Pulp and Paper Products: Sustainability by the Numbers

Pulp and Paper Products: Sustainability by the Numbers

To more easily identify companies with sustainable processes, procurement professionals have asked, “Is there a way to rank a paper product that represents to what level a company works at sustainability?”

Just look for the number. It’s called the Sustainability Index.

The SI is a simple numerical ranking that allows the pulp and paper industry, consumers, and mills to compare and rank environmental performance on multiple economic, social and environmentally preferred points.

The SI seeks to take the guesswork out of procurement by evaluating products on a number of criteria. The index encompasses factors like recycling, forestry, chlorine-free chemistry, carbon gas, and aligns them to manufacturing steps. Starting with a chain of custody from raw material extraction, collection and recycling, to the manufacturing process and finished product, every step is boiled down, rated, and ranked by third party auditors.

SI is the culmination of eight years’ work by the Chlorine Free Products Association’s Sustainable Manufacturing and Marketing Initiative (SMMI). It’s an auditing process that makes sustainability reporting of raw material extraction, manufacturing processes and products simple for consumers to understand.

The SMMI Advisory Council is made up of experts in forestry, pulp and paper chemistry, industry, academic sciences, and environmentally preferred purchasing experts that spent two years writing, peer reviewing and testing the validity of the TCF/PCF Auditors checklist. This tool also provides the mill a measuring stick and full audited transparent report that provides guidance where improvement is necessary.

Credible and Complete

CFPA auditors have over 100 years combined experience in pollution prevention, chemical engineering, environmental management and sustainability, including paper production, maintenance and management.

What does SI measure? Auditors review compliance, goals, and reporting of the following:
  • Environmental Policy
  • Environmental Management
  • Product Stewardship
  • Public Information
  • Environmental Compliance Records
  • Research & Development
  • Chain of Custody for Forestry Certification
  • Mill Process Audits
  • Environmental Risk Management
  • Employee Recognition
The aggregate of all these measures equals the SI with a maximum score of 1350 points.

The Bigger the Better

When ranking companies’ manufacturing sites, the bigger the SI index number, the better. For example, the various manufacturing sites of Cascades Tissue, the fourth largest tissue and towel producer in North America, achieved notable rankings in 2003

The various manufacturing sites of Cascades Tissue Group achieved notable rankings in 2003, with a SI index of up to 1162.

Using the ease of this type of accountability attracted the attention of the 2002 winner of the prestigious White House “Closing the Circle” award, the US Department of Interior. Kenneth Nasser Team Leader of the Dept. of Interior Solid & Hazardous Materials Management said, “I’m pleased to say as part of our greening goals in the main interior headquarters we have began using 80% post consumer recycled content Certified Processed Chlorine Free toilet tissue, hand towels, and other paper products.”

Meanwhile, many pulp and paper companies have approached the CFPA to bring value to their environmental and sustainability claims. But after reviewing the guidelines, they opted for less demanding minimum conscientious standards. They believe self-proclamations, or auditing processes that set lower minimum requirements, are good enough. Companies like Cascades Tissue Group, far exceeded other "green" certification requirements such as Green Seal (an independent, non-profit testing organization).

With SI, finding sustainable products -- and understanding the environmental commitment of the companies that make them -- is easy. Consumer, suppliers and organizations will readily know who is working as environmental stewards, versus those who self-proclaim environmental protection. Just look for the number.

Archie J. Beaton is the founder of the Chlorine Free Products Association, an international trade association. Established in 1994, the CFPA and its members work on improving environmental performance, advancing chlorine free technologies and offering a measurable process to identify the sustainability of its industries.

CFPA has no financial interest in the products it certifies or in any manufacturers or company.