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International Paper Pushing For A Sustainable Way Forward

Imagine a company whose plan is to improve people’s lives, the planet, and their own performance by transforming renewable resources into products people depend on every day. That’s International Paper. The Memphis, Tennessee-based business is the leading global producer of renewable fiber-based packaging, paper, and pulp products. International Paper has more than 50,000 employees, spread across large manufacturing plants from Russia to Latin America, North Africa, and Europe to North America. Their entire company mission is focused on sustainability through circular production and on their community impact, which focuses on addressing hunger and security issues for people in need.

International Paper has a motto called the “IP Way Forward”, which is how they go beyond doing just the right things. It’s about doing the right things, for the right reasons, all of the time. The IP Way Forward has five main pathways: sustaining forests, investing in people, improving the planet, creating innovative products, and delivering an inspired performance.

To make sure the company stays on track with a sharp focus on the future, leaders have set clear targets for the next decade with a new program called Vision 2030. By 2030, International Paper aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent and water use by 25 percent. They will source 100 percent of its fiber from sustainably-managed forests, or from recovered fiber. Above all else, there’s a paramount commitment to safeguarding these forests and the watersheds and biodiversity they represent – including providing economic incentives for landowners to manage the forests responsibly and working with non-government organizations to drive responsible management.

To support these initiatives, the company created a new position, Chief Sustainability Officer. Sophie Beckham came on board in 2020 to lead the Vision 2030 charge and continue to broaden the wealth of sustainability directives at International Paper.  

“For more than 120 years, forest stewardship has been at the core of how we have operated our company,” said Beckham. “Today, we recognize the broader role we can play in advancing sustainable outcomes, both environmental and social. This is an important time for International Paper, and I’m extremely excited to amplify our ambition to be among the most successful, sustainable, and responsible companies in the world.”

The way to meet those ambitions head-on is through circular production, a production style focusing on reuse, repair, and recycling of all items in the production chain which increases sustainable manufacturing and consumption. International Paper advances circular solutions throughout their systems and promises to continue to create innovative products that are 100 percent reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

This is a company that makes packaging products that protect and promote goods, enable worldwide commerce, and keep customers safe. They make pulp for diapers, tissue, and other personal hygiene products necessary for sanitation, health, and wellness – and, of course, the paper that facilitates communication and education.

Paper comes from trees, a renewable but endangered resource that must be managed with bright stewardship. International Paper leads its industry in responsible forest stewardship designed to make sure there are healthy, productive forests that last our lifetime and many beyond.

International Paper is also devoted to charity work and has donated more than $134 million to charitable organizations in the last decade. The company is also taking action to address hunger and security issues during the pandemic. They partnered with Feeding America food banks with a donation of more than 300,000 boxes, as well as with school districts to ensure that the 22 million children who rely on school meals have access to food while learning from home. Children, in particular literacy at a very young age, have long been a focus for the company, which believes the future of our communities depends on the children’s vitality.

The company additionally places high importance on its community involvement, with a legacy of responsible investment in their own backyard. Some examples include working to improve the medical, social, and cultural infrastructure in the city of Svetogorsk, Russia, fitness events in Kwidzyn, Poland, and a partnership with the United Fund for Belgium.

International Paper leaves no stone unturned in their quest to be a paradigm of sustainability and community involvement. Their Vision 2030 plan is the latest step in the IP Way Forward, moving the company confidently ahead as a responsible, renewable, and giving organization dedicated to healthy forests and healthy people for years to come.

About Elizabeth Elkins

Elizabeth Elkins is a writer/songwriter based in Nashville. She is the author of The Hidden History of Music Row and the forthcoming Your Cheatin’ Heart: Timothy Demonbreun and the Politics of Love and Power in Nascent Nashville. She has also co-written several Billboard chart songs and is part of the acclaimed duo Granville Automatic.


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