EPCI 2019: “Status quo” on sustainability shows it's time for pulp and paper to deliver

Posted on 25 November 2019

WWF today published its 6th Environmental Paper Company Index (EPCI 2019), a voluntary tool to increase transparency and awareness on how the pulp, paper and packaging sectors can reduce their footprint.
WWF today published its 6th Environmental Paper Company Index (EPCI 2019), a voluntary tool to increase transparency and awareness on how the pulp, paper and packaging sectors can reduce their footprint. The EPCI tracks companies performance on responsible sourcing, clean production, Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and reporting. This assessment comes ahead of the significant 2020 milestone by which many global companies pledged to have fully eliminated deforestation from their supply chains. The pulp and paper sector plays a crucial role in achieving these commitments as growing demand for paper, particularly virgin fiber, is adding pressure on our remaining natural forests, aquatic ecosystems, biodiversity, wildlife and climate change. The Index spurs companies to become more transparent in disclosing sustainability data, and in that way, helps companies report progress on their commitments to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Bonn Challenge and New York Declaration on Forests, among others.
EPCI 2019 covers a significant percentage of total global production in the following categories: newsprint (13%), graphic paper (16%), tissue (15%), packaging (9%) and pulp (10%). The Index brings together almost 300 mills of which 48% are located in Europe, 22% in North America, 22% in South and Central America, 7% in Asia and 1% in Africa.
Overall, the assessment shows that participating companies are obtaining 76% of the maximum points for responsible fiber sourcing, 70% for clean manufacturing, and 63% for  Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and transparency in reporting. The average score of 70% is slightly less compared to the overall performance in the EPCI 2017 (73%). An important trend to note is the overall reduction of FSC certified sourced fiber and the use of recycled materials for all product categories except packaging. More transparency is also needed indicates the lowest score (63%) on environmental reporting. 
Given the fast-growing importance of the pulp and paper sector in Asia, WWF carried out an additional special assessment based on public information of two large Chinese companies (Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing and Nine Dragons Paper Holding), and one Japanese company (Daio Paper Corporation). These companies were invited but chose not to voluntarily disclose information on their performance and transparency. Together, they represent nearly 5% of global total pulp and paper production while Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing and Nine Dragons Paper Holding alone represent around 8% of total global packaging production.
“Asia is the most dynamic region with paper and paperboard representing almost half of the world’s production, says Mauro Ciriminna, Senior Advisor Sustainable Pulp, Paper, and Packaging, WWF Forest Sector Transformation. “In the past, it has been challenging to get Asian based companies on board. Therefore the inclusion of 7 Asian companies in this year’s EPCI is an important development. Asian based companies can and should play a crucial role in improving their practices in deforestation fronts, increasing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and promoting responsible paper production and consumption.”
This year, 30 out of 84 invited companies took part in the Index (including the 3 companies from the special assessment) with 4 new companies voluntarily joining also: Ence and Lecta (Spain) JK Paper (India), and Nippon Paper (Japan). Together, these companies represent 18% of total production of pulp and paper manufacturers worldwide.
Through the Index, WWF wants to spur the pulp and paper industry to take a leading role in reducing the sector’s footprint by increasing recycling practices and sourcing more responsibly certified fiber from timber producers and pulp and paper suppliers.
“Recycled material plays a central role in achieving a circular economy and should become the industry´s first choice to reduce pressure on virgin fiber and worldwide forests. Globally, if companies used more post-consumer recycled and FSC-certified fiber, they would score much better,”says Ciriminna.
Recycled material is particularly important for tissue, mainly used in end-of-use products. FSC certification is a key strategy for companies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains because it reduces environmental impacts and protects High Conservation Value forests among other requirements. According to the WWF Certification Assessment Tool , FSC is the most credible forest certification scheme.
Efforts in clean manufacturing greatly vary: several companies have strategies and targets on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But whilst no waste should end up in landfills, only few participating companies scored well on this point. Mills can find many ways to reuse the waste from production like recycling paper which saves water and energy in the production process, as well as reducing air, water, and land pollution.
By 2050, the consumption of paper will double and maybe even further increase with the pressure to substitute plastic for paper. WWF estimates that over 250 million hectares of plantation will be needed to meet our future global demand, even with higher levels of recycled material. WWF calls on the sector to change the status quo and deliver now by improving the sustainability of its supply chain and offering consumers a responsible choice.
More information about EPCI and the detailed company results are available on epci.panda.org.
Inspection of the grade of wood chips at pulp and paper manufacturing site, China
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