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Commentary & Analysis

FREE: Mohawk Paper Earns Energy Credit "Windfall" and Shares the Wealth

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,

By Jmhershey
Published: September 30, 2005

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the benefits of environmentally sustainable practices and the consequences of a failure to implement them are abundantly and urgently clear. From the death, destruction and displacement wrought by the storms to rising prices at the gas pump, the need to support the environmentally responsible manufacture of paper has become an economic imperative for corporate entities that buy paper in large volumes. While Mohawk Fine Papers (formerly Mohawk Paper Mills) has been consistently prescient about the need to engage in environmentally responsible manufacturing, it was unlikely that the company could have anticipated the fallout from recent catastrophic events when it assembled a press kit and reserved booth space at Print 05.

“Management and investors are on board with sustainability for reasons that have a lot to do with recent headlines and the price of energy.”

Top-Down Buy-in

Now, more than ever, Mohawk Fine Papers’ well-known, longstanding commitment to sustainability defines an opportunity for corporations to demonstrate their understanding of the value of producing their annual reports, corporate identity and marketing pieces, brochures, packaging and communications materials on environmentally friendly papers. “Management and investors are on board with sustainability for reasons that have a lot to do with recent headlines and the price of energy,” said Chris Harrold, Mohawk’s Director of Business Development, Digital Papers.

According to Harrold, Mohawk’s sustainability message is catching on. Realizing that the benefits include improved relationships with customers, investors, regulators, neighbors and suppliers, “The management of large corporate enterprises now is interested in getting that message out deeper and wider into their organizations – their letterheads, their in-plants, their color copy paper.” As a result, he said, “The men and women directing the business day in and day out are being told to execute sustainable buying practices. Their motivation to buy Mohawk is tied to our environmental story.” In effect, adds Laura Shore, Vice President, Marketing Communications, “The market is coming to Mohawk and finding Mohawk well-positioned to meet their demands. We already had an interest in environmental and sustainable energy. These new initiatives are shining a spotlight on it.”

Mohawk already had an interest in environmental and sustainable energy. These new initiatives are shining a spotlight on it.”

Encouraging print buyers to specify recycled papers used to be an uphill battle. What’s so encouraging now, Harrold said, is that corporate communications departments are beginning to show a great deal of interest in using paper effectively and well and that corporate buyers now perceive the benefit in complying with management and investor interests.

 Tilting with Windmills

The Mohawk brand has been synonymous with environmental stewardship for years. Indeed, both Harrold and Shore term sustainability “a corporate value.” The company offers many sustainable paper choices certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Green Seal, and in 2004 its Cohoes, N.Y. plant became the first large-scale production facility in the U.S. to use nonpolluting, renewable wind energy. Following its acquisition of International Paper (IP)’s Fine Papers business earlier this year, Mohawk negotiated a contract to purchase an additional 35 million kilowatt hours of windpower energy for its newly acquired Beckett Mill in Hamilton, Ohio, where IP’s Strathmore, Beckett and Via papers were produced. The commitment to windpower earned Mohawk a ranking among the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s List of Top 25 U.S. Green Power Purchasers – the only paper mill to be so recognized. At Print 05, the company announced that its entire Mohawk Color Copy line would join Strathmore Writing, Beckett Expression and Via lines in Mohawk’s growing Windpower Portfolio.

“While it’s true the logo and seal help corporations promote their environmental initiatives, it’s well known that the benefits of sustainability are desirable in themselves.”

To date, Mohawk has bought a total of 45 million kilowatt hours of windpower to help run its New York and Ohio mills, Shore explained. “That’s huge. We’re now the second largest industrial consumer of windpower in the United States after Johnson & Johnson. We could buy that and go home. But we know how much energy it takes to produce a pound of paper, so we’re able to allocate those credits, that energy, to certain product lines. This is what allows us to put the windpower logo on certain grades of paper.“

Mohawk first purchased a turbine’s worth of windpower in 2004 for its Cohoes plant, increasing that amount to the output of 2.5 turbines in 2005, prior to its acquisition of IP’s Fine Papers business. “When we first started, we had a much smaller amount of windpower to play with, so we were very careful,” Shore said. “Now, because we’re such a huge consumer, we’re able to apply some of these windpower credits to the entire Color Copy line and the entire Strathmore Writing line. We now have an entire portfolio of price points to meet different needs. We can speak to whole segments of paper consumption that affect corporate customers who are responding to our sustainability message.”

What’s My Motivation?

From the printer’s perspective, however, is there a conflict between sustainability and runnability? There used to be, said Harrold. More recently, in the place of conflict has arisen a new market opportunity for printers, who also must earn the right to affix the FSC logo by achieving FSC certification and thereby attracting the business of like-minded corporate buyers. Could Mohawk “sell” sustainability to the print buyer if there were no seal or logo to affix? “While it’s true the logo and seal help corporations promote their environmental initiatives to their customers,” said Shore, “it’s well known that the benefits of sustainability are desirable in themselves.”

“We know how much energy it takes to produce a pound of paper.”

More from Mohawk at Print 05

Mohawk made several announcements at Print 05. Highlights included:

  • Implementation of a comprehensive operational plan to meet the needs of Mohawk customers during the 90-day transition period following acquisition of International Papers’ Fine Papers business. Now in its final phase, the program provides sales, distribution and promotional support.
  • Successful application of the proprietary I-Tone process to its Mohawk 50/10 coated product line. Earlier this year, the company applied the I-Tone process to its flagship uncoated sheet, Superfine. I-Tone is the product of a joint project of Mohawk with Illinois-based NALCO to develop a solution for HP Indigo presses.
  • Availability of Sense and Sustainability, a practical guide to printing on recycled papers. The guide was developed expressly for print buyers and is the first in the new “Ask Mohawk” series.
  • New promotion for Mohawk Superfine. Beauty and Nuance is designed by Michael Vanderbyl.
  • Winners of sixth annual Mohawk show. Printers of “Best of Show” pieces include Dr. Graphx/Martin Stuart Decal, Chicago; The Hennegan Co., Florence, KY; Warren’s Imaging and Dryography, Inc., Toronto; and Penfold Buscombe, East Botany, NSW. Winning entries are featured on Mohawk’s website (www.mohawkpaper.com).

The Tip of the Iceberg 

Mohawk’s windpower initiative is but one aspect of its comprehensive approach to environmental stewardship. A visit to the company’s well-organized Website at www.mohawkpaper.com reveals that over the past two decades Mohawk has voluntarily committed significant resources to minimize harmful emissions, including (but not limited to) the removal of underground storage tanks and installation of low-emission steam plants. It has also upgraded its wastewater treatment system and eliminated its use of market pulps bleached with elemental chlorine. In addition to Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody Program Certification, Mohawk is also a signatory to the American Forest & Paper Association’s Sustainable Forest and Environmental Reduction and waste recycling initiatives. In the past decade Mohawk claims to have seen its waste load decline, even as paper production has increased. Mohawk makes a wide range of recycled papers and sources its virgin fiber from sustainably managed forests. Among other functions, the company’s Environmental Affairs Department works closely with purchasing to reduce or eliminate waste and to screen chemicals prior to purchase, with the goal of reducing or eliminating the use of toxic substances.



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