The pulp and paper industry has spent at least forty years squandering the opportunity to turn public relations in its favor. We have been reduced to seeing email messages with the ending tag line: “Leave it on the screen to keep it green” despite the fact that internet server farms are some of the largest energy users yet devised by humankind. (My own tag line, which you are free to use as have many others in the past, is: “It is OK to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of men and women. Working forests are good for the environment, providing clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, carbon neutral energy, carbon storage and can help mitigate forest fires.”)
But I digress. The one area where we can make a difference is water. Face it—we are experts at water. We know how to source water, use water, conserve water and clean it up to put it back into nature. We know how to do these things on a large scale.
People need clean drinking water. When mills are built in remote areas, it can be almost a “rounding error” to a mill’s costs to provide clean drinking water to the surrounding area. Likewise, cleaning up local streams or effluent discharges could be handled the same way.
The costs are small, but the public relations benefit would be huge. What if the news media had to report that a new mill in ___________ (fill in the blank) brought clean drinking water to 100,000 people that had never had it before? What would a few stories like that do for our image worldwide?
One cannot buy publicity like that, and for us it would very, very easy to do.