Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.
TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Paige Goff: I am the Vice President, Sustainability and Business Communications at Domtar.
In this role, I am responsible for managing sustainability communications for all of Domtar’s pulp and paper products. Key to my role is understanding and applying the current trends and strategies related to environmental, regulatory and social sustainability to Domtar’s business practices and products, while managing the relationships among environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO) and customers.
I have 14 years experience in the paper industry and joined Domtar in 2004. I have a Masters of Business Administration degree.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
PG: Domtar leads the pulp, paper and wood products industry in sustainability through environmental stewardship, stakeholder collaboration, community investment and engagement and innovations that help recover and conserve natural resources. Some stakeholders – consumers especially – have sometimes questioned sustainability practices within our industry, and Domtar takes pride in leading the industry from an operational and product offering standpoint.
Domtar’s early interest in sustainability was around our fiber supply, working with NGOs and customers to ensure we were doing all we could to ensure the most environmentally responsible operations. Domtar has lead the paper industry in sustainability initially through work with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The Forest Stewardship Council is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests, and is considered the gold standard of forest management. Domtar brought the industry’s first FSC line of paper to market in North America with the EarthChoice product line. As a recognized industry leader, all 13 of Domtar’s pulp and paper mills have FSC certification and Domtar has established the goal of having 100 percent of its fiber supply certified to FSC standards.
Now, we have gone beyond focusing solely on our fiber supply – our vision is to continue to evolve and to become a global leader in the innovation of fiber-based products. Our key sustainability challenge is managing this transformation from paper-maker to innovator of fiber-based products. I am also proud to say that we have set aggressive targets for continued reductions in greenhouse gas, water and waste. Additionally, we know we have a lot to learn from others in this space, and have made collaboration with environmental NGOs such as FSC, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Rainforest Alliance and others a top priority, as well as working hand-in-hand with customers to develop product solutions to meet their individual sustainability goals.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
PG: I’m honored to say my sustainability hero is my mother. Growing up, I thought every household had a compost bucket in their kitchen piled high for transfer to the outside, and that recycling was a must! I was shocked to find out that wasn’t the case in every southern town in the U.S. If my mother found a can, paper, plastic – anything in our normal trash that could and should be in the recycle bin or compost pile – it was almost as bad has any misbehavior offense we could do. Every summer she had a large garden growing tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, watermelon, cabbage, corn and squash. It took a saint to keep these vegetables prospering because I grew up in what is fondly called the armpit of the south (hot and humid), Columbia, South Carolina.
She is the queen of reusing…plastic bags, for example, were cleaned and put upside down to dry, ready for reuse over and over again. I think I was an adult and married before I had actual ketchup and mustard “bottles,” because we always used the packets that were leftover from the fast food restaurants. We can chuckle at a few of my mom’s habits, but it did instill into all four of her kids that waste wasn’t an option. We didn’t know at the time she was helping our environment, but as an adult I can appreciate her composting her garden which feed us wonderful meals, all the recycling that was saved from the landfills (and you can imagine the trash six people would accumulate), the never ending plastic bag reuses and the use of the small ketchup and mustard packets…My mom’s efforts made a difference in the environment and in our lives. I’m proud to say that in my job today I am fortunate enough to take my mother’s sustainability instincts and apply them in a business setting.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
PG: The best advice I’ve ever received is to admit when you are wrong. If you try to justify or defend your “wrong” decision/action, the more untrustworthy you seem. We are all human and we all make mistakes – businesses included sometimes. Owning it and learning from it is what’s important. I believe owning your own mistake is a sign of leadership, as well as a sign of growth and maturity. This allows members of your team to have the freedom to take risks without the fear of blame. This allows for bigger and better outcomes.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
PG: A recent accomplishment I’m very proud of is being appointed to my current position, with the opportunity to really impact our company – and industry – from a sustainability and innovation viewpoint. I’ve been working for Domtar close to ten years now and the opportunities they provide and the growth within various positions is commendable. Getting more engaged in the sustainability space has been very rewarding. The more I’ve learned about the micro initiatives Domtar has concerning sustainability, the more I’m proud to work for this company.
As I’ve stated, sustainability was ingrained in me since day one and sustainability is also ingrained within this company. We have shown great leadership within this space and I plan to continue this leadership role and continue to push the bar higher and higher. Domtar’s vision is to continue to evolve and to become a global leader in the innovation of fiber-based products as we transform our business from paper-maker to true fiber product innovator – and our efforts in sustainability are key to making this happen. By earning the role I have today, I truly feel a part of that process.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
PG: I think in too many corporations today sustainability is viewed as a special project or an initiative responding to external pressure (from NGOs, the market or as a way to manage risk). But really, for sustainability to be most effective, it has to be viewed as a core objective and seen as a way for a business to be successful. Luckily, Domtar does see sustainability as a core business objective.
Because of this, I would like to see Domtar and the industry continue to make progress toward 100 percent use of renewable energy in our operations. For 2012, 76.3 percent of the energy we used was from renewable resources. While we make steady progress every year, there is opportunity to continue to expand renewable energy use to further reduce our environmental footprint. Ultimately, sustainability is about fitting into communities where we operate in a way that creates a net positive benefit. We are excellent corporate citizens at Domtar, and continuing to expand renewable energy use and reduce CO2 and other emissions will ensure that we not only bring that positive benefit to the communities in which we operate, but to the planet at large.
So the change I would make is to really just to continue to do what we are doing – and hope that the rest of the industry will follow suit.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
PG: A perfect day for me would be with my four-year-old son and my husband of sixteen years enjoying the outside air, tossing around a football after having a picnic. Our lives get so busy that we tend to lose the enjoyment of the simple things about life. My best days/weekends are the ones with no schedule and the day is spent on spontaneous events that, for me, seem to be more simple and memorable. Having those events and free times are necessary to reenergize and remember what is important about life. A perfect day to me doesn’t have to be fancy or extravagant – just spent with the people I love.