-to-apples comparison, that looks at not just the industry average, but calls out what we are doing well and what we need to improve on. We consider it the most transparent impact calculator in the industry.

JM: The reporting and transparency are great. But what kinds of sustainable measures are you taking in your production process?

PG: Our utilization of greenhouse gas neutral, sustainable biomass as a substitute for fossil fuels is above the industry average. All of our mills have programs underway to divert materials from landfills and find beneficial uses for our byproducts. We are conducting comprehensive energy assessments of all of our mills that inform our overall energy strategy. We are developing new techniques for better understanding the true cost of water utilization. We are making strategic investments in improving the fidelity of our production and environmental data so we can empower our front line managers to undertake scenario planning and make more data-driven decisions. And, of course, we continue to lead the drive for increasing the utilization of fiber certified to the FSC standard.

JM: These are all good things in the production arena. I'm guessing usage must come next.

PG: That’s right. The third bucket deals with responsible usage. What is responsible usage of paper in this electronic age when so much information can be carried on smartphones and tablets? We've developed a couple of tools to help with this. The first is a Pixel and Print Logic info-graphic to help consumers address this question as to when is an appropriate time to use paper and what is considered responsible usage. The tool was derived from over 70 life cycle assessments performed by Natural Logic. We've also partnered with PrintEco who makes software that runs on your computer and strips out superfluous content to reduce the number of pages you're printing.

JM: Don't these things cut into sales?

PG: Yes, but it's the right thing to do.

JM: Okay. So, now you’re going to tell me about recycling.

PG: Correct. The fourth and final bucket is next life or recycling. We support Recyclebank in their efforts to get people recycling. They have a lot of great programs to motivate people to recycle, giving out points that can be used for discounts on various products. We support their Green Schools program in which the greenest schools can win up to a year’s supply of paper.

JM: I know they do some great work. Thank you for laying all this out for me. It sounds like you have all the bases covered. Anything else you want to add?

PG: Domtar has long been a sustainability leader in the forest products industry, We were the first to become FSC-certified. I'd like to think that we’ve really pulled a lot of our competitors along on this. Now that they are catching up, we need to find a way to stay ahead of the curve in this space.

We feel that it is key that our efforts be simple to understand. The main thing is that we want our customers to feel confident that we are doing the right thing, so that they are comfortable to be buying paper from us. EarthChoice” is not just the brand we put on a line of products; it is our internal framework for making investment and operational decisions that create and preserve long-term shareholder value. Our internal sustainability initiatives and the power of our EarthChoice brand both benefit from this mutually reinforcing alignment.