New Leadership Team Driving Sappi Forward

New Leadership Team Driving Sappi Forward

Company adds new members to expert team

Thursday, July 11, 2019 - 4:30pm

CAMPAIGN: Sustainability Report 2018

CONTENT: Article

2018 was a year of transformation for Sappi North America (SNA). We rebuilt a paper machine, developed an entirely new packaging line, helped launch exciting new brand positioning for our dissolving pulp product, and established a creative, passionate sustainability team to set the course for our future.

Sandy Taft, Director of Sustainability, joined us in September 2018; Rebecca Barnard, Manager of Forestry Certification, in January 2018; and Lynne Palmer, Manager of Packaging Product Stewardship, assumed this important new role in 2017 as part of our move into the paperboard market.

All three are now fully engaged, working alongside Jennifer Miller, Chief Business Sustainability Officer, and the rest of the senior leadership team at SNA to ensure our business strategy reflects a holistic approach to sustainability principles.

What sets this team apart is their shared commitment to a science-based approach to sustainability, a collaborative spirit, and a passion for getting things done. 

The new experts

Sandy sees his role as Director of Sustainability as “the knitter, pulling in the threads of all the good work of others” to create a holistic approach to sustainability. “I was immediately struck by the strong culture here, how so many people throughout the organization own sustainability. I want to build on that spirit.” Sandy recognizes that sound, well-executed, and leading-edge sustainability strategies create business value: “The right focus doesn’t just drive efficiencies, waste reduction and a lower environmental footprint,” he observes. “It provides the broader perspective of the problems that our customers want us to solve. A successful sustainability strategy puts us in line with the needs of our customers and creates an edge for us in the market.”

Lynne, a chemical engineer by training and a long-term employee at our Technology Center, has broad experience in papermaking, product development and anticipating the needs of our customers. In her new role, she focuses both up and down in the supply chain to ensure that Sappi North America’s food packaging products meet stringent governmental food safety regulations and customer expectations for product safety. What does that have to do with sustainability? Everything.

“Diversifying our product mix is key to sustaining business prosperity: the first ‘P’ in Sappi’s sustainability pillars. Developing renewable, paperbased packaging as an alternative to plastic honors our Planet pillar, and of course product safety is all about People, keeping our employees, consumers and the general public healthy and safe,” Lynne explains.

Rebecca brings a decade and a half of forest management and policy experience to SNA in her current role as Forestry Certification Manager. Most recently, Rebecca served as the National Forestry Programs Manager at the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). Earlier, Rebecca was the Forest Certification Coordinator for the State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources where she was responsible for managing dual SFI and FSC certification on nearly 5 million acres of state-administered forestlands, one of the largest certified land bases in North America. At SNA, Rebecca is responsible for material risk assessments for both wood and pulp suppliers, managing our FSC, SFI and PEFC Chain-of-Custody and fiber sourcing certificates, and providing training, support and strategic direction to Sappi staff on certification-related matters.

In Rebecca’s view, it is critical to promote an inclusive approach to the three certification systems, and to educate our customers and end-users on the value that certification brings:

“How else can we provide our customers with the security of knowing that our wood is sourced from well-managed sustainable forests, where proper forestry practices ensure that the interests of wildlife, biodiversity, water quality, soil conservation, forest health, and the needs of local communities are all met for current and future generations?” Rebecca advocates for a transparent, community-based approach to forest management. “Forestry is an art and a science that involves management of the forest and people in order to achieve balanced objectives.”

A collaborative approach

Sappi North America’s sustainability leaders stress their collaborative working relationship. “Rebecca’s wood fiber certification programs ensure our forests for the future,” says Sandy Taft. He adds, “Lynne’s new space in packaging offers a bright spot for the future of our business and gives our customers a choice in sustainable packaging materials with a lower carbon footprint.”

Sandy is also connected with Sappi Limited’s broader sustainability efforts, working closely with his counterparts in Europe and South Africa. The tactical approaches in each region may be different, due to regulation, laws or unique markets, but the commitment is the same. “We take a One Sappi view of how we manage our sustainability performance,” he comments. “The same commitment to fact-based and transparent reporting, with a global focus on safety, employee engagement, and climate policy, mitigation and resilience.”

Sandy, who prior to coming to Sappi held a similar sustainability role with National Grid—a UK based energy company that also operates in the northeastern US—believes that knowing our customers and understanding their sustainability interests is one key to success. “It is always best as a collaborative effort,” he says.

Inclusive employee engagement

Sandy stresses that for sustainability efforts to be successful, there must be employee engagement. It is a theme all three leaders strike. Rebecca wants every Sappi employee to understand the importance of—and Sappi’s role in supporting— vibrant, productive well-managed forests: “I was inspired that in our most recent certification audit, our organization was commended for its strong culture, including mentorship of our newest foresters. This shows Sappi’s commitment and investment in the future of our forests and people!”

Over the past year, Lynne has led a significant management of change initiative, training Somerset employees to fundamentally rethink how they work. She is impressed by how everyone in the mill has responded to new standards under a Food Safety Management System—from monitoring and managing process cleanliness, to employee hygiene, to management of their own meals which are a potential source of contamination. Lynne says, “We have a large operation at Somerset, and making these changes involves everyone. Employees are asking great questions so they build their understanding of our food safety guidelines, and that is critical.”

Meeting the challenges of tomorrow

“When you are in a room with Sandy, Rebecca or Lynne, what strikes you is their optimism, energy and enthusiasm. I couldn’t be more confident in the team we have assembled to help set our course for 2020 and beyond,” Jennifer comments. “Their passion, expertise, and willingness to tackle the detail to get the right result is inspiring.” As Lynne explains, “Our entire team is making decisions and taking actions that don’t just solve today’s issues but set the path for solving tomorrow’s challenges.”

Read more from Sappi North America's 2018 Sustainability Report here: