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Management Side
The Final Word by Chuck Swann
According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the US forest products industry is responsible for nearly 4% of all US manufacturing GDP. With nearly 900,000 employees, it ranks among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 47 of the 50 US states. And it is responsible for nearly 4% of the value of all US manufactured goods.

With rising living standards in developing nations, global market opportunities for US forest products continue to expand. Already, the US industry boasts net exporter status for market pulp and paperboard. And according to an October 31 Associated Press article, "The US economy powered its way to a solid annual growth rate of 3.5% from July through September, outpacing most of the developed world and appearing on track to extend its momentum through this year and beyond."

AF&PA believes that economic advances must be accompanied by environmental responsibility. This Washington, D.C.-based national trade association is demonstrating its environmental commitment through its "Better Practices, Better Planet 2020" sustainability initiative. It is a program that might well be emulated in other pulp and paper producing nations, and even provide a set of environmental targets for individual companies and mills.

AF&PA's vision for the industry is that it should be built on sustainable principles: producing recyclable products from renewable resources. Its Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 program is one of the most extensive collections of quantifiable sustainability goals of any major US manufacturing industry. The program concentrates on six goals for its industry members.

1. Exceed 70% rate of paper recovery for recycling by 2020

2. Improve members' purchased energy efficiency use by at least 10% from 2005

3. Reduce members' greenhouse gas emissions by at least 15% from 2005 to 2020

4. Increase the amount of fiber procured from certified forest lands or through certified fiber sourcing programs in the US from 2005 to 2020 and work to decrease illegal logging

5. A vision for the industry of zero injuries and measuring progress toward that vision by improving the industry incidence rate by 25% from 2006 to 2020

6. Reduce water use in members' pulp and paper mills by 12% from 2005 to 2020

In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." More recently, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report on November 2 that says fossil fuel emissions may need to drop to zero by the end of this century to keep global warming below a level many consider dangerous.

That sustainability is truly a global concern is evidenced by some recent world headlines. For example, in Indonesia draining peatlands for palm oil and pulp wood production causes huge amounts of carbon emissions. The dehydrated peat triggers thousands of fires annually, choking large parts of Southeast Asia - causing an unprecedented public health and economic issue. In this hemisphere, reports from Sao Paulo State in Brazil say that the worst drought in decades in that region is affecting companies and some are halting production as a result. There do not appear to be many purely local environmental challenges any longer.

In a series of articles in coming weeks, we will take closer looks at each of the six goals in AF&PA's sustainability program, examine how they are working in the USA, and look at some global applications--existing and planned--of conservation and sustainability targets.

Chuck Swann is the senior editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.


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