DMers Test Tool to Measure Paper Producers' Environmental Impact

Six companies, including several DMers, recently agreed to be the first to test a tool developed to evaluate environmentally preferable paper in purchasing decisions.

The agreement was reported this week by Metafore, Portland, OR, a nonprofit group involved in creating the tool. The group collaborates with leaders in business and society to create market-based approaches that support thriving forests and communities.

Metafore, working with the Paper Working Group — a collaboration of 11 companies including Norm Thompson Outfitters and Hewlett-Packard — created the Environmental Paper Assessment Tool, a secure Web-based database designed to help paper buyers compare paper suppliers' environmental performance with the rest of the industry.

The six companies participating in the EPAT Early Adopter Circle are The Hearst Corp., J.C. Penney Company Inc., L.L. Bean, Office Depot, Quad/Graphics Inc. and Recreational Equipment Inc. They will work with Paper Working Group to test and fine-tune the tool, which is scheduled for wide release at the end of 2005.

The EPAT is intended to facilitate communication between paper producers and buyers by establishing consistent environmental metrics for evaluating paper and paper products. It considers the lifecycle effects of paper production and is based on standardized information provided by paper suppliers.

A paper buyer interested in a specific supplier's information will be able to gain access to it only from the supplier via the EPAT, said Kristin Bonner, Metafore's corporate purchasing advisor. Once the buyer has access, participating paper buyers will be able to compare measurements such as the levels of pre- and post-consumer recycled content, energy use, water use and levels of emissions created in the production of a company's paper with a range of values provided by other suppliers in the database.

The companies involved in testing the tool view it as a chance to improve the environmental record of the industries represented.

“By taking an active role in how we procure paper, we believe we can have a positive impact on resource use and forest management,” Carolyn Beem, governmental and environmental affairs manager for L.L. Bean, said in a statement. “The EPAT can be a useful tool for sending that message throughout the supply chain.”

The standardization of measurements will be good for the printing and publishing industry, said Dave Blais, vice president of operations for Quad/Graphics.

“We're pleased to have a role in developing this tool for the benefit of [the] printing and publishing industries because it will bring together much-needed information in a standardized format,” he said in a statement.

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