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Neenah, Inc. Is Changing How We Consume Paper

By Manna Zel

For over 30 years, Neenah, Inc. has met the paper industry’s need for sustainability by offering ENVIRONMENT® Papers—but even before that, their commitment to the environment began the day they opened their doors in 1873. Neenah’s FSC-certified Wisconsin-based paper mill is the first-ever mill to offer paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Neenah provides the FSC-certified Kraft paper that makes up Youth To The People’s recyclable boxes.

We spoke with Chris Lambert, our account manager at Neenah, about the company’s efforts to create premium paper at the lowest possible risk to the environment.

How do you source the recycled materials that make up your products?

Neenah is fully committed to leveraging our influence to conserve and protect our forests. We will only purchase fiber from sources that demonstrate sustainable practices and have third-party forest management certification programs, including Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC.) 

Neenah will never knowingly procure any pulp or forest products from illegally harvested wood, and we require all vendors and sub-vendors to demonstrate compliance with legal requirements. Similarly, we won’t knowingly procure any pulp or forest products from areas where traditional or civil rights are violated; or from uncertified forests having high conservation values threatened by forest management activities; or harvested from genetically modified trees. 

What are the ties between Neenah's heritage and sustainability?

31 years ago, the market demanded more environmentally friendly premium papers, and Neenah responded with the launch of beautifully colored and textured ENVIRONMENT® Papers. We've helped to reforest the Osa Peninsula and received recognition from the Natural Resources Foundation for our Wisconsin contributions to the State Natural Areas Program. Neenah has been honored by the EPA as a Green Power Leadership Club member and pursued and received Green-e Certification.

In 2003, Neenah committed to an ongoing partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to further our responsible fiber sourcing practices. As a result, Neenah became the first premium mill to offer FSC-certified papers and the first mill worldwide to watermark FSC trademarks in its papers. Last year we won the FSC Leadership Award for our efforts. 

Kristen Duncan recently took the reins on Neenah’s environmental marketing programs, citing sustainability and mitigating climate change as her missions. She brings with her a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communication from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, an MBA from Cal State Fullerton, and a passion for the environment. To transition toward global sustainability, Neenah feels that more companies need to share their eco-stories and resources. 

Education is the key to kickstarting environmental change. Everyone wants to do the right thing, but they don’t always know where to start. Through Duncan, we hope to create a wealth of environmental education resources to help facilitate change.  

Is it important to Neenah to work with brands with similar sustainability values?

Whether it be downloadable logos, information regarding environmental certifications, or environmental victories, we want our customers to be able to access it all. We believe education is the key to kickstarting ecological change.

Brands are quickly becoming environmentally savvy, and that’s an excellent thing. Neenah wants to educate them on how to own their material supply chain rather than relying on printers and converters to make responsible choices for them. The more intimately involved in the paper selection process they are, the better able they will be to stick to what they specify for their packaging needs and achieve their overall sustainability measures.

How can clients use the environmental calculator on your site to weigh their environmental savings from using paper with post-consumer fiber?

The Environmental Paper Network website says it best, "Saving paper has so many benefits: you save money, you feel good, and you tread more lightly on the earth. We encourage you to support the paper-saving campaigns.” 

Consumers can generate reports based on the usage of various papers. These reports show the resource savings, including, but not limited to, wood use, net energy, greenhouse gases, water usage, and solid waste. It’s a useful tool for calculating the specific impacts of paper you already use or wish to use. 

How has the Neenah team been impacted by the pandemic?

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire economy, it has also affected the paper industry with demand lessening as the economy slows. Neenah remains strong both through sound fiscal management and diversification positions. We continue to connect with customers and look for innovative ways to help them and our communities through these challenging times. Popular Neenah brands, including CLASSIC® Papers, The Design Collection, and ASTROBRIGHTS® Papers, are well-stocked and ready to ship as businesses open and economic activity picks up.