Collaborating for Sustainability and Circularity

jamie tiralla
Jamie Tiralla, AF&PA: “The forest products industry has a large economic impact in the US.”

In 2011—more than a decade ago—the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) was one of the first manufacturing industry organizations to set quantifiable sustainability goals. Today, AF&PA members meet or exceed many of those goals. Still, the industry continues to work to improve its “sustainability story.”

Jamie Tiralla, AF&PA director of strategic communications, recently delivered the keynote speech at TAPPI’s 2023 Pulping, Engineering, Environmental, Recycling, and Sustainability (PEERS) Conference in Atlanta, GA. Her message was a positive one for attendees and the industry.

Her presentation, “Advancing Sustainability Achievements through Collaboration and Partnerships,” stressed the importance of AF&PA’s Better Practices, Better Planet 2030 sustainability initiative. She highlighted the organization’s efforts to support sustainable practices throughout the US pulp and paper industry, including innovating across the industry’s circular value chain.

“The forest products industry has a large economic impact in the US,” she said. “We are in the top 10 of manufacturing employers in 43 states, employ about 925,000 people, support more than 2 million jobs across the supply chain, and produce nearly US$350 billion in product annually.” Tiralla noted that the industry is investing nearly US$7 billion in manufacturing infrastructure to support the best use of recycled fiber in product development from 2019 to 2025.

The Better Practices, Better Planet 2030 initiative is a set of goals derived from AF&PA’s mission to “advance a sustainable pulp, paper, packaging, and wood products industry.” The initiative comprises five goals:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Advancing a circular value chain
  • Striving for zero workplace injuries
  • Advancing sustainable water management
  • Promoting the development of more resilient forests in the US

“Industry association goals can help individual companies benchmark and track progress,” noted Tiralla. In addition to these sustainability goals, AF&PA has also released a set of board-approved principles on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). This commitment advances DE&I in the paper and wood products industry—which Tiralla said is critical to success on key initiatives like sustainability.

She also highlighted the importance of data and communication in enhancing sustainability messaging. AF&PA connects empirical data to qualitative evidence to support and strengthen advocacy messages with policy influencers.

AF&PA first launched Better Practices, Better Planet in 2011 with six quantifiable sustainability goals to achieve by 2020. AF&PA members met or achieved most of the goals in that initiative. Tiralla said the process to shape goals for 2030 was very similar to the process AF&PA went through for the 2020 goals. That included extensive stakeholder engagement including conversations with members, value chain partners, environmental organizations, and academics.

One highlight of AF&PA’s sustainability program, Tiralla noted, is the industry-wide awards program, which recognizes exceptional efforts in leadership, sustainability, innovation, and DEI. She explained how the awards program reflects real-world examples of goals in action.

In closing, Tiralla discussed AF&PA’s global collaboration with other associations, including TAPPI. She spotlighted the “Decade-long valued relationship between TAPPI and AF&PA, which included partnering on the Blue Sky Awards, serving on committees, making conference presentations, and collaborating on shared issues like technology.”

To learn more about the Better Planet, Better Practices 2030 initiative, visit the AF&PA website.