Old Industry, New Tech: Domtar’s Focus on Sustainability

Montréal-based Domtar Corporation brands itself “The Sustainable Paper Company” and is fast becoming a wood fiber innovation engine using sustainability as the foundation of its business transformation. David Struhs, the company’s vice president of sustainability, explains how co-generation, new manufacturing and attention to market niches are some of the ways that vision plays out.

“If you view what sustainability means in an ecosystem, it is ultimately being as efficient as possible with resources and being able to adapt,” says David Struhs, vice president, sustainability for Domtar Corporation, a Montréal-based pulp, paper and absorbent hygiene products manufacturer. “Our idea is that innovation has to occur within the different, unique ecosystems and economies in which our facilities operate.”

The idea of adapting sustainability goals at each company factory — that is, having ideas adapted to rather than adopted by — is just one part of Domtar’s journey toward broader sustainability practices.

The company is the largest integrated marketer and manufacturer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America. In 2012, it had revenues of $5.5 billion in 2012, and a workforce of 9,500 in North America, Northern Europe and China. Domtar produces 4.3 million metric tons of hardwood, softwood and fluff pulp, the majority of which is consumed internally to manufacture paper and consumer products such as store-brand infant diapers and a full line of branded adult incontinence products.

Struhs helps oversee Domtar’s sustainability efforts, which include setting targets for reductions in greenhouse gas, water and waste. Domtar has also been working to increase its supply of certified fiber through a chain-of-custody certification to recognized third-party standards, including the Forest Stewardship CouncilTM and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

Struhs has been at Domtar for about a year and a half. He has had a variety of previous lives, mostly within government: He was an environmental regulator working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; of the Chief of Staff to the Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of the President of the United States; and the environmental commissioner for the state of Massachusetts and then the environmental secretary for the state of Florida. He then moved to International Paper, the Memphis, Tennessee, company “which is, to this day, the largest forest products company in the world,” he says. “During the course of my career in global manufacturing,” Struhs says, “I became convinced that, as important as government is in driving change, ultimately, the most effective solutions are invented and executed in the private sector.

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