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Domtar Pursues Net Zero and Enlists Help from NYU Stern School

The company sponsors a program which offers MBA students an opportunity to explore research-driven questions that have real-world business implications

Pledges toward net zero emissions have become common as global companies and industries look to address concerns about climate change and Domtar is doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a path toward becoming a net zero emitter by 2050.

The company has been tracking and working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for more than a decade and by the end of 2020, it recorded a 27 percent reduction in total direct greenhouse gas emissions and indirect emissions from purchased energy at its pulp and paper mills since 2010.

“Our work to reduce our carbon footprint has also led to significant reductions in our emissions to air of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, total reduced sulfur and particulate matter,” the company wrote on its website. “As we plan for a lower carbon future, our initiatives to be more energy efficient, combined with changing energy sources, are expected to lead to further reductions.”

“We are proud of our leadership in sustainability among manufacturers, and even within our industry,” says Paige Goff, vice president of sustainability at Domtar. “We recognize the need for next steps in reducing emissions and climate effects. Our values of agility, innovation and caring will drive our efforts in this area, and I’m excited to see what we’re able to do.”

The American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), of which Domtar is a member, recognizes the challenges of a changing climate and the opportunities the industry has to help. AF&PA has published sustainability goals for 2030 that include reducing Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 50 percent from a 2005 baseline.

Domtar’s reductions thus far have been achieved largely through switching to carbon-neutral and lower carbon-intensive fuels, energy and operational efficiency projects, a greener electrical grid and, in 2020, lower production output.

While these efforts have positioned Domtar well for a lower-carbon economy, it realizes more needs to be done, especially if planning to reach net zero by 2050. To that end, they have begun evaluating pathways and developing plans to understand what “net zero by 2050” would mean for the business.

“This requires a holistic strategy that considers what products we make, how we manufacture them, our supply chain, our governance and financial systems, research and development for new technologies, and cooperation with policymakers and governments for sustainable climate mitigation frameworks,” the company said.

Domtar enlisted graduate students at the New York University Stern Center for Sustainable Business (NYU Stern CSB) through a Sustainability Signature Project (SSP). The company is a sponsor of the program, which offers MBA students an opportunity to explore research-driven questions that have real-world business implications.

Tensie Whelan, who directs the program, has more than 25 years of experience working on local, national and international environmental and sustainability issues. With her support, Domtar engaged students to evaluate potential pathways toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and other sustainability goals.

Using a data-driven approach, the students made recommendations to Domtar to help its leaders better understand the net zero landscape and potential steps on their pathway toward a net zero goal.

“We are committed to being at the table and doing our part to tackle this global issue — one that will require transformative changes to social, economic and environmental systems,” the company commented.

“We expect these changes will present us with both opportunities and challenges,” says Goff. “Our leaders appreciated the fresh perspective and insight that the students brought to our discussions. This work will inform our path forward to our next horizon goals.”

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