Because paper products can make such a big impact on the environment, it's important to keep tabs on the track records of the companies that produce them. When it comes to Swedish paper company SCA and sustainability, the list of environmentally responsible initiatives is long, and new efforts to cut the company's carbon footprint and improve its relationship with the world, both environmentally and socially, are rolled out on a near-constant basis.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, SCA (Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget, which translates to 'Swedish Cellulose Incorporated' in English) produces and markets personal care products, tissues, packaging, publication papers and solid wood products. The company has manufacturing facilities in dozens of countries around the world, and its products are sold in more than 100 nations.

Sustainability strategy

SCA has named sustainability targets in four major areas: carbon dioxide emissions, responsible use of raw wood material, improved water usage and what they refer to as 'code of conduct compliance,' which deals with social responsibility.

Of course, the responsible sourcing of its wood may just be the most important aspect of SCA's operations. The company is Europe's largest private owner of forest lands and all of these forests have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) since 1999. SCA has vowed not to use any wood fiber in any of its products that has been derived from controversial sources, which include illegally logged timber, timber from forests with high conservation value, and timber from areas where human rights are being violated. Learn more about how paper is certified by the FSC.

The paper company reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 4.2 percent between 2005 and 2010, and has set a new goal of 20 percent by the year 2020. SCA's 'ESAVE' energy-efficiency program has carried out over 1,300 projects, saving at least 700GWh of energy and 1,400GWh of heat on an annual basis. Some notable activities in this area include investments in wind power and a new co-generation plant in Germany.

By the end of 2010, SCA had hoped to decrease its overall water usage by 15 percent, but fell short at a reduction of 12 percent. It did, however, exceed its goal of decreasing wastewater by 30 percent, reaching 35.4 percent. The company has installed new biological water treatment plants in several European countries.

SCA's Code of Conduct aims to ensure human rights compliance, focusing on the health and safety of its employees as well as members of the communities in which SCA plants are located. This involves assessing its suppliers, recruiting responsible employees and preventing corruption. In compliance with the United Nations Global Compact, which promotes human rights and fundamental working conditions, SCA monitors and reports a series of performance indicators.

Awards and recognition

For all of SCA's sustainability efforts, it has received a number of accolades, not the least of which is being named one of the world's most ethical companies by the Ethisphere Institute for the fourth consecutive year. Ethisphere reviews thousands of companies to come up with this list of 110, which honors companies in 38 industries for using ethical leadership as a profit driver, demonstrating that social responsibility is good business.

The World Wide Fund for Nature has included SCA in its global benchmarking tool Check Your Paper, which helps consumers buy paper products with the lowest environmental impact. SCA products have consistently received high marks from the tool, with 100 paper products scored “good” or “excellent.”

Other SCA sustainability awards include recognition from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for responsible carbon dioxide reporting, and ranking among the top 100 most sustainable companies in the world by Corporate Knights 2010.

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Photo: Per-Anders Sjöquist/SCA