Sappi’s Passion to Make a Difference

Sappi’s Passion to Make a Difference

A Letter From Laura Thompson
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Laura Thompson discusses @SappiNA’s commitment to #sustainability and the partnerships it has developed as a result:

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 9:00am

CAMPAIGN: Sustainability Report 2015

CONTENT: Article

Sappi’s new global mission statement highlights the fact that our success depends on collaboration and partnerships with stakeholders. In my role as Director of Sustainable Development and Global Policy Initiatives, I have the pleasure of representing Sappi in numerous sustainability initiatives. This past year I began working on two new collaborative efforts focused on recycling and the best use of recycled fiber.

In 2015 Sappi became a supporter, with publishers, cat­alogers and other paper companies, of Recycling Works in Publishing (RWIP). RWIP is a member of The Recycling Partnership, whose goal is to increase curbside recycling in 200 communities throughout the US in the next 10 years.

The Recycling Partnership has a proven track record that utilizes public-private partnerships to improve recycling at the local level by providing grants, technical support and educational programming to make recycling programs more accessible and more efficient (reducing contamination). In 2015 alone, the partnership worked directly with 69 commu­nities, placed over 115,000 recycling carts (replacing bins), and is currently working to reach over 1 million households. For more information, see

At Sappi, we have long promoted a concept that we refer to as the “best use” of recycled fiber. Because recovered fiber can be used in so many paper-based products, it is unrealistic to think changes in how recovered fiber is used will occur in isolation. Increasing recycled content in one grade will affect the system-wide fiber availability for other grades, so it is increasingly important to understand the consequences of those changes. In fact, through our own carbon footprint analysis, we have shown that adding 10 percent recycled fiber to products made at our Somerset Mill actually increases the carbon footprint by 16 percent. And we know that recycled fiber can be put to better use in other products where it can be used more cost effectively with less environmental impact.

Our trade association, American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), is collaborating with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop a new approach for a more comprehensive understanding of the tradeoffs of changes in recovered fiber utilization. The MIT methodology applies a “systems dynamics” approach to consequential life cycle assessment for US paper production to model the system-wide effects. The project will deliver a comprehensive model to better educate policy makers and customers to make informed decisions about shifts in recovery rate and recycled content.

In addition to these projects, I also serve on the TwoSides Sustainability Committee, the Executive Committee of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, as a member of the GreenBlue Board of Directors and on the advisory board for the University of New Hampshire’s Environmental Science department.

These efforts ultimately aim to drive changes that help sustain our industry. Sappi’s support demonstrates an ongoing commitment to work with others to tackle large, complex issues. On a more personal level, my participation has introduced me to a strong network of experts in various fields. It is inspiring and gratifying to work among peers with a shared passion to make a difference.

Laura M. Thompson, PhD

Director, Sustainable Development and Global Policy Initiatives


Learn more about how we impact our communities, customers and employees in the 2015 Sappi North America Sustainability Report: