Spotlight: Renée Yardley of Sustana Group

PrintAction Staff
September 04, 2019
By PrintAction Staff
Renée Yardley serves as Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Sustana Group, a producer of sustainable, recycled fibres and paper products, and parent company of Rolland and Sustana Fiber. She has more than two decades of experience in global organizations, including Tembec, CCM and General Motors, and holds a Bachelor of Commerce and MBA from McGill University, and a MA in General Management from Harvard University. In this Q&A, Yardley shares her perspectives on supply-chain-wide sustainability.

PA: How would you describe the future of the paper industry?
RY: Across all industries, today’s consumers are expecting more transparency, meaning and simplicity from the brands they trust. Here at Sustana Group, we’ve always believed that businesses can do more — and data shows that consumers’ priorities are continuing to shift toward that end too. Specifically looking at the pulp and paper industry, it’s an exciting time of change, innovation and transformation. The paper and forest-products industry overall is evolving, and it has major changes in store and exciting prospects for new growth. These changes include shifting global recycling mindsets and the rise of a more circular economy. For example, China’s restrictions on the import of recyclables have led to a pileup of recycled materials and forced changes in North American attitudes towards recycling. Advocates for a circular economy see an opportunity to rethink domestic recycling and to stimulate job growth in a global market. Wise businesses seeking to establish new markets will increasingly leverage post-consumer materials as valuable commodities. In some cases, new online marketplaces have been created for buying and selling recovered materials. As the number of new materials produced by modern economies continues to increase, so too does the opportunity to repurpose those materials.

PA: What are some common myths and misperceptions of the paper industry?
RY: Paper is something we all use every day and an important factor that many people still don’t have right when it comes to sustainability. It’s unrealistic to believe our business world will ever be truly paperless. With that in mind, it’s more productive to focus on how to make more sustainable paper choices — focusing instead on how your paper is made.

There’s also a preconceived notion that using paper means cutting down trees but that doesn’t have to be the case. As a manufacturer of recycled paper with up to 100-percent post-consumer waste content, Rolland is proud to say our main source of raw material is the ‘urban forest’ – made up of paper that has been disposed of in cities and towns across the American Northeast, Ontario and Quebec.

PA: What can the industry do to debunk these myths?
RY: We believe education is the cornerstone of this debunking myths. It’s clear that companies are changing the way they view paper. In fact, over 100 leading North American companies have now removed or changed inaccurate anti-paper claims in marketing messages as part of an anti-greenwash campaign to recognize the social and environmental benefits of the right printer and paper, as well as the lifecycle of sustainable forests and paper products. As more and more companies are rejecting the idea of ‘going paperless,’ it’s clear that paper is here to stay. Greater education and awareness about how to choose the right paper is a critical first step toward a more sustainable business world.

PA: What sustainability trends do you see in the industry right now?
RY: First and foremost, today’s consumers are more issue-driven than ever before. They are looking for brands who support their core values — and one of their top concerns is the environment. In fact, studies have shown customers are aligning with brands who promote sustainability more than ever. Businesses are leading the way. As a result, many consumers have been looking to businesses to step up and are choosing to support brands that offer sustainable practices. This is also where we have seen a lot of success with companies making changes in the supply chain to meet their sustainability goals and align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by incorporating recycled content into paper and packaging more than ever. As consumers become more aware and demanding transparency into supply chain decisions, simply being “recyclable” is no longer enough. True efficiency is achieved only when products are able to be recovered, recycled and turned into new products that are sold on the market, and recycled again. GreenBiz’s 2019 report highlights how companies are embracing a circular economy – that’s where companies like Rolland and Sustana Fiber come in – we partner with companies to help create a more sustainable supply chain.

