Ensuring the Happy, Healthy Future of Our Forests

Responsible manufacturing begins with responsible procurement.
Sep 2, 2015 8:30 AM ET

For the wood products industry, it is paramount that our natural resources are used sustainably. Wood supplies the bulk of renewable energy that drives our mills, and cellulose fibers comprise the primary ingredient in our paper and pulp products, making healthy and abundant forests critical to the long-term viability of each of our core businesses.

Strategic Procurement
Each year Sappi North America spends hundreds of millions of dollars on energy and materials beyond wood fiber. Our Research and Development (R&D) team, located at Sappi North America’s Technology Center in Westbrook, Maine, constantly evaluates new materials and suppliers. This work is done in part for the development of new products or improvement of existing products; however, by making sure we have multiple suppliers for any given material, we are also able to contain costs and minimize the risk of sole-source-supply agreements. We are also able to leverage Sappi’s global reach with some suppliers that work with us in more than one region. By keeping actively engaged with our suppliers, we are able to remain on the forefront of material development.

Forest Legality
In the US, a strong legal framework has shaped and upheld responsible forestry practices for generations. State and federal governments have a multitude of laws in place that not only cover rightful ownership, but also work to protect threatened and endangered species, regulate chemical use and provide for safe harvesting and fair labor practices.

While originally enacted to protect wildlife, the US Lacey Act was amended in 2008 to cover interstate and foreign commerce of plants, including wood species. The law established a ban on the trade of illegally harvested timber and affects both manufacturers and importers of wood and paper products. In accordance with the law, members of the supply chain must enact due diligence systems to minimize the risk of illegal fiber. Similar laws, including the EU Timber Regulation and the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act, have been since enacted in other regions of the world.

Local Forest Facts
At Sappi we operate integrated pulp and paper mills in Skowhegan, Maine, and Cloquet, Minnesota. The vast majority of our wood is procured within 125 miles of each mill. Hardwood and softwood fibers each have unique characteristics that provide strength and uniformity to our pulp and paper products.

With 17.7 million acres of forest land, Maine is roughly 90 percent forested—a higher percentage of forest coverage than any other state. Nearly 95 percent of the forest is privately owned, with over 35 percent owned by small, non-industrial landowners (those holding between 1–1000 acres). There are 39 commercial tree species, including aspen, birch, maple and oaks among the hardwoods, as well as softwood species such as pines, spruces, balsam firs and others. While growth of various species depends on local soil conditions and climate, generally speaking, hardwood species are more predominant in southern Maine, while softwood species are more prevalent in the northern part of the state. About 60 percent of the total forest is currently hardwood, which is a primary source of fiber at our Somerset mill in Skowhegan, Maine. Fifty-two percent of the forest in Maine is certified to one or more of the leading forest management standards.

The overall percentage of forest coverage is lower in Minnesota as compared to Maine, yet there are 17.4 million acres of forest in Minnesota, with 44 percent privately owned. There are over 50 native tree species, and aspen makes up about 30 percent of the Minnesota forest. Virtually all state land, the forest in many counties and large blocks of private land are certified in accordance with either (or in many cases both) the FSC® and SFI® forest management standards.

While Minnesota and Maine lead the nation in the amount of certified forest, the ownership patterns are vastly different, and not all certified land falls within our procurement zones. As such, Sappi foresters continuously work with local landowners and seek out sources of certified wood.

Forest Certification
We are members of both the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) and hold multiple certifications under these standards. We were the first pulp and paper company in North America to be granted a group forest management certificate by the FSC®. Through this certificate, small landowners who agree to enter as a member of our forest management group have their land certified in accordance with the FSC® standard.

One hundred percent of our wood and pulp is purchased in accordance with both the FSC® Controlled Wood standard and the SFI® Certified Sourcing standard. These standards are a critical element of our due diligence for Lacey Act compliance. However, compliance goes well beyond avoiding illegal and controversial sources; we also hold Chain of Custody certificates for FSC®, SFI® and the PEFC. All of our products are sold with a Chain of Custody claim, which passes along an assurance of sourcing from well-managed forests.

Sustainable Forestry
At a minimum, sustainable forestry practices must insure that more wood is grown than is harvested in any given year. World-class forest management programs go well beyond just managing for growth and help landowners balance multiple objectives, including soil and water quality, biodiversity, recreational use and aesthetics, as well as income from timber management.

Collaborative Efforts
At Sappi, we recognize and value the benefits of working with other businesses and organizations to achieve common goals and improve systems for the benefit of all interested.

This past year a great deal of effort went into preparing for the FSC® General Assembly (GA), which is held once every three years. Members of each of the chambers (environmental, social and economic) come together at the GA to vote on motions that shape the FSC® program. We participated in several multi-stakeholder meetings as well as internal sessions to make sure that our votes were cast in support of a wide range of issues that affect Sappi globally. 

In 2014 we continued to support the student scholarship program at the SFI® Annual Conference and participated in mentoring two students from the University of Toronto. Sappi foresters and other employees are also involved in multiple activities ranging from local community outreach to participation in state and national advisory boards. And we have a strong commitment to research activities that are aimed at improving forest practices.

Read the full Sappi North America Sustainability Report 2014 by downloading an online PDF version directly from our website here or for more on sustainability, check out our eQ microsite at: http://www.na.sappi.com/eQ/index.html.