MARK RUSHTON & GRAEME RODDEN
Call it influence, leverage, talent, sway—when you’ve got power, you make things happen. It’s a privilege and a responsibility, especially in an industry with genuine impact on health, hygiene, education, and quality of life for people around the world.
ANNICA BRESKY, STORA ENSO
The Stora Enso CEO has made a huge impact since taking the reins at the company in 2019. Recently awarded the prestigious TAPPI PIMA Executive of the Year Award, Bresky has led the company from the front as it exits the paper business and further expands into packaging and bioproducts. Innovation and R&D in packaging solutions are rampant at the company as it seeks to provide renewable packaging that is easy to recycle. Upon presenting the award, TAPPI CEO Larry Montague said, “Annica is an extraordinary leader … (who) fosters a culture of empowerment and positive energy.”
CRISTIANO TEIXEIRA, KLABIN
Named Fastmarkets’ International CEO of the Year for 2022 for the second time, he is leading Klabin through a period of unprecedented growth. The second phase of the Puma II project will kick off later this year with the start-up of a 460,000 metric tpy boxboard machine. Klabin is the leading producer of packaging paper in Brazil. Teixeira is leading his company through its digital transformation, for which it also won the Fastmarkets award in the Digital Innovation category.
JULIE SCHERTELL, MATIV
As CEO of Neenah, Schertell led the company through a merger with SWM and was named CEO of the newly-named Mativ, a marriage of two specialty papermakers. She now is responsible for about 7,500 employees across four continents with sales of US$3 billion. She is a lifer in the industry, having started with Georgia-Pacific more than 30 years ago. In an interview with Industry Week, Schertell says she sees growth in a couple of areas: filtration (air and water) as well as “protected solutions,” i.e., coating alternatives.
WALTER SCHALKA, SUZANO
Suzano’s CEO reclaimed his usual honor as Fastmarkets’ CEO of the Year for 2022, an award he had won six straight times prior to 2021.As leader of the world’s largest pulp producer, he says he still sees continued growth in the paper pulp sector. Schalka has also helped Suzano diversify into various cellulosic-related ventures. The latest is a US$6.7-million investment in Allotrope Energy and its process to derive carbon for batteries from biomaterials.
TONY SMURFIT, SMURFIT KAPPA
Often seen commenting on the industry on TV screens in both Europe and the US, Smurfit appears to be doing a sterling job. He has led SKG through tough times as it went through COVID and then the war in Ukraine, including the repercussions of energy prices and the sale of its operations in Russia. The group’s 2022 results saw excellent revenue growth of 27 percent and EBITA growth of a huge 38 percent. The group is now reaping the rewards of years of acquisitions and investment, as well as a focus on innovation in packaging. SKG is also doing well on the sustainability front; it recently reported that it is on track to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2050.
STEWART GIBSON, PAPER EXCELLENCE
Appointed COO In 2022, Gibson heads a rapidly expanding entity that now has operations in four countries with 12.4 million tpy of pulp and paper production capacity. It is in North America, particularly Canada, that Paper Excellence has really made its mark: in 2021 it completed the purchase of Domtar, while earlier this year the takeover of Resolute Forest Products (through its Domtar subsidiary) was made final.
JUSSI PESONEN, UPM
The resilient, long-lasting CEO at UPM has been on our list since its inception in 2007, an incredible 16 years. Pesonen has been at UPM’s helm since 2004, yet nothing gets in the way of time: UPM will be looking for a new CEO over the next months as he recently announced his 2024 retirement. His shoes will be hard to fill; he has steered the company successfully through all sorts of choppy waters and has transformed UPM into a producer of much more than paper. The company is now also heavily involved in green energy production, biochemicals, and biofuels, as well as production of many other bioproducts.
