Paper companies are on the warpath, and for graphic communication providers, that might not be a bad thing. Tired of being portrayed as the evil ogre in the issue of sustainability, paper makers and their allies are maintaining a major offensive to educate corporate brands and consumers, as well...
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"As a paper mill, Mohawk relies heavily on natural resources," says Jane Monast, Director of Communications, Mohawk. "We have been the first in our industry on many environmental initiatives and we believe that business and industry have the creative capital and financial incentive to find the most innovative solutions to natural resource depletion, climate change, alternative energy development, and waste management.
Mohawk, a member of Two Sides, "supports the dissemination of knowledge to consumers who are making decisions every day about the way they communicate," says Monast. "Informed businesses and consumers should know that email isn't necessarily a more environmental way of communicating than using a letter printed on a recyclable and sustainable product like paper."
Laura Thompson, director of sustainability for Sappi Fine Paper North America, notes "Paper is about as responsible as it gets when it comes to the manufacture of materials. It is made from a renewable resource—trees, and uses high levels of renewable energy, so we have a low carbon footprint. The other great thing about paper is how recyclable it is; it is recycled more than any other product."
The official 2011 recovery rate for paper is 66.8 percent, reports Thompson. "All of this fiber gets put to use in a wide variety of products, both domestically and overseas,' she says. "In fact, about 35 percent of all current paper consumption in North America is created with recycled fiber at various levels of recycled content."
One of the ironies in the sustainability arena is that the amount of chemicals and energy required to turn recycled fiber into high-end stock is counter-productive to the reason we recycle in the first place. Also, recycled fiber does not have an infinite life span – there will always be a need for fresh "virgin" fiber entering the supply chain. Fortunately most mills harvest wood from well managed forests.
Paper companies, and printers, too, for that matter, are fighting the perception they are not friends of the environment with certification from groups such as the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent organization that promotes sustainability with its chain-of-custody certification. The FSC seal of approval demonstrates to those in the know that the wood used to make the paper came from a managed forest, instead of, for example, protected trees in the Amazon Rainforest.
"Major American brands are looking to partner with credible organizations; we find that the best way to support environmental claims is through third-party certification," says Lisa Berghaus, manager of marketing communications for Monadnock Paper Mills, a maker of specialty papers.
Monadnock, like other paper companies, is also focused on offering customers a wide range of environmentally friendly products. "We've developed various products with the environment in mind to replace less sustainable substrates, such as PVC," says Berghaus. "We offer paper products that can are not petroleum based; we call them the 'Un-Plastic.' For example, for the horticulture market we offer paper-based tags that are highly durable, can withstand weather, and look beautiful. We are trying to give brand owners options."
In 2010, Domtar launched a broad campaign called PAPERbecause (www.paperbecause.com) to communicate the importance of paper to business and opinion leaders. "This campaign gives Domtar a platform to show how paper—a sustainable, renewable and recyclable product—fts so nicely into our lives," says Lewis Fix, Vice-President of Sustainable Business and Brand Management at Domtar. "Domtar is a leader in sustainable paper production, and we promote the responsible use of paper. PAPERbecause reminds people of why paper is so vital today."
Inside its mills, "an environmental manager tracks everything that goes in or out, and everything in between," says Berghaus. "We are an ISO 14000 certified company, which means we have to quantify every operation, from the raw materials coming in to waste water leaving the plant. We have to be in compliance from top to bottom; we've made a commitment to reduce our overall environmental impact."