Growing paper demand needs to balance with sustainable forests

GLAND, SWITZERLAND - THE WORLD Wildlife Federation (WWF) has released its 2019 Environmental Paper Company Index (EPCI), a voluntary tool to increase transparency and awareness on how the pulp, paper and packaging sectors is reducing its impact on forests.

This assessment comes ahead of the significant 2020 milestone by which many global companies pledged to have fully eliminated deforestation from their supply chains as the demand for paper grows to replace plastic.

By 2050, the consumption of paper is expected to double and maybe even further increase with the pressure to substitute plastic for paper. WWF estimates that over 250 million hectares of plantation will be needed to meet our future global demand combined with even higher levels of recycled material. WWF calls on the sector to change the status quo and deliver now by improving the sustainability of its supply chain and offering consumers a responsible choice.

EPCI 2019 covers a significant percentage of total global production in the following categories: newsprint (13%), graphic paper (16%), tissue (15%), packaging (9%) and pulp (10%). The index brings together almost 300 mills of which 48% are located in Europe, 22% in North America, 22% in South and Central America, 7% in Asia and 1% in Africa.

Overall, the assessment shows that participating companies are obtaining 76% of the maximum points for responsible fiber sourcing, 70% for clean manufacturing, and 64% for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and transparency in reporting. The average score of 70% is slightly less compared to the overall performance in the EPCI 2017 (73%).

An important trend to note is the overall reduction of Forest Stewardship Council certified sourced fiber and the use of recycled materials for all product categories except packaging. More transparency is also needed as indicated by the lowest score (63%) on environmental reporting.

Given the fast-growing importance of the pulp and paper sector in Asia, WWF carried out an additional special assessment based on public information of two large Chinese companies (Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing and Nine Dragons Paper Holding), and one Japanese company (Daio Paper Corporation). These companies were invited but chose not to voluntarily disclose information on their performance and transparency. Together, they represent nearly 5% of global total pulp and paper production while Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing and Nine Dragons Paper Holding alone represent around 8% of total global packaging production.

“Asia is the most dynamic region with paper and paperboard representing almost half of the world’s production, said Mauro Ciriminna, senior advisor sustainable pulp, paper, and packaging for the WWF Forest Sector Transformation. “In the past, it has been challenging to get Asian based companies on board. Therefore the inclusion of seven Asian companies in this year’s EPCI is an important development. Asian based companies can and should play a crucial role in improving their practices in deforestation fronts, increasing FSC certification and promoting responsible paper production and consumption.”

This year, 30 out of 84 invited companies took part in the Index (including the three companies from the special assessment) with four new companies voluntarily joining also: Ence and Lecta (Spain) JK Paper (India), and Nippon Paper (Japan). Together, these companies represent 18% of total production of pulp and paper manufacturers worldwide.

Through the Index, WWF wants to spur the pulp and paper industry to take a leading role in reducing the sector’s footprint by increasing recycling practices and sourcing more responsibly certified fiber from timber producers and pulp and paper suppliers.

“Recycled material plays a central role in achieving a circular economy and should become the industry s first choice to reduce pressure on virgin fiber and worldwide forests. Globally, if companies used more post-consumer recycled and FSC-certified fiber, they would score much better,” said Ciriminna.


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