Sourcing for Sustainability: How to Evaluate a Paper Manufacturer’s Sustainability Practices

June 16, 2022

Environmentally friendly materials and business practices are at the core of sustainability, but how can you tell if a paper manufacturer is truly committed, rather than simply saying they are? To find the answer to this question, as discussed in our 2020 white paper, you’ll need to understand the three interconnected pillars that contribute to total sustainability: environmental, economic, and social. Here we outline what to look for within each of the pillars to help you make strategic sustainability decisions when sourcing your company’s paper.

Environmental Impact

The first step to understanding your manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability is to check for third-party certification, which in the forest products industry are the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI), the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). You should ask about what types of forest, fiber procurement, and chain-of-custody certifications they possess, as well as check whether they have dedicated resources to track metrics and ensure compliance with key environmental regulations. Finally, check whether your manufacturer uses U.S.-based- forest land. These operations adhere to strict local and federal regulations and, as a result, are not a threat to the health of domestic forests. These factors will give you a better idea of the manufacturer’s commitment to producing environmentally friendly paper products.

Economic Awareness

Obviously, every manufacturer must have a goal of profitability, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of the quality of their products. When evaluating a manufacturer’s economic sustainability keep an eye out for a “Made in the U.S.A.” claim. Domestic manufacturing has a true economic impact and supports the nearly one million people who work in the wood products industry in the United States. Other things to flag are a manufacturer’s documentation of their protocols, fair and safe supply chains, and a good reputation in the industry. Demonstrating a high-level of visibility and involvement in research studies that will move the industry forward is key. Longevity is important and demonstrating economic awareness is a sign that improving and sustaining the industry is a goal for manufacturers.

Social Responsibility

The final element of sustainability is for paper manufacturers to have a balance between the needs of the company and those of its employees, customers, and surrounding communities. An engaged workforce is a telltale sign of a strong company culture. Responsible manufacturers will be committed to the success of their employees and connected to their communities. Another way to check a manufacturer’s priorities is to evaluate the associations that they’re partnered with, a responsible company will be associated with respected non-profit organizations and groups. And ultimately, you’ll want to ensure that your manufacturer’s values align with those of your own company.

Evaluating manufacturers on all three pillars of sustainability gives a truly accurate perspective of the manufacturer as a whole. To learn more or read the full whitepaper, click here.

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