FBA Blog

The Good List

Each April, we pause to celebrate Earth Day. More than 50 years old, Earth Day is an opportunity to think about our human impact on the planet. Today, issues like climate change, plastics polluting our oceans, and deforestation are not only top of mind, but they are driving forces behind companies environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) reporting.

What makes a company good or bad in the eyes of consumers is now being defined by these metrics. Consumers are increasingly choosing to make purchases based on a company’s environmental record, how they treat employees and the communities where they operate.

At last week’s Fibre Box Association (FBA) Annual Meeting, Suzanne Shelton, President and CEO of Shelton Group talked about Americans putting their wallets where their values are and what it means for the corrugated packaging industry.

Recent research done by the Shelton Group, asked consumers “What’s a good company?” without defining what “good” means. The research found that 23% of those surveyed (n = 1,683) chose ESG-related answers. Conversely, when asked “What’s a bad company?”, 31% of those surveyed chose ESG-related answers. What this tells us is that Americans are choosing to do business with companies and brands who share their values in protecting the Earth and taking care of their employees.

For the corrugated industry this translates into telling our story around the circular nature of our products – taking care of our renewable resource, trees, on the front-end and recycling on the back-end to bring the products we make including boxes, displays, and other corrugated products full circle.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), a circular economy is one that uses a systems-focused approach and involves industrial processes that are restorative or regenerative by design, enables resources and activities to maintain their highest value for as long as possible, and aims for waste elimination.

The corrugated packaging industry has maintained a completely circular economy in its own right, long before the term rose to prominence as the ultimate goal for environmental advocates and the EPA.

Most people don’t realize that despite a sea of bad news about climate change, U.S. forests are thriving – with more trees living on American soil today than 50 years ago, covering one-third of U.S. land, and over 3.2 million new trees being planted every day.

The industry that makes wood and paper products plays an important role in forest preservation by growing and harvesting trees on sustainably managed farms. In fact, 39 percent of U.S. forestland sits on family-owned tree farms today, and about 90% of U.S.-sourced wood fiber comes from private landowners who are deeply invested in maintaining a sustainable crop to stay in business. The trees they grow are used to produce renewable, recyclable packaging materials like corrugated boxes, among other things, allowing them to keep forests as forests – instead of selling to developers. The land is managed responsibly to optimize its long-term growing capacity. Trees are constantly being replanted. Land is rejuvenated. And as the trees grow, they do what trees do best: they capture carbon out of the atmosphere, cleaning the air and helping mitigate climate change.

On the “back end”, corrugated recycles. For the last decade, the recycling rate for corrugated boxes has hovered around 90%. Yet, largely because of plastics pollution, Americans are more wary of recycling – not knowing if materials are truly recyclable or contain recycled content. It’s up to us as an industry to better educate consumers on the recyclability of our products and ask them to return fiber to our system to be used to make another box.

This Earth Day and every day, Let’s work to ensure companies in the corrugated industry are known as “good” companies. Let’s share our ESG story around circularity, our commitment to employees and the communities where the corrugated industry operates. Let’s demonstrate how we belong on the “good” list.

Happy Earth Day!