AF&PA Sustainability Awards: Honoring Members’ Accomplishments

Dec 02, 2015

By Donna Harman
President & CEO
Nov./Dec. 2015 PaperAge

AF&PA recently recognized seven member companies for their commitment to sustainability through our 2015 AF&PA Sustainability Awards. The awards are designed to recognize exemplary sustainability successes in the paper and wood products manufacturing industry – consistent with AF&PA’s continuing commitment to sustainability through our Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 initiative.

AF&PA sustainability award applicants are considered in two primary categories. The first, for projects that support the Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability goals, which qualify for recognition in the “Leadership in Sustainability” category.  Within the Leadership category, there are five subcategories that correspond to the goals: Paper Recovery for Recycling, Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gas Reduction, Sustainable Forest Management, Safety, and Water. The “Innovation in Sustainability” award is reserved for projects that merit recognition for their contribution to sustainable business practices, not one of the goals specifically.

Seaman Paper Company was awarded a Leadership in Sustainability Award for Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction for their Soft Steps Forward Initiative, for which Seaman committed to decrease their purchased fuel and electricity dependency. The company now produces 97 percent of their steam requirements from carbon-neutral biomass, and installed a backpressure turbine that runs on steam to meet their electricity needs. These measures helped decrease Seaman’s total energy cost despite the sharp increases in oil and electricity costs over the past decade.

WestRock Company also received a Leadership in Sustainability Award for Energy Efficiency and GHG Reduction. Their Covington Power Island Project uses carbon-neutral biomass to generate renewable electricity for sale and supply clean energy to their Covington, Virginia paper mill. It has enabled the mill to become electrically self-sufficient, greatly reduce coal use and greenhouse gas emissions, and decrease freshwater usage as well as the generation of waste water.

Evergreen Packaging was recognized with the Leadership in Sustainability Award for Paper Recovery for Recycling for the On-Packaging Recycle Use project. Surveys show that consumers look for a recycle logo on a carton to determine whether it is recyclable. Evergreen developed and implemented a tracking system to find out which customers did not use a logo on their cartons. This information is used to get more customers to include the logo on their cartons and communicate to consumers that those cartons are recyclable, thereby increasing recovery.

Resolute Forest Products received the Leadership in Sustainability Award for Safety for their Working Towards Zero Incidents project. A multi-disciplinary task force at Resolute took the initiative to design a safer, watertight, more comfortable, breathable chemical protective suit that is appropriate for all mill-related working requirements. In addition, the new suits can be used for at least a year, as opposed to the previous disposable suits, of which employees used and discarded about five per month.

International Paper was awarded the Leadership in Sustainability Award for Water for their Pensacola Mill/Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) Partnership project. Through the partnership, International Paper’s containerboard mill in Pensacola, Florida receives treated effluent from ECUA that it uses in its industrial processes. This allowed International Paper to reduce its freshwater consumption, while ECUA has found a beneficial outlet for its treated effluent.

Domtar received two awards. The first was the Leadership in Sustainability Award for Sustainable Forest Management for their Marlboro FSC Partnership. FSC certification can be pricey for small landowners, but paper companies often need FSC certified fiber to meet specific customer demands. Through the Marlboro FSC Partnership, Domtar covers certification costs and pays a premium to receive certified fiber, and landowners receive advice and support in getting their wood certified.

Domtar’s second award was an Innovation in Sustainability Award for the Plymouth K-Lime Project. Their Plymouth, North Carolina mill reduced its waste stream to zero by creating K-Lime, a substitute for traditional fertilizer that consists of byproducts of the manufacturing process that were previously sent to landfill. K-Lime is all-natural and works just as well as traditional fertilizer, and Domtar provides it to farmers at a third of the cost.

Verso Corporation was also recognized with an Innovation in Sustainability Award. The Identifying and Mapping Vernal Pools on State Lands in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula project is a public-private partnership focusing on vernal pools: small, shallow, temporary bodies of water that are important for healthy forest ecosystems because they provide food, water and habitat for a number of animal and plant species. Aerial photograph interpretation and other technologies are used to identify and map vernal pools, so that they will not be overlooked and unintentionally damaged or destroyed.

These award-winning initiatives are representative of AF&PA members’ commitment to better business practices and the sustainability of our industry and our communities. The amount of project submissions continues to grow each year, representing the concrete actions our industry is taking to improve the sustainability of our processes and products.

For more information about AF&PA’s Sustainability Awards program and Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 initiative, visit