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Paper buyers turning to the sky for sustainable procurement

Canadian space technology company MDA and Asia Pulp & Paper leverage satellite imagery to deliver a transparent supply chain


August 11, 2021
By Ian Lifshitz

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As Canadians, we pride ourselves on our environmental consciousness. Lakes, rivers and forests are part of our collective view of the country. This thinking has ubiquitously evolved into our daily lives including our purchasing; this includes the way consumers and retail brands view paper and packaging. According to Reporter Linker, the sustainable (green) packaging market in Canada is forecasted to grow 4.1 per cent respectively over the next several years. Likewise, the biodegradable packaging segment in Canada will also experience an estimated growth of 4.2 per cent CAGR nationwide. This growth is aligned with the global forecast from Industry Arc, where recycled, biodegradable and compostable paper packaging products are forecasted to reach $869.2 million by 2026. As paper consumption shifts toward more environmentally friendly options, paper producers are now being pressed to deliver truly sustainable products and to showcase a transparent supply chain.

Using the right sustainable tools
Sourcing sustainable paper isn’t as simple as one assumes. Certification, industry standards, government regulations and logos complicate a brand’s procurement policy. These brands need to peel back the onion and go to the source to deliver a truly sustainable choice.

Actionable data provides assessment for on the ground response
By using Canadian space tech company MDA’s RADARSAT-2 satellite-based forest alert service (FAS), the author’s company, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), is able to capture forest disturbances down to a few trees. This allows APP to monitor, in near-real-time, and react to forest cover change resulting from natural causes, illegal logging or encroachment.

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Every 24 days, satellite data is assessed for changes against historical imagery. Based on information, the APP team can assess, respond and implement necessary and targeted measures to reduce threats to its supplier plantations and address the environmental risks associated with illegal forest clearance.

What does this mean for paper buyers?
To address the growing demand for supply chain transparency, APP is making this data available on its public sustainability dashboard. Paper buyers now have full access into their sourcing partners and the assurances they need to deliver sustainable paper and packaging solutions. Further, retail brands can use the dashboard as a marketing tool to drive customers’ loyalty, targeting environmental minded consumer, as it can showcase sourcing locations and its environmental impacts.

What’s next
Real-time information will help validate transparency at a deeper level, and drive the urgency to protect natural forests while providing a comprehensive supply chain model shift within the paper sector.

Ian Lifshitz is vice-president of sustainability and stakeholder relations for the Americas, Asia Pulp & Paper.