Metafore Further Meshes EPAT Paper-Buying Tool with Green Efforts

Metafore Further Meshes EPAT Paper-Buying Tool with Green Efforts

As an ever-growing number of companies continue to dig into their environmental impacts, greening the supply chain is becoming the hottest topic in corporate sustainability.

One sign that this trend will be continuing for the foreseeable future is the latest update to the Environmental Paper Assessment Tool (EPAT), as well as changes planned for the near future by Metafore, a program of GreenBlue.

EPAT 2.1 was released this week, bringing an even deeper level of data about the environmental impacts of paper production to companies that rely on forest products as their lifeblood -- publishing firms, banks and even coffee companies, among others.

The new version of the web-based application offers data on 19 environmental performance indicators, including energy and water use, forest management practices, recyclability and compostability. The data are reported to EPAT by the mills themselves, and gives paper buyers a chance to compare all the many variables of environmental impacts when choosing suppliers.

The new update to EPAT also updates industry averages, information that EPAT Program Manager Tom Pollock said is difficult data to uncover. But he added that ever-richer sources of environmental impact data are in demand from paper buyers.

"The marketplace is just getting more and more intelligent," Pollock explained. "This type of tool, three years ago people would just ask 'why would you manage water use or track emissions?' from your paper mills." Today, 90 percent of paper manufacturers in North America participate in EPAT, and all of their biggest customers are also using the tool.

"Companies are also getting smarter, and they need to know this information," Pollock said. "A lot of companies have been setting [environmental] goals for the last five years or longer, and when you set goals you have to measure it; this is exactly the kind of tool where you can measure progress toward your goals."

As companies step up their CSR reporting requirements, EPAT aims to keep raising the bar as well. Among the biggest new requirements companies are making of their paper suppliers is greenhouse gas emissions from energy use; companies that are beginning to measure and manage their Scope 3 emissions from suppliers need this data to meet environmental goals.

And Metafore sees this trend increasing, and is taking steps to meet growing demand. Pollock said that Metafore is working on a bigger upgrade to take EPAT to version 3.0 later this year or early in 2012; the next step in the evolution of the tool will be to make it more accessible to smaller companies as well as to the Fortune 500 firms that are currently the primary users of EPAT.

Metafore and GreenBlue are hosting a free webcast on Tuesday, January 25 to provide an overview of EPAT and its new features. More information about EPAT is also online at EPAT.org.

Photo CC-licensed by Robert S. Donovan.