In 2010, Kruger Products embarked on a journey to become a more sustainable company. Through its ambitious Sustainability 2015 program, Canada’s leading tissue manufacturer is making clear progress in reducing its environmental footprint. Here, CEO Mario Gosselin and VP of Sustainability & Innovation, Steven Sage, talk about the company’s successes and challenges, and what comes next.
Can you tell us what Sustainability 2015 is and how it came about?
Mario Gosselin: Sustainability emerged as a key strategic pillar for us in our planning process in 2008, as consumers and retailers were becoming increasingly interested in products made more sustainably. As a tissue manufacturer, we are dependent on natural resources, so our ability to minimize our impact on the environment is critical to our ongoing operations. A bigger focus on this area just made sense for us. We formed an executive steering committee and hired a dedicated resource to ensure we would have the focus this initiative required.
Steven Sage: Our sustainable development program, Sustainability 2015, has specific targets we’re working to achieve by the end of 2015, based on a 2009 baseline. Targets include reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, energy, water consumption, waste and packaging as well as improvements in logistics efficiency, obtaining chain of custody certification, increasing the amount of certified fibre we use as well as increasing the number of third-party certified products we offer.
What have been some of the biggest achievements of the initiative, so far?
MG: We’ve made significant capital investments in our operations, which have helped us reduce our impact. By the end of this year, we expect to reduce our energy consumption by 10% versus our 2009 benchmark year, our greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10% and our water consumption by 18%.
SS: We’ve been able to make meaningful differences in a number of areas. We were the first Canadian tissue manufacturer to become Forest Stewardship Council® certified and today we offer one of the largest portfolios of third-party certified tissue products. We’ve also reduced our packaging by 7.5% and produced our first report to the Global Reporting Initiative standard.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges you've encountered in hitting the targets established for Sustainability 2015? What opportunities have you discovered along the way?
SS: In business, five years is a long timeframe and a sustainable development initiative requires commitment over many years. Monthly monitoring at the leadership level has helped us maintain focus and hold ourselves accountable. An early challenge was just trying to determine what to measure and how we could gather good data for metrics.
MG: Business is dynamic over time. After we’d established our five-year targets, we invested in new technology at one of our plants. The plant produces our highest quality products and uses less fibre and water but requires increased energy and produces higher greenhouse gas emissions. Balancing growth responsibly can be a challenge, but we’ve stepped up our efforts to offset these effects.
What has surprised you most during this process of making Kruger Products a more sustainable company?
MG: This initiative has helped us think differently about how we do things in our business. Increasingly, our employees are looking at how they can be more efficient, reduce operational costs and more effectively impact their local communities. There is a sense of pride associated with our endeavours.
How important is collaboration when it comes to efforts around sustainability?
SS: Engaging key stakeholders—including employees—is critical in addressing the complex issues sustainability often presents. And many of the issues are of concern to both retailers and manufacturers. Recognizing this, we worked with Canadian Grocer to launch the Leaders in Sustainable Thinking industry thought leadership roundtable in 2012. We’ve discussed topics such as the green consumer, responsible sourcing and logistics/transportation. We always identify collaboration as a critical element to make meaningful improvements.
Your latest sustainability report states: “sustainability is a continuous journey, rather than a destination.” What comes next in Kruger Products’ journey?
MG: We are committed to continuing on this sustainability journey. Not only does it make sense for us to ensure we remain a responsible, viable business, but we are also achieving financial benefits.
We also want to be an employer of choice and we’ve seen the impact our efforts are having when recruiting younger employees. We continue to learn each day, and we’re in the planning stages of developing our next program—Sustainability 2020—which we will launch next year.
Kruger Products’ environmental footprint has shrunk dramatically, as represented by five key areas of its Sustainability 2015 initiative. The figure shows where it began in 2009 (orange) where it was at the end of 2014 (gold) and its 2015 target (green). As the company launches Sustainability 2020 next year, it will continue on its journey to improve its environmental impact.