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Doing good for the woods

Why one of the world’s largest manufacturers of paper and pulp products like Dixie® cups and Brawny® towels is committed to conservation.

July 24, 2018

min read

When it comes to responsible forestry, Bobby Maddrey knows it’s important to see the forest for the trees.

As Georgia-Pacific’s manager of global sustainable forestry and biodiversity, Maddrey has been on the ground in woodlands across the Southeast and Pacific Northwest visiting endangered forests and special areas that have been identified and mapped using a science-based methodology developed by GP in conjunction with the University of Georgia and three environmental groups. The decade-long effort has so far identified 6 million acres across the country that meet GP’s criteria as either off-limits or severely restricted to wood-buying because of their rare or unique qualities.

“We’re the only company that has actually said, ‘OK, we’re going to map the special places that are in the U.S. and then not procure wood from them. We do everything possible to make sure that all of our wood supply is coming from a sustainable place,” Maddrey said. “Nobody else has done anything like that.”

A wildlife biologist by training, Maddrey’s fascination with the outdoors began as a child, perusing the pages of National Geographic. That passion became his career, and his work has taken him all over the country and world in pursuit of well-managed forests. Maddrey takes pride in his work, knowing that he is doing the right thing by ensuring GP’s wood is sustainably sourced.

“We have a responsibility to do what we say we’re going to do, so we take a lot of steps to make sure our wood isn’t coming from endangered or high conservation value areas,” Maddrey said.

Mapping the United States’ endangered forests is just one part of Georgia-Pacific’s commitment to ensuring responsible operations.


Sustainably sourced, vigorously verified

Georgia-Pacific’s commitment to conservation extends to sourcing. GP does not own forestland and thus must take steps to ensure that wood and fiber for the everyday household goods it produces are being responsibly sourced.

Georgia-Pacific has achieved certification for its wood and fiber procurement practices from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® and chain of custody certifications from SFI®, Forest Stewardship CouncilTM, and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. GP works to educate loggers on best practices and strives to balance the needs of its customers and businesses with the protection of endangered forests and conservation of forestry diversity. 

The company has also partnered with the American Forest Foundation and more than a dozen other companies to support the development of Forests in Focus, a digital mapping tool that tracks the sustainability of wood sourcing on individual- and family-owned land. GP sources about 80% of the wood fiber it uses from private, individual and family forests, so it’s important to the company that the landowners it works with manage their forests responsibly. 

“Georgia-Pacific has shown its dedication to sustainably and responsibly sourcing wood fiber for decades,” said Nathan Truitt, vice president of strategic partnerships, American Forest Foundation. “This partnership benefits Georgia-Pacific, it benefits the landowners, and it ultimately benefits all of us who love our forests.”

The proof is in Georgia-Pacific’s continued operations, as it finds responsible ways to source the natural resources it depends upon to make the Dixie cups, Brawny paper towels and many other paper and wood products that people use every day.

“Responsible sourcing is nothing but a positive,” Maddrey said, for the company, its customers, the communities in which it operates. And of course, the trees.

Modernizing the mill


The Georgia-Pacific mill in Brewton, Alabama, specializes in making containerboard for corrugated boxes and bleached board for food service and packaging. The mill produces 480 thousand tons of paper per year; that’s enough paper to circle the Earth every month.

In 2016, a $390-million project helped the facility decrease emissions by generating its own energy from renewable resources – byproducts from the trees being used to produce GP products, which  helps make the most efficient use of the tree.

How does it work?

When sustainably-sourced trees arrive at facilities like Brewton, the bark is removed before the trees are fed into a chipper. As the wood chips are “cooked,” the wood’s natural glue (lignin) in combination with pulping chemicals, forms what the industry calls “black liquor." Once it is concentrated, the black liquor provides fuel for the recovery boiler that produces steam to feed a turbine powering the generator.

The result: the Brewton mill supplies most of its internal energy needs from renewable resources.  In fact, it generates enough energy to power approximately 60,000 homes, much more than is needed to support the city of Brewton’s population of less than 6,000. In addition, the mill has reduced its air emissions by nearly 1,000 tons annually.