Surpassing Sustainability Goals Ahead of Schedule

Oct 11, 2018
harman_donna-web  By Donna Harman
ent & CEO

  July-August PaperAge

The American Forest & Paper Association’s (AF&PA) recently-released 2018 Sustainability Report shows that our members surpassed their Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability goal on energy efficiency ahead of the 2020 deadline, maintained strong safety performance and nearly reached a new greenhouse gas reduction goal. They also made measurable progress on the remaining goals.

The Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability initiative is the most extensive collection of quantifiable sustainability goals for a major U.S. manufacturing industry, demonstrating AF&PA members’ commitment to sustainability across the entire industry value chain. Established in 2011, the six goals focus on improving energy efficiency; increasing paper recovery for recycling; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; improving workplace safety; promoting sustainable forestry; and reducing water use.

Our industry’s commitment to sustainability reaches far beyond fulfillment of the Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 goals. We work with our members, government agencies, communities, and other stakeholders to employ advanced sustainability practices benefitting the economy, the environment and society.

Progress on our Goals

Members are making great strides in improving their energy efficiency. Their purchased energy consists of fuel to run their boilers, electricity to drive manufacturing equipment and steam to provide heat needed to make pulp, dry paper and produce wood products. Member purchased energy per ton of production was reduced by 11.6 percent—surpassing our goal of at least 10 percent improvement in purchased energy efficiency ahead of the 2020 deadline.

Paper recovery for recycling allows paper and paper-based packaging to go to their highest end-use: the manufacture of new products. The annual recovery rate has nearly doubled since 1990, thanks to voluntary industry efforts and the millions of Americans who choose to recycle at home, work and school every day. Our goal is to exceed 70 percent paper recovery for recycling by 2020. In 2017, the U.S. paper recovery rate reached 65.8 percent.

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing processes are an inherent part of our industry’s environmental stewardship. Members reduced greenhouse gas emissions from their facilities by 19.9 percent, nearly reaching the 20 percent reduction goal.

Reductions in both purchased energy and greenhouse gas emissions from facilities are driven by reductions in coal and oil use; increased use of less carbon-intensive natural gas; and other energy efficiency projects undertaken at mills.

Our industry’s employees are our most valuable resource. Workplace safety is of utmost importance and any injury to our employees is unacceptable. Members continually work to develop innovative methods to improve the safety of their facilities, so that workers can go home safe and sound after their shifts. The recordable incidence rate of AF&PA members was 36.3 percent lower than in 2006. We first surpassed this goal in 2014 and maintained our strong performance in 2016, surpassing our worker safety goal of a 25 percent reduction in incidences ahead of the 2020 deadline.

We remain committed to reaching our industry vision of zero injuries in the workplace. Members assigned safety training for 100 percent of their new employees in 2016. They also provide useful and timely safety updates and invest in programs to promote the well-being of their employees and the communities where they operate.

Sustainable forestry practices keep forests plentiful and support the sustainability of our entire industry. Members increased the amount of wood fiber they procure from certified forestlands to 29.1 percent, and fiber procured through certified sourcing programs to 99.1 percent. In addition, members that own forestland conform to credible forest management program standards.

Members also continue their efforts to combat illegal logging by safeguarding against fiber procurement from illegally-logged sources by documenting fiber sources; requiring suppliers to sign agreements; and using third-party certification of chain-of-custody systems.

Water is an essential part of the pulp- and papermaking process, and members seek ways to reduce water use by reusing and recycling the water they use in their manufacturing processes. Our goal is to reach a 12 percent reduction in member pulp and paper mill water use, and their water use decreased by 6.6 percent so far.

We are proud of the progress we’ve made together advancing economic, environmental and social values. We are committed to continuing our industry’s sustainability leadership while making essential products for everyday life.

For more information about our industry’s sustainability progress and to download a copy of the 2018 AF&PA Sustainability Report, visit