Sappi’s Laura Thompson Explains Why 2014 was a Pivotal Year of Change for the Paper Industry

Sappi’s Laura Thompson Explains Why 2014 was a Pivotal Year of Change for the Paper Industry

2014 was a critical year for foundation building and refinement to position Sappi North America for the sustained future of Sappi’s employees, customers, investors and communities. Sappi's sustainability expert Laura Thompson reflects on the past year.
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Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - 8:30am

CAMPAIGN: Sustainability Report 2014

CONTENT: Article

For Sappi North America, 2014 may long be remembered as a pivotal year of change. We saw a merger of two of the biggest merchants in our supply chain as well as our two largest competitors. Coated paper markets struggled, a global economic slowdown hurt the sales of release papers, and dissolving pulp prices took a sharp downward turn. While it certainly had its challenges, 2014 was also a critical year for foundation building and refinement to position Sappi for the next generation.

Sappi remains committed to coated graphic papers as the core of our business. We made significant investments in 2014 to better serve the growing direct mail segment and now have more capacity for heavy weight cover grades than ever before. In support of our global diversification strategy, we also announced the formation of a new Specialty Packaging business unit within North America. In my Technical Marketing role, I had the pleasure of working with R&D and our Somerset Mill to develop, test and launch our first new product from this business unit. LusterCote is a coated one-side (C1S) product specifically developed for label and other converting applications.

LusterCote is our first packaging offering since the introduction of LusterPrint, an FDA-compliant, grease-resistant C1S product, which launched in 1993. Perhaps our best-kept secret to many of our customers, LusterPrint is a market leader for the technically challenging demands of pet food packaging. We fully expect LusterCote to have a similar impact on its targeted markets. I look forward to working on additional new product development efforts in support of the Specialty Packaging Business.

In addition to investments in support of our product offerings, the Somerset Mill executed a $23 million infrastructure project, which included an upgrade to the lime kiln, a critical process unit in the utility and chemical recovery area. The kiln is now equipped to burn natural gas and was also designed to improve energy efficiency. These changes are estimated to reduce the lime kiln’s operating costs by at least 30 percent, while also reducing the mill’s greenhouse gas emissions.

While we have experienced much change this past year, we have never wavered on our commitment to safety, and we were honored to be recognized with the 2014 PPI Award for Managing Risk and Safety. We know that our strong safety culture follows our employees home, making people more conscious of their actions whether on the road, enjoying recreational activities or working around the house. It is our hope that we will see the same cultural shift for sustainability. We believe that economic, social and environmental responsibility can be part of our daily lives as well as our work lives.

Our Sustainability Ambassadors have been chartered with driving this cultural change. We’ve made significant progress in recent years as the ambassadors have delivered against their roles to support training and education as well as host community outreach events. Whether conducting a classroom papermaking demonstration or hosting a recycling event at a local fair, Sappi employees are routinely recognized for their passion and excellence throughout our local communities.

The strength of our culture has long enabled us to maintain a talented and experienced workforce. In fact we have celebrated many Sappi employees who have served the company for more than 40 years. However, with an aging workforce, we feel it is critical to attract new talent to the Sappi team. We continue to execute against our long-term recruiting strategies, and we are committed to investing in the training and development of new employees. Ultimately, we hope that new employees will find Sappi a rewarding place to work and they too will enjoy lengthy careers with the company. Our dedication to our workforce is a vital component of our sustainability plan for the next generation.

Laura M. Thompson, PhD Director, Technical Marketing & Sustainable Development

Read the full Sappi North America Sustainability Report 2014 by downloading an online PDF version directly from our website here or for more on sustainability, check out our eQ microsite at:

CATEGORY: Environment