I’m also seeing an increase in partnerships and open collaboration for impactful change across the industry. Open collaboration with varying stakeholders is necessary for impactful environmental footprint reduction in business contexts. The first challenge in enabling supply-chain-wide sustainability, according to Harvard Business Review, is to “understand the wider system you’re in” and the second is to “learn to work with people you haven’t worked with before.” While consumers increasingly pressure corporate leaders to take on sustainability mandates, companies are partnering at the local level and powerful global brands have launched social impact programs with third-party organizations internationally.

PA: What can printing companies do to be more sustainable?
RY: Choose the right paper! Paper collection and recycling are far more energy efficient than virgin fibre production, and paper is one of the most recycled materials on earth. Aside from paper production, transportation and recycling using less energy, paper also biodegrades more quickly and efficiently at end of life when compared to synthetics. Here are my tips for choosing the right paper. Look into the paper manufacturing process; to truly make sustainable choices, you should choose paper manufactured with the least amount of impact to the environment and its natural resources. Look for paper manufacturing processes that prevent pollution and conserve resources, by de-inking without chlorine and using water as efficiently as possible. For example, Rolland’s de-inking facilities recirculate every drop of water 17 times, and our paper mill recirculates its water more than 30 times.

Check out official certifications; certifications tell consumers that the company complies with environmentally friendly international standards and helps them make informed decisions about paper products. For example, look for the FSC®, Ancient Forest Friendly™ designations.

Pay attention to where the natural resources come from — if sourcing virgin fibre for paper production, look for manufacturers working with suppliers who employ environmentally responsible practices from well-managed forests, which ensures the conservation and protection of natural resources. It’s also important to differentiate between types of recycled materials used in paper, speak to the sustainability of paper as a substitute for other materials, and to advocate for recycling as a means of protecting forests.

Look for companies that have sustainability in their mission and DNA, and that are committed to transparency. At Rolland, we aim to be as sustainable as possible through all of our choices — even those outside of our paper, including how we get our energy. We invested in using biogas from a local landfill site which fulfills 93 percent of our paper mill’s energy needs. Biogas comes from decomposing waste that’s been captured to prevent its release into the air. It is then transported by an eight-mile pipeline to Rolland and used as thermal energy to produce paper, replacing fossil fuels. We also believe that transparency is the currency of sustainability. Look for companies that publish Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) results and give full transparency to the methodology used, the tools, and data collection processes to establish the environmental profile of their paper.

After you’ve chosen the right paper, it’s important to arm yourself with data whenever possible. Using an eco calculator to help quantify your impact helps you understand how different manufacturing processes compare. Whether it’s to determine the ROI of a purchase decision, meet print policy goals or communicate with shareholders, our eco calculator can help quantify the number of trees, gallons of water and other savings gained from using recycled papers.
 
PA: The rising cost of paper is a common challenge for many printers — what can be done to combat this?
RY: From our perspective, implementing sustainable practices can add to a brand’s overall value. Consumers want a company’s sustainability efforts to be obvious and visible to them. And they are putting their money behind it. Studies show consumers will leave a brand based on their values, and global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. Across the board, they are demanding eco-friendly business practices, and sustainable packaging demonstrates a deeper level of commitment — one that is tangible and that customers can literally hold in their hands, like paper and packaging.

Increasingly, environmental impact measurement will not only be a means of competitive advantage, but will become a necessary requirement for organizations to remain competitive. Enabling measurement of environmental impact can create long-term customer value for organizations pursuing strategic sustainability and can command a price premium for products. More and more, businesses are looking for real sustainability strategies that have a meaningful impact through the entire supply chain.

PA: How would you describe the state of the print industry?
RY: The printing industry is one that typically tracks pretty well with the overall economy. Since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009, print markets have become increasingly healthy. This was particularly true throughout the last year or so and should continue in the near term. We will likely continue to see increased demand for things like recycled/sustainable options and specific products like, labels, package manufacturing and specialty printing. In my opinion, it will be increasing important to invest in two key things looking at 2019 and beyond: Technology and innovation, and Sustainability. 

A condensed version of this Q&A was originally published in the September 2019 issue of PrintAction, now available online.

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