THE STATE OF THE STORY  —  5 QUESTIONS
THE STATE OF THE STORY  —  5 QUESTIONS

Pulp Nonfiction: How International Paper Promotes Forest Stewardship and Conservation

Pulp Nonfiction: How International Paper Promotes Forest Stewardship and Conservation

Pulp Nonfiction: How International Paper Promotes Forest Stewardship and Conservation

Turning the Tide: How a Smart Motors Company Uses Storytelling

Pulp Nonfiction: How International Paper Promotes Forest Stewardship and Conservation

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"For many, finding ways to avoid using this common material has seemed like an easy way to 'go green.' Of course, it’s not that simple."

"For many, finding ways to avoid using this common material has seemed like an easy way to 'go green.' Of course, it’s not that simple."

"For many, finding ways to avoid using this common material has seemed like an easy way to 'go green.' Of course, it’s not that simple."

"For many, finding ways to avoid using this common material has seemed like an easy way to 'go green.' Of course, it’s not that simple."

By now we’re all familiar with the paperless office or opting for reusable bags instead of paper ones. For many, finding ways to avoid using this common material has seemed like an easy way to “go green.” Of course, it’s not that simple. 

“Slogans such as ‘go paperless to save trees’ create the impression that trees are a finite resource and that forests are being depleted,” says Sophie Beckham, VP, Chief Sustainability Officer at International Paper. “In fact, trees are a renewable resource, and working forestland that is sustainably managed can continue to grow new trees again and again, while continuing to provide benefits to the planet.”

Sustainable forestry benefits include reducing greenhouse gases by removing hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere; improving the quality of surrounding air, water, and soil; and providing jobs to local communities, according to the World Resources Institute. Beckham is intimately aware of these impacts, since in her role she measures how International Paper affects them.   

We spoke with Beckham about how she balances the business and the ecology of paper production, while making International Paper’s sustainability story so honest and effective.

By now we’re all familiar with the paperless office or opting for reusable bags instead of paper ones. For many, finding ways to avoid using this common material has seemed like an easy way to “go green.” Of course, it’s not that simple. 

“Slogans such as ‘go paperless to save trees’ create the impression that trees are a finite resource and that forests are being depleted,” says Sophie Beckham, VP, Chief Sustainability Officer at International Paper. “In fact, trees are a renewable resource, and working forestland that is sustainably managed can continue to grow new trees again and again, while continuing to provide benefits to the planet.”

Sustainable forestry benefits include reducing greenhouse gases by removing hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere; improving the quality of surrounding air, water, and soil; and providing jobs to local communities, according to the World Resources Institute. Beckham is intimately aware of these impacts, since in her role she measures how International Paper affects them.   

We spoke with Beckham about how she balances the business and the ecology of paper production, while making International Paper’s sustainability story so honest and effective.

By now we’re all familiar with the paperless office or opting for reusable bags instead of paper ones. For many, finding ways to avoid using this common material has seemed like an easy way to “go green.” Of course, it’s not that simple. 

“Slogans such as ‘go paperless to save trees’ create the impression that trees are a finite resource and that forests are being depleted,” says Sophie Beckham, VP, Chief Sustainability Officer at International Paper. “In fact, trees are a renewable resource, and working forestland that is sustainably managed can continue to grow new trees again and again, while continuing to provide benefits to the planet.”

Sustainable forestry benefits include reducing greenhouse gases by removing hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere; improving the quality of surrounding air, water, and soil; and providing jobs to local communities, according to the World Resources Institute. Beckham is intimately aware of these impacts, since in her role she measures how International Paper affects them.   

We spoke with Beckham about how she balances the business and the ecology of paper production, while making International Paper’s sustainability story so honest and effective.

01. There are a lot of pre- and misconceptions about the paper industry. What are several that you find yourself having to address again and again?

01. There are a lot of pre- and misconceptions about the paper industry. What are several that you find yourself having to address again and again?

01. There are a lot of pre- and misconceptions about the paper industry. What are several that you find yourself having to address again and again?