TEGUH WIJAYA, APP
Another personality on our list since its inception 16 years ago is chairman of APP, Wijaya. With huge expansion over the decades, the group of companies under the APP umbrella continue in their ambition to be the biggest and the best across the globe. But how things have changed on the environmental front over the years: from being constantly in the news for environmental concerns, APP is now, it appears, going greener. Earlier this year the company re-engaged with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which disassociated itself from APP in 2007 to work together on setting up an FSC Remedy Framework.
JOSEPH KRUGER, KRUGER
As leader of the privately-owned, Montreal-based company, Kruger has led the company into the green energy field in a large way. Kruger now owns and operates 42 green energy power plants across North America and is Canada’s leading tissue products producer. It recently put two all-electric transport trucks on the road carrying material and tissue products between two of its Quebec facilities, with another 50 such trucks on order. In 2022, Kruger acquired Domtar’s Kamloops, BC, mill; and has invested almost US$1 billion in its Sherbrooke, QC, tissue mills.
ANTHONY PRATT, PRATT INDUSTRIES
As the world’s largest privately-held packaging and paper company, which has already invested billions in the US, Pratt recently committed to investing US$5 billion in US recycling and clean energy infrastructure in the next 10 years. The company’s newest investment, a $500-million recycled packaging mill and adjacent corrugator, should be ready later this year.
MARK SUTTON, INTERNATIONAL PAPER
IP is still a giant in the industry, with US$21 billion in sales in 2022. As the company celebrates its 125th anniversary, Sutton is leading the company’s rebranding effort aligned with the strategic vision to “Build a Better IP.” He comments, “IP is meeting today’s needs for renewable, fiber-based packaging and pulp while sharpening our focus on the future.” After much deliberation, IP sold its Ilim Group assets in Russia for US$484 million in early 2023.
LUIGI LAZZARESCHI, SOFIDEL
The European and US tissue giant led by Lazzareschi is a pioneer when to comes to the tissue business, environmental issues, and innovative energy sources. Sofidel is at #39 on Paper360°’s Top 75 global paper manufactures and its operations in the US continue to develop and grow. Sofidel recently teamed up with Brazilian pulp giant Suzano for an initiative in the Amazon rainforest named “Together we plant the future,” which advances ecological conservation and restoration alongside supporting socio-economic development in the region.
MARK KOWLZAN, PACKAGING CORP.
Kowlzan was named Fastmarkets’ Noth American CEO of the year in 2022 for the second time. Over five years, PCA’s rate of corrugated products growth has been more than twice that of the rest of the industry. Although facing some headwinds—inflation, lower prices, global and domestic conditions—effective cost management and smart investing has kept PCA in a good position.
CHEUNG YAN, NINE DRAGONS
China’s packaging giant led by chairlady Yan has not been immune to suffering: the pandemic, high cost of fuel due to geopolitical war, high interest rates, and a weak Renminbi have all taken their toll. For the first half of 2023, the company recorded a loss for the first time since its listing in 2006. However, optimism remains as the group adds 6.25 million metric tpy to its total production capacity of 18.7 million metric tpy of packaging paper to prepare for what it calls “the next level of profitability.”
LARRY MONTAGUE, TAPPI
Montague continues to guide TAPPI’s efforts to connect the industry not just in the US, but globally. A new focus on corrugating in Paper360° has been a hit, as has the return of in-person conferences. In late 2022, TAPPI launched its first TAPPI DEI Scholarship “to reach underrepresented students who may not know there are opportunities in our industry and assure them that the TAPPI community welcomes and values their contributions.” Montague’s leadership keeps TAPPI relevant and dynamic.
STEVE HENRY, DOMTAR
A newcomer to this list, Henry took the reins of Domtar from longtime CEO John Williams in mid-2023. He comes in a time of transition: recently-acquired Resolute Forest Products is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Domtar under the auspices of parent company Paper Excellence Group. Henry led the company’s entry into the packaging sector, as the Kingsport, TN, mill recently became the first Domtar facility converted to packaging grades when its UFS machine changed over.
