European challenges continue


Fight against climate change through the Green Deal, circular economy, energy efficiency. These are the major challenges the European paper industry is going to be confronted with also in the near future. Cepi is one of the most important ones, with the confederation now under the leadership of a new president for the next two years: Ignazio Capuano

The European paper industry confederation will be led by an Italian for the next two years 2020-2021. Ignazio Capuano is the new President of Cepi. www.cepi.org We interviewed him to learn something more about him and the objectives of the confederation in Europe.

Challenge no. 1: the climate

Let us start to try and understand what the European paper industry is expecting. Actions in favour of the environment are, without doubt, among the first priorities of the industry worldwide.

“The climate change emergency is a challenge that demands for global action,” says the President in answering our first question. “The entire society and all the players of our economy are called upon to give their contribution; the European paper industry makes no exception.”

The sector has, indeed, committed itself in this field for a long time. “We must continue along the way to reduce the environmental impact of the paper industry by making it increasingly sustainable, efficient and innovative in order to reach the objective of climate neutrality by 2050. This pathway has already started and it will remain a priority under throughout my mandate.”

Capuano stresses that special attention is, therefore, paid to the legislative issues posed by the European Green Deal, as well as to other aspects of interest in the industry. These undoubtedly include the “constant support to sustainable forest management or the development of alliances between the sectors of productive supply chains that are related to the paper industry.” Capuano explains that these purposes have been announced by the same Cepi with the setting up of 4evergreen, «a forum that brings together all the industries involved in the production of fiber-based boxes and packaging, i.e. paper and cardboard, which offer important advantages in terms of their possibility to be recycled.” And he goes on saying that “a sustainable circular economy is yet another major issue, as well as another important boost to innovation, especially in the field of packaging for the food industry and food-contact papers”.

European energy

From a market perspective, in a global reality like the one we are living in every day, competitiveness also changes. A major challenge in these terms for the European paper industry is certainly represented by “the cost of energy, which makes the focus and work on energy efficient even more compelling. As stressed by Capuano, in this respect “a consistent and stable legislative framework, which promotes the investments necessary to be competitive at a global level, while having a positive effect on combating climate change is paramount”.

United and shared political actions are thus needed, as these might have a positive impact on several aspects of the life of the industry and, as a consequence, on society as a whole. As a matter of fact, a legislative context like the one wished for by the newly appointed President “would guarantee the support and implementation of innovative solution for the decarbonisation of industrial processes, with special attention to the energy efficiency of installations and the use of sustainable energy sources within them. This way, the European paper industry,” explains Capuano, “would be able to implement a marked reduction of its energy consumption”.

This does not mean, though, that “EU policies should be well balanced in terms of the economic burden weighing on the industry in Europe.” In this respect, Capuano cites a study by the European Commission on the paper industry, which “showed that over the last ten years direct regulation costs have more than tripled. Since 2004 direct and indirect regulation costs linked to the Emissions Trading System have, on average, absorbed over 40% of the industry’s annual profitability. This burden is expected to grow even further.”

Capuano’s personal touch

Besides heading the European paper industry confederation, Ignazio Capuano also serves Managing Director for the Burgo Group and Vice-President of Assocarta. We, therefore, asked him what he will bring to Brussels of the experience made throughout his career and what will be, instead, the personal touch he will impress on his mandate. “My presidency,” he answers, “will reflect the major challenge to our sector posed by the Green Deal European policy. This will be an unprecedented challenge in our key areas of fibres, water and energy, as it will induce us to apply in an even more effective way all existing measures for efficiency and energy saving”.

The newly appointed President will certainly bring to Cepi all the experience of the Italian paper world, in particular when it comes to recycling. On this matter, Capuano points out that “the big commitment of the Italian paper industry to the circular economy, followed by the strengthening of the recycling productive capacity, is a significant experience for today’s scenario.” Our experience with energy issues can be valuable for Europe, too. Specifically, “the promotion of high-efficiency co-generation during energy transition can be particularly meaningful, with the aim of making it “carbon neutral”.

Finally, we couldn’t but ask Ignazio Capuano about his personal prospects. He concludes by saying that “the objective of my presidency is to promote solutions aimed at energy efficiency and the reduction of CO2 emissions, as well as to value products based on virgin and recycled fibres also through the creation of the adequate legislative context”.

The secrete to know how to talk about yourself

One of the most topical topics dealt with by today’s paper industry is related to its ability to make itself known by the public opinion and to talk about itself for what it really is. We asked the newly appointed President of Cepi how the confederation will address these aspects. “The European paper industry has greatly improved its visibility to the public,” says Ignazio Capuano, who also reminds of a number of important initiatives carried out in this respect by Cepi. “Last year, for example, the stance adopted by the CEOs of European paper companies to improve the sector’s climate performance has received great visibility both in the national and international media.” Furthermore, the European association supports Two Sides and Love Paper, i.e. the initiatives committed in the creation of effective messages.

It is, however, important to consider the complex situation in the continent. “In the European Union there are over 500 million citizens, who speak 23 different languages and have different cultures and sensibilities,” stresses Capuano. “Therefore, with Cepi’s support and coordination national associations carry out a fundamental task in the dissemination of our values and of effective and correct messages on our entire productive supply chain.”

Capuano highlights that much still has to be done, though, and it is therefore essential to carry on communicating in a clear and simple way. In this respect, he reminds of the actions already foreseen to this end. “For this year, we have planned several information campaigns to raise the awareness of both citizens and public authorities on the key topics for our sector, i.e. forest biodiversity, the use of sustainable raw materials and the fact that the new applications of products derived from wood fibres can lead to the replacement of the materials used in several sectors with alternatives that are more suitable to meet the challenges posed by climate change”.