Sappi Innovates Sustainable Packaging Solutions to Help Brands Satisfy Their Corporate Responsibility Goals
Updated: 12.21.17 Social Responsibility

Sappi Innovates Sustainable Packaging Solutions to Help Brands Satisfy Their Corporate Responsibility Goals

By: Jon McDonald

The Crunch: As a leader in the paper and packaging industry, Sappi is working on several fronts to reduce the environmental impact of both its processes and its products. Sappi makes recyclable substrates for use in packaging products to help brands reach their corporate responsibility goals and curb the amount of waste they produce. Its environmental initiatives also include sourcing woods from sustainable forests and using renewable electricity in its mill operations. More than just a packaging industry leader, Sappi is a pioneer in environmental stewardship.

Eco-conscious brands are always looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of their production processes. And more companies are deciding to go green, especially because a third of consumers prefer to buy from companies that show a commitment to sustainability.

One area where many businesses can drastically improve their carbon footprint is product packaging, which accounts for 29 million tons of landfill waste every year. But finding a packaging partner committed to the environment — much less finding one that actively seeks out sustainable practices — can be difficult.

Sappi North America, a leading producer and supplier of diversified paper and packaging products, meets those needs with its sustainable product lines and green company mission. Sappi’s flexible packaging for food brands and paperboard options for healthcare and cosmetic packaging are recyclable, cutting down on the waste buried in a landfill or burned in an incinerator. Other specialty options are entirely biodegradable.

The company has three mills in North America capable of producing a total of 1.16 million metric tons of paper and 855,000 metric tons of pulp annually. Sappi’s environmental stewardship begins with maintaining responsible corporate standards with the forests that supply its natural resources. Sappi North America was the first pulp and paper company on the continent to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for its sustainable forest management practices.

Sappi is also reducing electricity usage at its mills while increasing its use of renewable energy sources.

“Our industry-leading commitments on energy and waste reduction have proven that environmental and economic responsibilities go hand in hand,” said Sappi North America President and CEO Mark Gardner in the company’s 2016 Sustainability Report. “With a long-standing concerted effort to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, our carbon footprint is the lowest among our domestic competitors.”

And the company continues to innovate new products that fit within its mission and help brands show their dedication to sustainable practices.

Sustainable Packaging: An Attractive Choice for Brands & Consumers

As paper packaging degrades in a landfill, it releases chemicals and greenhouse gases. Recycled material can be reused to manufacture new paper products, reducing the need to cut down trees that filter carbon dioxide out of the air.

Over the last 25 years, paper recycling has increased significantly. The American Forest and Paper Association reports that 67.2% of the paper used in the US in 2016 was recycled — which was an all-time high. Measured by weight, more paper is recovered from municipal solid waste streams than glass, plastic, and aluminum combined, EPA numbers show.

Those trends reveal how valuable recycling is to consumers, and why brands can benefit from making it easier to recycle. Sappi’s paper-based packaging products have contributed to recycling gains in the US and across the globe. The company has also innovated many environmentally friendly products.

Photo of Sappi packaging variety

Sappi North America makes sustainable packaging for a wide variety of products and brands.

Flexible packaging such as food wrappers and bags and paperboard for perfume and beauty care products are both recyclable.

Sappi Europe’s Algro Nature soft packaging is specifically “designed for environmentally friendly packaging solutions.” That product line is sustainably sourced, compostable, and biodegradable. Sappi North America’s McCoy Gift Card paper cardstock is recyclable and manufactured with 10% recycled fiber.

Recyclable product lines produced with renewable energy make sense when planning for the future. A 2015 global survey of millennials conducted by Nielsen showed that 66% of millennial respondents were willing to pay more for sustainable goods.

Committed to Renewable Resources & Sustainable Mills

A comprehensive approach to sustainability begins before products are designed and includes every step in the procurement and manufacturing processes. At Sappi, all wood fiber is sourced from well-managed forests in accordance with Sustainable Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council standards, according to the sustainability report.

Wood-sourcing practices are monitored and certified by a third party. The company works with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the American Forest Foundation to develop a sustainability model focused on small family-owned forests in the US.

Screenshot of Sappi North America energy usage

The company has reduced energy use at its mills by 3.9% since 2014 and has set the goal of a 5% reduction by 2020. And nearly 70% of the energy used at the company’s North American mills comes from renewable sources.

Solid waste reduction efforts have decreased the amount of raw waste by approximately 38% from 2014 to 2016. In 2016, more than 81,000 tons of material went to a beneficial reuse, such as use by farmers as a soil additive to improve growing conditions for crops.

Sappi has also found new uses for industrial by-products. Construction and demolition wood is used as biomass to power the Westbrook, Maine facility while tire-derived fuels fulfill some energy needs at the Somerset, Maine, mill.

Sappi: A Paper Industry Giant Taking the Lead on Sustainability

Sappi Limited, headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, has made sustainability a corporate priority for its 12,000 employees and manufacturing operations on three continents. That commitment extends to Sappi North America, headquartered in Boston, and its three mills and 2,100 employees.

That corporate ethic aligns with the values of many of the brands Sappi supplies — and the shoppers who are the end-recipients of their packaging products.

“We maintain a keen focus on three important issues: Sustainable forestry practices, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and recycling,” reads a statement on the Sappi North America website.

Sappi is now in the process of implementing its 2020Vision plan, which will strengthen its leadership in the industry and allow it to diversify through innovation. In the midst of that process, Sappi points to its continued prioritization of sustainability.

Because, according to its website, Sappi believes that “responsible corporate citizenship not only enhances our reputation, it also helps promote financial success.”