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, the vice president of sustainability for Domtar Corporation, a Montréal-based paper manufacturer. “Our idea is that innovation has to occur within the different, unique ecosystems and economies of where our different 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 of the pieces of Domtar’s journey toward broader sustainability practices.
The company, which says it’s the largest integrated marketer and manufacturer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America, had revenues of $5.5 billion in 2012. It produces 4.2 million metric tons of hardwood, softwood and fluff pulp, which it manufactures into paper and consumer products such as store brand infant diapers.
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 Council 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. federal Environmental Protection Agency; a member of 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, Tenn., company “which is still to this day the largest forest products company in the world,” he says. It was at International Paper, Struhs says, “where I really became more and more convinced that, as important as government is in driving change, ultimately, the solutions are invented and executed in the private sector.”
In a conversation with David Kiron, MIT Sloan Management Review’s executive editor of the Big Ideas Initiative, and Nina Kruschwitz, MIT SMR’s managing editor and special projects manager, Struhs talks about the new manufacturing technologies that are changing the paper industry, the role that co-generation plays in the company’s operation and the market niches that are becoming bigger pieces of the North American paper manufacturing mix.