Many people conflate the forest products industry with deforestation, which is a complete misperception in almost every case. Our sourcing and operations (primarily based in North America) do not contribute to deforestation but rather promote sustainable forest management practices to maximize the economic, social, and environmental benefits that forests provide. Increasingly, forests are recognized as an important lever to mitigate the impacts of climate change, another critical reason to amplify our efforts to manage them sustainably.

Many people conflate the forest products industry with deforestation, which is a complete misperception in almost every case. Our sourcing and operations (primarily based in North America) do not contribute to deforestation but rather promote sustainable forest management practices to maximize the economic, social, and environmental benefits that forests provide. Increasingly, forests are recognized as an important lever to mitigate the impacts of climate change, another critical reason to amplify our efforts to manage them sustainably.

Many people conflate the forest products industry with deforestation, which is a complete misperception in almost every case. Our sourcing and operations (primarily based in North America) do not contribute to deforestation but rather promote sustainable forest management practices to maximize the economic, social, and environmental benefits that forests provide. Increasingly, forests are recognized as an important lever to mitigate the impacts of climate change, another critical reason to amplify our efforts to manage them sustainably.

02. Within an industry that seems so antithetical to sustainability, what is the one thing that International Paper can tell or show customers about your sustainability story that changes minds?

02. Within an industry that seems so antithetical to sustainability, what is the one thing that International Paper can tell or show customers about your sustainability story that changes minds?

02. Within an industry that seems so antithetical to sustainability, what is the one thing that International Paper can tell or show customers about your sustainability story that changes minds?

There is excellent evidence from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to support the claim that the best way to protect a forest is to use it. The underlying meaning is that forests that are fully valued for the goods and services they provide will continue to be forests, as opposed to being converted for other land uses, for example, development. This captures the essence of what we refer to as a “working forest”—one that is actively managed for timber, as well as for other values like water quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity. 

When we have an opportunity to take our customers or other stakeholders to meet the forest landowners we work with and to tour a “working forest” with them, the experience is always transformative. Who has not had a magical moment in a forest? We want to connect that highly emotional experience with the often “low” emotional products we produce such as boxes and absorbent material. It’s pretty amazing to think about the usefulness of a working forest to enable commerce and provide products we rely on every day. As long as we, and others, are committed to responsibly managing those forests and work to conserve and restore forest environments, then our products will always be sustainable. 

There is excellent evidence from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to support the claim that the best way to protect a forest is to use it. The underlying meaning is that forests that are fully valued for the goods and services they provide will continue to be forests, as opposed to being converted for other land uses, for example, development. This captures the essence of what we refer to as a “working forest”—one that is actively managed for timber, as well as for other values like water quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity. 

When we have an opportunity to take our customers or other stakeholders to meet the forest landowners we work with and to tour a “working forest” with them, the experience is always transformative. Who has not had a magical moment in a forest? We want to connect that highly emotional experience with the often “low” emotional products we produce such as boxes and absorbent material. It’s pretty amazing to think about the usefulness of a working forest to enable commerce and provide products we rely on every day. As long as we, and others, are committed to responsibly managing those forests and work to conserve and restore forest environments, then our products will always be sustainable.

There is excellent evidence from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to support the claim that the best way to protect a forest is to use it. The underlying meaning is that forests that are fully valued for the goods and services they provide will continue to be forests, as opposed to being converted for other land uses, for example, development. This captures the essence of what we refer to as a “working forest”—one that is actively managed for timber, as well as for other values like water quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity. 

When we have an opportunity to take our customers or other stakeholders to meet the forest landowners we work with and to tour a “working forest” with them, the experience is always transformative. Who has not had a magical moment in a forest? We want to connect that highly emotional experience with the often “low” emotional products we produce such as boxes and absorbent material. It’s pretty amazing to think about the usefulness of a working forest to enable commerce and provide products we rely on every day. As long as we, and others, are committed to responsibly managing those forests and work to conserve and restore forest environments, then our products will always be sustainable. 

