A PurchasingB2B Thought Leadership Roundtable
Our roundtable participants from left: Francois Dufresne; Andrew Gustyn; Michael Hlinka; Adam Tan; Drew Tremblay; Steven Sage; and Hannah Zhao.
PurchasingB2B—November/December 2012 issue
What is sustainable paper? The answer is more complex than it may seem. Is recycled fibre always the best option? What does sustainability mean? To answer these and other questions, Kruger Products partnered with PurchasingB2B for our first Leaders in Sustainable Thinking Roundtable conversation.
At first blush, many of us think we know what sustainability means. As well, many people may point to recycling as a key driver of sustainability initiatives, particularly when talking about paper: if we recycle or use recycled paper, we’ve done our part for the environment and, thus, we’re sustainable.
But drilling down, the notion of sustainability and paper becomes more complex. Issues spring up such as whether “virgin” fibre is more sustainable than recycled fibre, along with even more basic issues like what, exactly, we mean when they use the term “sustainability.”
To explore these and other issues, PurchasingB2B with Kruger Products held the Leaders in Sustainable Thinking Roundtable in October. The overall theme of the discussion was the link between the concept of sustainability and paper.
Our roundtable participants included Andrew Gustyn, director of corporate sustainability, North America, at Unisource Worldwide Inc; Drew Tremblay, sustainable business advisor at Domtar; Steven Sage, vice-president of sustainability and innovation at Kruger Products; Adam Tan, facility operations manager at Cadillac Fairview; and François Dufresne, president of Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®). As well, Hannah Zhao, an economist at RISI specializing in paper products and fibre, joined the conversation from Boston via teleconference. CBC business commentator and long-time PurchasingB2B columnist Michael Hlinka, moderated the conversation.
To frame the discussion, Hlinka quoted a 1987 United Nations document called Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report, that defines sustainable development as: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Our roundtable participants weighed in on the definition.
The consensus around the table was that the environment, while important, was but one of several components of the concept of sustainability. Sage agreed with the basic message of the report’s definition. He stressed that focusing solely on environmental practices limits an organization’s ability to operate in a sustainable fashion. Increasingly, he said, people see sustainability as including three components: environmental, social and economic.
“You could be the most [environmentally] sustainable company ever and go out of business, and then it’s not so sustainable,” he told the group. “I think it’s a bit of a juggling act in the balance of those three components.”