An inspired sustainability team in North America

Our goal is to be a great place to work where all people are inspired in their role and empowered to grow to their full potential.

We have a tremendous sustainability team in North America, enabling us to unlock the power of renewable resources to meet the needs of the planet and people in ways that seed prosperity for all.

Team leaders include Sandy Taft, Director of Sustainability, Rebecca Barnard, Manager of Forestry Certification, and Lynne Palmer, Manager of Packaging Product Stewardship. All three are fully engaged, working alongside Beth Cormier, Vice President of Research, Development and Sustainability, and the rest of the senior leadership team in North America. 

What sets this team apart is their shared commitment to a science-based approach to sustainability, a collaborative spirit and a real passion for getting things done.

Get to know the team

Sandy sees his role as Director of Sustainability as “the knitter, pulling in the threads of all the good work of others” to create a holistic approach to sustainability. “When I joined, I was immediately struck by the strong culture at Sappi, how so many people throughout the organization really ‘own’ their part in our sustainability journey. I’m working to build on this spirit.” 

This focus achieves far more than making Sappi more eco-effective. “Our sustainability strategy puts us in line with the needs of our customers”, explains Sandy. “And creates an edge for us in the market.”

Lynne, a chemical engineer by training and a long-term employee at our Technology Center, has broad experience in papermaking, product development and anticipating the needs of our customers. Today, she works both up and down the supply chain to ensure that Sappi North America’s food packaging products meet stringent governmental food safety regulations and customer expectations for product safety. What does that have to do with sustainability? Everything.

Lynne explains:

“Diversifying our product mix is key to sustaining business prosperity: the first ‘P’ in Sappi’s sustainability pillars. Developing renewable, paper-based packaging as an alternative to plastic honors our Planet pillar, and of course product safety is all about People, keeping our employees, consumers and the general public healthy and safe.”

Expertise in forest management

Rebecca brings a decade and a half of forest management and policy experience to Sappi in her current role as Forestry Certification Manager. Before joining Sappi, Rebecca served as the National Forestry Programs Manager at the National Wild Turkey Federation. Earlier, Rebecca was the Forest Certification Coordinator for the State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources where she was responsible for managing dual SFI and FSC certification on nearly 5 million acres of state-administered forestlands, one of the largest certified land bases in North America. 

At Sappi North America, Rebecca is responsible for material risk assessments for both wood and pulp suppliers, managing our FSC, SFI and PEFC Chain-of-Custody and fibre sourcing certificates, and providing training, support and strategic direction to Sappi staff on certification-related matters.

In Rebecca’s view, it is critical to promote an inclusive approach to the three certification systems, and to educate our customers and end-users on the value that certification brings:

“How else can we provide our customers with the security of knowing that our wood is sourced from well-managed sustainable forests, where proper forestry practices ensure that the interests of wildlife, biodiversity, water quality, soil conservation, forest health, and the needs of local communities are all met for current and future generations?” 

Rebecca advocates for a transparent, community-based approach to forest management. “Forestry is an art and a science that involves management of the forest and people to achieve balanced objectives.”

A collaborative approach

Sappi North America’s sustainability leaders stress their collaborative working relationship. “Rebecca’s wood fiber certification programmes ensure our forests for the future”, says Sandy Taft. He adds, “Our innovations in packaging offer a bright spot for the future of our business and gives our customers a choice in sustainable packaging materials with a lower carbon footprint.”

Sandy is also connected with the Sappi group’s broader sustainability efforts, working closely with his counterparts in Europe and South Africa. The tactical approaches in each region may be different, due to regulation, laws or unique markets, but the commitment is the same. “We take a One Sappi view on managing our sustainability performance”, he comments. “The same commitment to fact-based and transparent reporting, with a global focus on safety, employee engagement, and climate policy, mitigation and resilience.”

Sandy, who prior to coming to Sappi held a similar sustainability role with National Grid - a U.K. based energy company that also operates in the U.S. - believes that knowing our customers and understanding their sustainability interests is key to success. “It is always best as a collaborative effort”, he says.

Inclusive employee engagement

Sandy stresses that for sustainability efforts to be successful, there must be employee engagement. It is a priority for all three leaders. Rebecca wants every Sappi employee to understand the importance of - and Sappi’s role in supporting - vibrant, productive well-managed forests: “I was inspired that in our most recent certification audit, our organisation was commended for its strong culture, including mentorship of our newest foresters. This shows Sappi’s commitment and investment in the future of our forests and people!”

Recently Lynne has led a significant management of change initiative, training Somerset employees to fundamentally rethink how they work. She is impressed by how everyone in the mill has responded to new standards under a Food Safety Management System - from monitoring and managing process cleanliness, to employee hygiene, to management of their own meals which are a potential source of contamination. Lynne says, “We have a large operation at Somerset, and making these changes involves everyone. Employees are asking great questions that is building everyone’s understanding of food safety guidelines.”

Solving for tomorrow, not just today

“When you are in a room with Rebecca or Lynne, what strikes you is their optimism, energy and enthusiasm. I couldn’t be more confident in the team we have assembled to help set our course for 2020 and beyond”, Sandy comments. “Their passion, expertise, and willingness to tackle the detail to get to the right result is inspiring.” This sentiment from Sandy might just say it best. 

“Our entire team is making decisions and taking actions that don’t just solve challenges today but set the path for solving for tomorrow.”