ULF LARSSON, SCA
Larsson, president and CEO of SCA, enters the Power List for the first time this year. The company recently started up its new project in Ortviken, Sweden, that will see an increase in CTMP from around 90,000 to 300,000 tpy. The company also launched its new 725,000 metric tpy brown kraftliner machine at its Obbola mill ahead of schedule in October last year. Earlier this year, Larsson received the prestigious European CEO of the Year award from Fastmarkets Forest Products (formerly RISI). Nominators praised Larsson’s successful delivery of strategy and strong financial performance since 2018.
MAXIMILLIAN HEINDL, PROGROUP
Heindl could easily be in our YP section on the Power List, as he is young and dynamic, and now holds the major position as CEO of the German packaging giant Progroup. The group had seen huge growth over the last 30 years under his father, Jurgen Heindl, which it seems will continue into the future. In a recent interview in this magazine, Heindl said, “Taking the helm as CEO feels like a natural process. I grew up with the company and now it is my job to drive it further into the next generation.”
JORI RINGMAN, CEPI
There is always a lot going on at the Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi) based in Brussels, Belgium. Recent work by the confederation includes highlighting the major investments taking place in Europe’s pulp and paper industry to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. These investments have continued to take place despite skyrocketing costs for raw materials and energy and regulatory uncertainty. Ringman commented recently, “We have come a long way over recent years, but we (the pulp and paper industry) have more to offer.”
KURT MAIER, HEINZEL GROUP
New to our list is the leader of Austria’s Heinzel Group, Kurt Maier, who has successfully led the group since 2016. The group had a record-breaking year in 2022, achieving the highest turnover and best earnings in the company’s history, while reducing its CO2 emissions by 14 percent. The course for expansion continues with the acquisition of UPM’s Steyrermühl paper mill in Upper Austria. The company’s vision is to develop a European hub, along with its neighboring Laarkirchen mill, for sustainable packaging papers and renewable energy production.
MARTIN HUBBE, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY
Innovation = growth, so we must include the 2023 recipient of one of the industry’s highest awards for research achievement (TAPPI’s Gunnar Nicholson Gold Medal): Dr. Martin Hubbe. His research has involved the broad area of papermaking additives focusing on dry-strength, retention aids, and chemical dewatering. He has achieved international recognition as an innovative researcher and has published three books and more than 100 peer-reviewed papers.
BRIAN N. BROGDON, FUTURE BRIDGE CONSULTING
Ultimately “it’s the people” is what colleagues say when asked why they love the paper industry. In that spirit we include the winner of TAPPI’s 2023 Herman L. Joachim Distinguished Service Award. A TAPPI Fellow and member of the TAPPI Journal editorial board, Dr. Brogdon’s focus areas are chemical pulping, bleaching, and wood/lignin chemistry, and his many professional accolades reflect both his expertise and his leadership in knowledge-sharing.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
In virtually all sectors, the pulp and paper industry is in transition. The past couple of years have seen a boom in M&A activity. Industry veterans will recall the spate of mega-mergers that took place in the late 1980s and 1990s; let’s look at some of the bigger deals that have taken place in the past couple of years.
- Austrian-based MAYR MELNHOF purchased the KotkaMills’ assets in southeastern Finland. At the same time, it also bought International Paper’s Kwidzyn, Poland, mill. These mills produce board grades as well as saturating kraft paper.
- PAPER EXCELLENCE in Canada acquired some historic Canadian companies in the past two years when it bought Domtar and then Resolute Forest Products, spending more than US$5 billion. To get the deal approved by the regulators, Domtar was forced to sell its Kamloops, BC, pulp mill to Kruger, which will use the pulp to help supply its new tissue machines.
- BILLERUD entered the US market when it acquired Verso for a reported US$825 million. Following a popular industry trend, some of the latter’s paper machines may be converted to board grades.
- H.I.G. Capital acquired PIXELLE SPECIALTY SOLUTIONS in April 2022. Earlier, H.I.G. had bought recycled paper manufacturer Jackson Paper.
