Advancing U.S. Paper and Wood Products Sustainability Performance

Aug 16, 2016
Harman_Donna-WebBy Donna Harman
President & CEO
July/August PaperAge

The American Forest & Paper Association’s (AF&PA) recently released 2016 Sustainability Report showcases our members’ sustainability performance. This report marks the halfway point in our ten-year journey to reach our Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 goals.

Through the Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 initiative, which was established in 2011, our members are successfully pursuing one of the most extensive sets of sustainability goals established for a U.S. manufacturing industry.  AF&PA works with our members, government agencies, communities and other stakeholders to employ advanced sustainability practices benefitting the economy, environment and society and transparently reports on the industry’s performance. We are pleased to report that our members have met the greenhouse gas emissions and safety goals ahead of schedule.

Unless otherwise noted, the progress below represents our members’ calendar year 2014 performance against a 2005 baseline. 

Progress on our six goals

Our members are committed to sustainability along the entire value chain, starting with the renewable resources our members acquire to make their products. AF&PA members procured 98 percent of their fiber through certified fiber sourcing programs and have also increased the amount of fiber procured from certified forestlands to 29 percent.

AF&PA is a strong proponent of international efforts to suppress illegal logging and to reduce the demand for illegally harvested forest products. We actively engage with businesses, ENGOs and government policy makers to ensure the U.S. is not a market of choice for illegally harvested wood.

Any injury to our industry’s employees is unacceptable and AF&PA’s mandatory Environment, Health & Safety Principles require that members have health and safety policies in place. Im­plementing worker training, reducing known hazards, and a host of injury prevention measures and safeguards allowed AF&PA members to reduce their incidence rate by 40.8 percent between 2006 and 2014. Although we have met our goal to reduce reportable incidents by 25 percent, we are continuing efforts to reach our aspirational goal of zero workplace injuries.

Our members’ purchased energy efficiency improved by 8.1 percent due to investments in energy efficiency projects. Some of our members’ pulp and paper mills are largely energy self-sufficient, producing onsite on average more than two-thirds of the energy used for production, and in some cases supplying energy to the electric utility grid.

Improved energy efficiency and the use of less carbon-intensive fuels and carbon-neutral biomass, enabled the industry to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Our members reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 16 percent, surpassing our goal of 15 percent reduction.

Water is a valuable natural resource and a vital component of the papermaking process. The forest products industry directly returns about 88 percent of the water it withdraws and uses in its manufacturing processes. Ongoing technology and innovation enable water to be reused and recycled up to ten times throughout the pulp and paper mill process before it is treated in a wastewater system and returned to the environment. So far, wa­ter use at member pulp and paper mills was reduced by 6.5 percent since 2005.

Our industry’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond the manufacturing process: more than 60 percent of paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling each year since 2009, reaching a record 66.8 percent in 2015.

Paper recycling depends on the millions of Americans who recycle at home, work and school every day. In 2014, 96 percent of the U.S. population had access to community curbside and/or drop-off paper recycling services. AF&PA works to promote paper recovery by creating materials to educate consumers about best recycling practices. Through our support for The Recycling Partnership, we are helping to create public-private partnerships that will drive sus­tainable market-driven increases in the amount of recyclable com­modities recovered in the Southeast region.

Our members are united in the objective to ensure the industry’s long-term success through improved environmental performance, economic progress and support for the communities where we live and work.

We are proud of our members’ sustainability leadership and are committed to continuing our industry’s journey to advance sustainability performance.

For more information about our industry’s sustainability progress, visit