03. How do you overcome industry and scientific jargon when speaking about sustainability with the public?

03. How do you overcome industry and scientific jargon when speaking about sustainability with the public?

03. How do you overcome industry and scientific jargon when speaking about sustainability with the public?

It’s very important to International Paper that our goals and targets are science-based. We rely on credible, multi-stakeholder processes and certifications to validate many of our goals, and we invest significant time ensuring transparency and accountability in the development and reporting of our progress on goals and targets. All of this work is complex and time-consuming, and needs to be translated to be able to tell our story. This is a challenge! We can’t make everyone an expert in forest management, greenhouse gas accounting, or water stewardship. We try to focus on sharing stories—talking about how a charismatic bird species habitat is improved by our suppliers' actions, or how the communities where we live and work are supported by tree planting or box donations. Breaking down our corporate goals into on-the-ground actions and real stories is critical to sharing our values, vision, and impact. 

It’s very important to International Paper that our goals and targets are science-based. We rely on credible, multi-stakeholder processes and certifications to validate many of our goals, and we invest significant time ensuring transparency and accountability in the development and reporting of our progress on goals and targets. All of this work is complex and time-consuming, and needs to be translated to be able to tell our story. This is a challenge! We can’t make everyone an expert in forest management, greenhouse gas accounting, or water stewardship. We try to focus on sharing stories—talking about how a charismatic bird species habitat is improved by our suppliers' actions, or how the communities where we live and work are supported by tree planting or box donations. Breaking down our corporate goals into on-the-ground actions and real stories is critical to sharing our values, vision, and impact.

It’s very important to International Paper that our goals and targets are science-based. We rely on credible, multi-stakeholder processes and certifications to validate many of our goals, and we invest significant time ensuring transparency and accountability in the development and reporting of our progress on goals and targets. All of this work is complex and time-consuming, and needs to be translated to be able to tell our story. This is a challenge! We can’t make everyone an expert in forest management, greenhouse gas accounting, or water stewardship. We try to focus on sharing stories—talking about how a charismatic bird species habitat is improved by our suppliers' actions, or how the communities where we live and work are supported by tree planting or box donations. Breaking down our corporate goals into on-the-ground actions and real stories is critical to sharing our values, vision, and impact. 

04. You have a lot of great statistics and measurements on your site. How do you find it's best to present these in a meaningful and memorable way? 

04. You have a lot of great statistics and measurements on your site. How do you find it's best to present these in a meaningful and memorable way?

04. You have a lot of great statistics and measurements on your site. How do you find it's best to present these in a meaningful and memorable way?

Starting with a story is always helpful. We take a basic concept, “paper-based products are some of the most recovered and recycled in the world,” for example, and build out proof points through stats and measurements. So we may follow that sentence up with a statistic about the number of boxes recycled each year. (International Paper uses five million tons of recycled fiber and cardboard each year.) Then we demonstrate the impact through real-life examples or videos to visually represent the concept, and we always end with a key takeaway—what’s  the one thing you need to know? This helps break down a very complex process into small bites and makes the content much more digestible for all stakeholders.  

Starting with a story is always helpful. We take a basic concept, “paper-based products are some of the most recovered and recycled in the world,” for example, and build out proof points through stats and measurements. So we may follow that sentence up with a statistic about the number of boxes recycled each year. (International Paper uses five million tons of recycled fiber and cardboard each year.) Then we demonstrate the impact through real-life examples or videos to visually represent the concept, and we always end with a key takeaway—what’s  the one thing you need to know? This helps break down a very complex process into small bites and makes the content much more digestible for all stakeholders.  

Starting with a story is always helpful. We take a basic concept, “paper-based products are some of the most recovered and recycled in the world,” for example, and build out proof points through stats and measurements. So we may follow that sentence up with a statistic about the number of boxes recycled each year. (International Paper uses five million tons of recycled fiber and cardboard each year.) Then we demonstrate the impact through real-life examples or videos to visually represent the concept, and we always end with a key takeaway—what’s  the one thing you need to know? This helps break down a very complex process into small bites and makes the content much more digestible for all stakeholders.  

05. What are some of the difficulties you've encountered when talking about International Paper's sustainability story? What are some ways you've been able to overcome them? 

05. What are some of the difficulties you've encountered when talking about International Paper's sustainability story? What are some ways you've been able to overcome them? 