- SCHWEITZER-MAUDUIT acquired Neenah in July 2022. The merged company is known as Mativ.
- Aurelius purchased three of SAPPI’s European mills: Kirkniemi (Finland), Maastricht (Netherlands) and Stockstadt (Germany).
- STORA ENSO announced plans to divest four of its five graphic paper mills. The Schwarz group purchased the Maxau (Germany) supercalendered paper mill while Sylvamo (spun off from IP in 2021) acquired the Nymőlla (Sweden) uncoated woodfree mill. Concentrating on the packaging sector, Stora Enso bought the DeJong Packaging Group in the Netherlands.
As noted last year, the industry has a long history of producing innovative products. Recently, the focus seems to have been on clothing textiles other than rayon produced with pulp. While this development continues, there are others as well.
Re-appearing on our list, Spinnova and partner Suzano just opened the first commercial-scale facility producing Spinnova fiber. Operated by Woodspin, the first collection of clothing was introduced at the plant opening. Finnish designer Sofia Ilmonen presented the collection. All pieces, including the shoes, are made from 20 percent Spinnova and 80 percent cotton. “This collection demonstrates how a circular, wood-based fiber can be woven into something delicate and elegant,” Ilmonen said.
On the Cellulose Fiber Innovation list is this unique textile fabric fashioned from the pulp of citrus juice leftovers and wood pulp. Italian-based Orange Fiber developed a patented process to use the citrus juice leftovers. It partnered with Lenzing Group, a leading producer of wood-based specialty fibers, to make Tencel branded lyocell fiber. It features softness and high moisture absorbance.
Liquid biofuels are another innovative product that pulp producers are looking at closely, and the technology has advanced greatly. Arbios Biotech is a joint venture between Canfor and Licella Holdings. The companies plan to build a low carbon biofuel production facility at the site of Canfor’s Intercontinental (Prince George, BC) pulp mill. The plant will use sawmills residues, mostly bark, and convert them to renewable biocrude, which can be further processed in refineries to produce low-carbon transportation fuels. Initial plans call for one processing line that will convert 25,000 metric tpy to 50,000 barrels of sustainable bio-oil.
Synthetic resins from fossil fuel raw materials have traditionally been used as binders in the production of glass mineral wool. UPM Biochemicals and URSA have partnered to produce an eco-friendly building insulation to help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. The new binder implemented by URSA is based on BioPiva, a proprietary lignin-resin technology developed by UPM Biochemicals.
South American pulp and packaging giant Klabin may be big, but it is also smart when it comes to innovating new products. Award-winning Eukaliner 100 percent eucalyptus kraftliner was first developed in Klabin’s labs and finally released onto the market in 2021. Since then, the product has delighted customers with its performance, having an 80 percent higher Column Resistance Index (the measurement that calculates the integrity of boxes when stacked) compared to other papers on the market. Klabin says that Eukaliner enables the production of boxes that are more robust even though they are up to 20 percent lighter. Added to this, Eukaliner uses 40 percent less planted area of forest than products developed with other fibers.
The Swedish pulp producer has conducted extensive research into the use of agricultural residues to enhance the strength of pulp. Now, it has acquired the necessary expertise and technology to create an agro-enhanced softwood pulp that features improved tensile strength properties, particularly in the lower refining ranges. The use of these residues will not compete with their current use as animal feed.
One more from the Cellulose Fiber Innovation list: the German Institute of Textile and Fiber Research has developed HighPerCellCarbon technology, a sustainable and alternative process to produce carbon fibers from wood. The technology starts with the wet spinning of cellulosic fibers using ionic liquids as the direct solvent in a closed loop filament spinning process. The filaments are directly converted into carbon fibers by a low-pressure stabilization process. It is claimed the process allows for a complete recycling of solvent and precursor fibers.
