Canada-based papermaker Cascades finds that its customers are now leading the discussion on sustainability.
Dating back to 1964, Canada-based Cascades Inc. has been focused on collecting materials for recycling and consuming them in the production of finished products.
In the ensuing decades, members of the Quebec-based Lemaire family (founders of Cascades) have forged an alliance with the Ontario-based Metauro brothers, whose former Metro Waste Paper company is now a division of Cascades known as Cascades Recovery. The Cascades Recovery name is now carried across 23 recycling plants (most in Canada and a few in the United States).
Cascades Inc., meanwhile, manufactures containerboard and other packaging grades, tissue, fine papers and products made from recycled plastic at facilities and offices in North America and Europe.
Recently, Recycling Today Media Group Editorial Director Brian Taylor had the opportunity to interview Cascades Inc. Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Hubert Bolduc.
Among the topics addressed by Bolduc was the current operating environment for a company like Cascades—with its “Green by Nature” slogan and proud displays of the use of recycled content—in an era when sustainability has become an important way of doing business for major corporations.
Recycling Today (RT): How does Cascades communicate to its customers that it uses large volumes of recycled paper?
Hubert Bolduc (HB): About 10 years ago our salespeople would sometimes ask us to try not to mention that it was recycled material we are using. Today, it’s the contrary—they ask us to put more emphasis on it.
The easiest way we do so is on packaging, such as for tissue which is a consumer product. A lot of the plastics and foam we recycle is directed toward our Urban Design subsidiary, where we recycle plastics from the blue bins and we produce public park benches, picnic tables and Adirondack chairs. There is a lot of emphasis on recycling there, as those products are marketed.
As well, those who work with Cascades know. Within our marketing tools, such as the website, we try to put an emphasis on recycling.
In the first sentences of almost every press release we issue, we mention Cascades is a leader in manufacturing with recycled content. One of the certifications we use is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). We use the FSC logo, which sends the message.
With [corrugated] boxes, what people really care about is price. But even in that sector, there is some attention given to the fact that there is recycled-content and a logo indicating that it is on every box we produce.
RT: To what extent do customers provide feedback that they are happy to support a company that uses scrap paper in its products?
HB: The first sign we get is an increase in sales. We have been receiving very consistent increases in tissue sales as of two or three years ago. Before some customers may have been skeptical about the softness of the tissue with recycled fibres, but now they are not.
There is interest in our blogs and in the social media sphere, where we get a lot of feedback on Facebook, Twitter or our Green By Nature blog.
We’ve also had an opportunity to see the interest first-hand at trade shows in Toronto and Vancouver, such as the Epic expo in Vancouver. There was a lot of interest there. Two years ago I went to a Toronto trade show where people were impressed with the recycled-content plastic products. They see where the recycled plastics they put into [recycling] bins go, and that an Adirondack chair could come from those discarded materials.
RT: Do customers indicate this makes Cascades a preferred supplier?
HB: Yes. It is a trend that is rising in popularity. NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are asking organisations like us to have a sustainable procurement strategy. They ask us and our suppliers to be good citizens. Universities and big organisations that want to buy from us ask us about what sources we use, etc. More and more we see that. We have to pose [that question] to our suppliers as well. The wheel is turning now and increasing its speed.
In 2010, Canada-based papermaker Cascades Inc. reviewed its mission to “purposely and proactively make a greater social impact” by developing its Sustainable Development Plan. With help from volunteering nongovernmental organizations, the company set goals against 18 key performance indicators (KPIs) to guide its business practices during a two-year period and to offer an example of how to place sustainability at the heart of a business enterprise.
Having recently passed the halfway mark with its plan, Cascades issued an interim report of its progress to date. The above chart provides a snapshot of how the company is doing on some of the 18 KPIs, which collectively fall under three categories: performance, leadership and transparency.
Another aspect, the carbon footprint aspect, is becoming more important to buyers as they seek to reduce CO2 emissions. Using recycled fibres or recycled plastic results in decreasing your carbon footprint. Organisations that are trying to reduce their footprints see that. People are striving to use less paper and when they do have to use it they will try to use recycled fibre to print their annual reports or their business correspondence.
RT: How has Cascades incorporated renewable energy in its operations?
HB: Twenty years ago we bought into Boralex, which is the number one windmill energy producer in France. It has from 18% to 20% of the market share there. There is a big windmill farm being built in Quebec right now by Boralex, and Cascades now owns 35% of the company. Boralex also is in the solar segment and we’re starting to bring some of that technology to Canada. Quebec has long used hydro-electricity and natural gas, which has a favorable impact on our business from the renewability or carbon footprint aspect. The important thing is that customers know we can produce paper with renewable energy.
On the fine papers side, our mill outside Montreal is using 90% to 95% biogas made from the methane emanating from a landfill. I would say it’s definitely one of the most ecological paper manufacturing plant in North America. People come from all over to see the plant and to find out how it works.
RT: Within the Cascades sustainability performance indicators menu, what are some examples from the “Sustainable Innovations” category?
HB: The most interesting one in terms of impact for the environment is the Norshield coated box. In the agricultural sector, a lot of waxed boxes are used [to package produce and meats]. They help protect the carton. But that type of material is not re-pulpable. The Norshield box is water-resistant but also is re-pulpable. We have sold about $40 million of that product, replacing about 25% of our waxed box market. We feel it’s one of the nicest innovations in the past few years. Cascades also makes ThermaFresh picnic coolers out of container board with this same Norshield product.
It involves a business-to-business sales strategy. You have to go see the farmers and convince them, and talk to all the grocery stores. We let them know that we can save on their landfill costs and recycle this type of box and save them money. It’s a long process, but it’s working.
RT: In addition to using recovered fibre, what are some other Sustainable Procurement steps taken by Cascades?
HB: We ask our suppliers to answer a questionnaire with questions regarding their use of recycled fibre or renewable energy. And we select our suppliers based in part on that—definitely in terms of energy; that's an issue.
We also consider sustainability in areas such as the management of our car fleets. We have about 500 company cars, and we do not allow our drivers to buy high gas-consumption models, and hybrids are preferable. It’s a small thing but it has a positive impact. It shows that we’re really serious about reducing our carbon footprint.
The bleaching at our paper mills is done without chlorine. It is more complicated, but beneficial.
An interesting thing we’ve done on transport side is that under the vans there are skirts that have been placed that are wind deflectors. We’ve put those on our 500 vans and they help reduce our fuel consumption by 6 percent. I should note that while today this may be more common, we did this 10 years ago or more.
These are small examples but they make a difference. We are green not by opportunism, but by philosophy. Recycling and sustainability yields common benefits, we believe.
Green By Design, our slogan, is a frame of mind still very much in progress. For people who may tend to forget that we’re the No. 1 recycler in Canada, we place that slogan on our cars, trucks and vans so they are reminded.
Hubert Bolduc is vice president of communications and public affairs at Cascades Inc., Quebec, Canada. More information on the company is available at www.cascades.com. This feature first ran in the Sept./Oct. issue of Recycling Today Global Edition.