05. What are some of the difficulties you've encountered when talking about International Paper's sustainability story? What are some ways you've been able to overcome them?

We’ve struggled to overcome negative perceptions of our industry that are based on bad actors who are largely visible in some of the world’s most threatened forests. Tropical forest deforestation is real, and unsustainable logging practices have damaged those environments. In contrast, our company’s value chain is based on sustainable practices at every step, from sourcing through the collection of our products for recovery and recycling. Where we can improve, we are transparent that we are taking steps to advance positive impact and we are focusing our efforts on the most material impacts and dependencies.

Because we are serious about sustainability, and we’ve built trust with key stakeholders, we have found that collaboration with credible partners helps us scale up our impact and share the storytelling component of our work. We collaborate with some of the world’s largest conservation organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy. Through identifying areas of shared value, we’ve made real progress on issues that are connected to our core value of stewardship: forest restoration, natural climate solutions, and responsible sourcing. When these highly respected organizations help tell our story, it sends a powerful message that we are walking our talk!

We’ve struggled to overcome negative perceptions of our industry that are based on bad actors who are largely visible in some of the world’s most threatened forests. Tropical forest deforestation is real, and unsustainable logging practices have damaged those environments. In contrast, our company’s value chain is based on sustainable practices at every step, from sourcing through the collection of our products for recovery and recycling. Where we can improve, we are transparent that we are taking steps to advance positive impact and we are focusing our efforts on the most material impacts and dependencies. 


Because we are serious about sustainability, and we’ve built trust with key stakeholders, we have found that collaboration with credible partners helps us scale up our impact and share the storytelling component of our work. We collaborate with some of the world’s largest conservation organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy. Through identifying areas of shared value, we’ve made real progress on issues that are connected to our core value of stewardship: forest restoration, natural climate solutions, and responsible sourcing. When these highly respected organizations help tell our story, it sends a powerful message that we are walking our talk!

We’ve struggled to overcome negative perceptions of our industry that are based on bad actors who are largely visible in some of the world’s most threatened forests. Tropical forest deforestation is real, and unsustainable logging practices have damaged those environments. In contrast, our company’s value chain is based on sustainable practices at every step, from sourcing through the collection of our products for recovery and recycling. Where we can improve, we are transparent that we are taking steps to advance positive impact and we are focusing our efforts on the most material impacts and dependencies.

Because we are serious about sustainability, and we’ve built trust with key stakeholders, we have found that collaboration with credible partners helps us scale up our impact and share the storytelling component of our work. We collaborate with some of the world’s largest conservation organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy. Through identifying areas of shared value, we’ve made real progress on issues that are connected to our core value of stewardship: forest restoration, natural climate solutions, and responsible sourcing. When these highly respected organizations help tell our story, it sends a powerful message that we are walking our talk!

For more insights on crafting a sustainability story, download our trends report.

For more insights on crafting a sustainability story, download our trends report.

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Magnet Media is a global brand studio that uses storytelling and data to drive measurable business results. Our team is made up of strategists and creative thinkers who use our THINK / MAKE / REACH process to develop a marketing strategy, world-class content, and go-to-market distribution strategies for our clients. Much of our work starts with video storytelling and is distributed across all platforms—appearing in the top media outlets, shared by influential community members, and rising to the top of the search rankings. Recently we've produced award-winning campaigns for clients like Google, Adobe, Chase, Goldman Sachs, Airbnb, IBM, CitiGroup, Carbon, The TED Talks, Politico, Blackrock, TIAA, YouTube, MIT Tech Press, and more.

Magnet Media is a global brand studio that uses storytelling and data to drive measurable business results. Our team is made up of strategists and creative thinkers who use our THINK / MAKE / REACH process to develop a marketing strategy, world-class content, and go-to-market distribution strategies for our clients. Much of our work starts with video storytelling and is distributed across all platforms—appearing in the top media outlets, shared by influential community members, and rising to the top of the search rankings. Recently we've produced award-winning campaigns for clients like Google, Adobe, Chase, Goldman Sachs, Airbnb, IBM, CitiGroup, Carbon, The TED Talks, Politico, Blackrock, TIAA, YouTube, MIT Tech Press, and more.

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