CLEAR CELLULOSE, VTT
This innovation of thin, clear film made from cellulose has been a long time coming, and it represents a major shift in the packaging arena. Clear plastic for food packaging, although totally necessary so consumers can view the quality of the food contained inside the package, has always been a bugbear when it comes to recycling. VTT, the Finnish research center, has successfully developed a solution to the problem by using regenerated or recrystallised cellulose to replace fossil-based plastic film. VTT says that the transparent, flexible cellulose film will not only protect food in the way that thin plastic film does, it will also biodegrade as completely as a sheet of paper, a huge bonus for the environment.
RECYCLING EVALUATION PROTOCOL TOOL—4EVERGREEN ALLIANCE
The increasingly growing European 4evergreen alliance is an effective enabler of joint innovation as it seeks to perfect the circularity of fiber-based packaging for a greener world. Made up of more than 100 members from every step of the packaging value chain, from forests and recycled materials to design, production, brand use, and waste management, the alliance pushes for innovation in the industry as crucial to reach ambitious recycling targets. It’s doing a lot more than just enabling collaboration; it is working on its Recycling Evaluation Protocol, a landmark industry tool that enables a harmonized, objective assessment of different fiber-based packaging solutions and their suitability for efficient recycling and circularity.
As part of its CircleToZero initiative, industry supplier Andritz has been working on all sorts of ways to reduce, reuse, or refine all waste streams (or side streams as they are now being named) at pulp mills. One of the firm’s latest innovations is the SulfoLoop concentrated sulfuric acid plant, which takes concentrated odorous gases and elemental sulfur from the mill processes and recycles and refines it into 97 percent commercial grade sulfuric acid. Ultimately, this makes the mill completely self-sufficient in sulfuric acid, reducing the carbon footprint, saving on multiple truck movements, and saving a lot in chemical costs.
SAGE DUGUAY, FISHER INTERNATIONAL
One of TAPPI’s five outstanding 2023 Young Professionals of the Year, Duguay is a business intelligence consultant who has worked in several industry sectors since graduating UMaine. She’s led mill-wide teams in fiber optimization efforts and, as a regional technical resource for corrugated box plants, Duguay improved the design and safety of wastewater treatment systems. She now manages a portfolio of more than 25 pulp and paper industry clients using business intelligence and industry insight to make strategic business decisions. She also remains active in TAPPI’s YP and Women in Industry divisions, providing a leadership model for young women in our industries.
Three other up-and-coming young professionals (under the age of 30) were recently recognized for their work in driving innovation by the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) as part of its Blue Sky Young Researchers Innovation Awards program:
- IVANA AMORIM DIAS, BRAZIL: Nominated by the Brazilian Tree Industry (Ibá), Dias has been recognized for research into the purification of high value-added compounds from the soluble phase of bio-oil. This project transforms wood waste into high value-added products through thermal decomposition of biomass (rapid pyrolysis). The resulting bio-oil holds potential applications, as well as high reactivity from its components. This project will increase efficiency for the forestry sector and allow for greater use of wood biomass.
- IlONA LEPPÄNEN, FINLAND: Nominated by Cepi, Leppänen was recognized for her work in capturing nano- and micro-plastics with nanocellulose networks. According to the IUCN, at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and plastic comprises 80 percent of all marine debris. Leppänen, together with a research group at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, developed a method in which a nanocellulose film can be used to detect and capture microplastics from water. The biobased film works as a selectively permeable membrane to filter nanoplastics from flowing water.
- LEANE NAUDE, SOUTH AFRICA: Nominated by the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA), Naude developed a more cost-effective purification method of lignosulphonate, an abundant and versatile alternative to fossil-based fuels. This research presents an opportunity to purify a low value pulp and paper by-product into a high value-product. Naude’s research improves the lignin extraction process and enables the industry to explore more ways to put by-products such as lignin to better (and greener) use.
