At Resolute, we understand that sustainability and profitability drive our future. We are building that future right now, by continuously diversifying, innovating and growing our business. In 2015, we made significant investments in balancing the three pillars of our sustainability strategy – environmental, social and economic – which will allow us to become not only a more efficient company, but a better employer, a stronger partner for our customers, and more deeply engaged in the communities in which we live and work.
Operating as one team, aligned with a common vision, is a powerful tool for building a sustainable, long-term business. That is why our business and sustainability strategies are interdependent. And it is why we have combined our financial and sustainability disclosures into one report. We have also adopted the Global Reporting Initiative’s new G4 framework, being among the first in our industry to report under this gold standard.
In 2015, we made targeted strategic investments in our operations, while continuing with our gradual retreat from certain paper grades toward more sustainable long-term choices.
We expanded our market presence by diversifying into the steadily growing tissue business. Resolute is now building a $270m, state-of-the-art facility in Calhoun, Tennessee, to manufacture premium private-label tissue, including bath and towel, aimed at the growing retail market. Once fully operational in 2017, this will be one of the most competitive and efficient tissue operations in North America, positioning Resolute as a key player in the market.
Operating as one team, aligned with a common vision, is a powerful tool for building a sustainable, long-term business
In November, we acquired Atlas Paper Holdings, which manufactures a range of tissue products for the away-from-home and private-label at-home markets, including recycled and virgin paper products.
We increased the capacity of our wood products and market pulp businesses with a pellet plant in Thunder Bay and sawmills in Atikokan and Ignace in northern Ontario, and the completion of a $100m project to build a continuous pulp digester in Calhoun. The latter is expected to reach normal operating efficiency early in 2016 and will provide 100,000 metric tons of additional annual market pulp capacity, better operating efficiencies, lower mill-wide costs, and improved overall product quality. These key investments support Resolute’s commitment to creating value for our shareholders over the long term.
Meaningful collaboration with our Aboriginal partners, operating communities and employees has resulted in mutually beneficial business ventures and a diverse and skilled workforce.
Resolute collaborates with almost 40 First Nations in Canada – mainly in Ontario and Quebec – on a number of long-term partnerships of mutual benefit, and on ways to increase Aboriginal employment. The objectives of these partnerships include pursuing economic opportunities for forest management and harvesting activities, training and hiring, delivering wood-based products and biomass fuel to our operations, and investing in Aboriginal businesses in the forest, biofuel and wildlife industries.
In February 2015, we proudly signed a memorandum of agreement that has resulted in CAD 100m in economic opportunities for six of our First Nations partners in Ontario. This groundbreaking agreement includes significant contracts for construction and transportation.
Over the course of the year, we also partnered with First Nations communities and Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ontario to launch a pilot programme encouraging First Nations students to pursue trade careers. Furthermore, we participated in the creation of a leadership chair in aboriginal education in forestry at Quebec’s Laval University. We also joined the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, with the goal of expanding our consultative and commercial partnerships, and we continued to engage with First Nations groups and others on sustainable forest management.
Overall, in 2015 Resolute hired 1,250 new employees to meet our business strategy and growth plans. By 2018, that figure is expected to jump to 2,000. In addition to collaborating with our partners on ways to increase Aboriginal employment, we are welcoming new immigrants to our organisation. These social investments – whether big or small, local or global – are allowing Resolute to grow our business, expand local employment, and generate value for all of our stakeholders.
In 2015, Resolute made substantial progress in improving our sustainability performance and reinforcing our environmental credentials. We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and take pride in our results to date. We have surpassed our greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 65 percent, reducing absolute emissions by 70 percent over our year 2000 baseline. Our success stems from focusing on improving energy efficiency and replacing high-emission fuels like coal with less carbon-intensive fuels, which benefits both the environment and our bottom line. During the year, we also sourced 72 percent of our energy requirements from renewable sources, derived 78 percent of our fuel energy usage from biomass, and completed our first full year of 100 percent (scope one) coal-free operations.
The energy we use to produce our products comes primarily from steam and electrical power. Resolute generates power from our seven hydroelectric and seven cogeneration facilities. We use alternative energy such as methane from landfills, used oils, tyre-derived fuel, and waste plastics, recovering their energy value to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.
Our new wood pellet plant adjacent to our Thunder Bay, Ontario sawmill was recently recognised for its innovative work in lowering GHG emissions by turning waste sawdust into biomass fuel. Additionally, 12 percent of the total fibre inputs for our pulp and paper mills are sourced from recovered paper. In 2015, we used 923,389 metric tons of recovered paper in our production processes, and the recycled fibre content in the newsprint we produced averaged 19 percent. We continue to make significant investments in improving the environmental performance of our processes, including the development of products that maximise our use of fibre.
Our Align brand of eco-efficient papers is made with up to 50 percent less wood fibre compared to traditional freesheet paper, and has an environmental footprint 35 percent to 85 percent smaller than the average freesheet grade – including some containing recycled content. Our Atlas Paper Green Heritage tissue products, made from 100 percent recycled wastepaper, qualify for LEED certification points and carry the Green Seal certification mark of environmental responsibility to assure customers they are choosing truly green products that are better for their health and the environment.
Performance BioFilaments, our biomaterial joint venture with Mercer International, develops commercial applications for cellulose filaments, a new source of biomaterial made from wood fibre. This versatile material can be used to add strength, stability, flexibility and longevity to concrete, composites and coatings used in the aviation, marine, aerospace, electronics manufacturing and construction sectors. Through these innovations, Resolute is blazing a new trail by reducing our carbon footprint and supporting the product stewardship of our customers.
As we focus on building the Resolute of the future, we are aware that our actions today are key to ensuring a sustainable and profitable organisation for the long term. Whether we are expanding our market presence, collaborating with First Nations, or working with local communities to develop efficient operations and innovative, environmentally friendly products, we will continue to seize opportunities to diversify, innovate and grow.