During the pandemic, it appeared that for once we were all united against one enemy—COVID-19. The world seems a different place today, as nations fall out and take differing sides in the Ukraine/Russian war, creating instability across the globe. As we put our list together this year, there were numerous references to the effects of the war on the pulp, paper, tissue, and corrugated industry, including volatility in energy supplies and pricing. Fortunately, this industry has been way ahead of others; in many cases, our mills produce and even export a lot of their own energy. However, the effect of the Ukrainian war has only pushed our industry further forward to make sure mills generate their own energy through biomass, hydrogen, solar power, or any other kind of renewable resources. There are already numerous examples of such projects being put into place across the industry in Europe.
THE ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change is now recognized as a serious problem facing modern mankind. However, we are working in an industry that has a lot of solutions to protect the environment and even help mitigate climate change. Our industry as a whole should be proud of the endless work that has been carried out making showcase examples of pulp and paper mills around the world as they head toward much lower carbon footprints and find innovative ways to protect the environment. It wasn’t always this way; many industry professionals will remember when the pulp and paper industry was seen as a poisoner of rivers and air and a decimator of the environment. Kudos to the scientists, design engineers, technicians, suppliers, and producers who have done such a great job of turning this industry from a dark place into a beacon of light.
We are further entering into unknown territory when it comes to digitization with all the IIoT, AI, and AR products and solutions that are now available to paper makers. So far, the industry has embraced the new technology with the enthusiasm of kids in a candy shop. However, cyber-attacks pose serious risks. Manufacturers worldwide have been hit by such attacks that have halted operations and led to financial demands. Our industry is not immune; at least three paper and packaging companies have been victims in North America and Europe. Fortunately, most suppliers of equipment and digital technology have been ahead of the game on this and can supply cybersecurity systems with their products and processes that ensure cyber safety. It remains imperative that paper manufacturers have a solid strategy and plan to protect their internal critical assets.
US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Yes, we know it is more than a year away, but already it is dominating headlines. Can Joe Biden win a second term? Will Donald Trump take the Republican nomination? With the current deep polarization within American politics (and society as well, it seems) and the global geo-political stage being what it is, the ramifications of a new administration are enormous: from climate change to supply chains to military tensions to trade agreements and more.
With the COVID pandemic in the rearview mirror, the Away-from-Home (AfH) tissue market has rebounded, now worth a reported US$25 billion. The recovery should continue as more people leave their homes to travel, eat out, and work. The increased emphasis on hygiene (e.g., hand washing) will help the paper towel sector, especially as blown air hand dryers face more scrutiny. A mitigating factor may be the hybrid work model as people split their work week between home and office.
ATTRACTING NEW TALENT
Speak to any paper industry leader around the world and the hiring of new talent is at the top of their list of challenges. However, there are new initiatives in place to attract the bright stars of the future and support them in rewarding careers. TAPPI is doing a lot of work in this area and has a Young Professionals (YP) division dedicated to advancing the future of the next generation of papermaking stars. Cepi in Europe also has new initiatives underway. Anyway, what young person would not want a career in one of the most progressive industries when it comes to protecting the environment, along with working in a dynamic area when it comes to digitalization and IIoT?
Maybe this listing should be (or should have been) at the top of each of our categories. The question of work/life balance has been in the news for the last decade, at least. Many people no longer want to be identified by the job they do. Most employers have recognized this, albeit slowly. The pandemic raised these issues to new heights and brought a whole new perspective: remote work. As the pandemic eased, a number of workers did not want to return to their offices full-time. This has led to some heated negotiations. For many, the compromise was a split work week between home and office. The issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have also come to the forefront. Head offices have their work cut out for them as they decide how to make their workplaces the ones where people want to be.
This year as last, our intrepid editors have expanded our idea of “who” is powerful in the pulp, paper, tissue, and corrugating industries to include “what” is powerful—the outside forces buffeting these critical industries, pushing us toward a future we can only partially control.
Who (or what) did we miss? Check out this year’s exclusive list, then send us your own Power Players!