“Up to the challenge”


«Our industry is up to the challenge». A few months after being appointed as General Director of the Confederation of European Paper Industries CEPI, we had an interview with Jori Ringman to closely follow the tangible steps that the European pulp and paper association is taking to reach the important targets set.

«Our industry is up to the challenge», said Jori Ringman, , General Director of di Cepi, the Confederation of European Paper Industries and the European paper industry has already succeeded in the decoupling between CO2 emissions and economic growth: since 2005 carbon emissions have decreased by 27%, with a concomitant increase in the volumes produced and achieving environmental compatibility of its products thanks to the use of certified raw materials and high recycling performances worldwide. Yet, reaching carbon neutrality requires the European paper industry to become increasingly sustainable, efficient and innovative. It requires to continue along our process of transformation, thereby maintaining our competitiveness.

Few months after taking office as General Director, we interviewed Jori Ringman to have a more detailed and better understanding of Cepi’s activities, challenges and projects.

First of all, a thought for Sylvain Lhôte…

«Sylvain was Director General of Cepi since September 2016 until his unexpected death in June this year. In spite of the sad circumstances, I was honoured to be given the opportunity to take over from him, leading a team of great professionals, representing a sector with fascinating potential».

What are the challenges that the European paper industry will have to face in the future?

«Global warming is the biggest and most important challenge not just for our or any other industry but for our whole society.

The path to carbon neutrality in 2050 requires the European pulp and paper industry to become even more sustainable, efficient and innovative. It demands that we continue our transformational journey while maintaining our competitiveness.

It is an opportunity for us to innovate further and provide consumers with climate-friendly products coming from a fossil-free and deforestation-free truly circular value-chain.

We are building on the decades of work that the European paper industry has done to make its industrial model sustainable and circular. We have been key drivers for forest stewardship and material traceability, namely promoting sustainable forest management via certification schemes such as FSC or Pefc: 73.8% of purchased wood and 89.8% of purchased pulp was certified in 2018.

We are also one of the biggest and oldest recyclers, recycling paper at the rate of 71.6%, higher than any other region in the world. We are an anchor industry for industrial symbiosis, sharing materials, energy heat and water.

Our industry can help Europe reach climate neutrality thanks to our sustainable raw materials, fossil-fuel free products and energy efficient operations».

What are the challenges that Cepi, under your direction, will have to face in the future?

«Policymakers will need to recognise the benefits of sustainable forest management and encourage high quality recycling which brings recycled fibres back to the market.

Cepi will be essential in bringing about a sector-wide step change in order to dramatically decrease energy consumption and operate completely fossil-free. We can also play a role in getting the appropriate reward for these investments in order to maintain competitiveness and jobs in Europe. Cepi will need to better communicate the industry’s uniqueness and the value it shares with society».

What are the first things you put on the agenda, the first steps?

«As a new European Commission has taken office in December 2019, we must focus on its central proposal, the European Green Deal with some important initiatives planned for February and March 2020 such as the European Climate Law, the New Industrial Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan 2.0 coupled with the Sustainable Products initiative.

We want to work together with policymakers so that the 50 measures planned in the framework of the EU Green Deal can enable our industry to contribute significantly to the green transition of Europe. We expect the European Green Deal to be a deal where we can deliver!

Our efforts to reach this goal can only obtain the best results within a supportive legal framework. We expect the green deal to improve market access for recyclable and fossil-free products, through a coherent product policy framework. If consumers are not able to differentiate our products from the CO2-intensive products on the market, the Green Deal will not work. We hope that it will deliver a coherent and stable policy with clear milestones for access to cost-competitive clean energy and clean transport.

We have already initiated a dialogue with the European policymakers during our annual conference “Paper&Beyond” in November 2019, where our CEO initiative was handed to top European Commission representatives. We now look forward to working with the new Commissioners and with other European policymakers according to a detailed work plan we are preparing».

Are there any projects or documents – just finished – that you want to talk about?

«The CEOs representing the European paper industry outlined their plans to reach a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, with specific focus on the sustainability of our raw materials, making our production processes fossil-free and making sure that our products are substituting CO2-intensive products.

Furthermore, together with other European forest-based Industries, we presented a common vision for what we can achieve together to help Europe reach its carbon neutrality goal by 2050. Similarly, we joined 10 other energy-intensive sectors to outline an industrial transformation plan for 2050.

These initiatives take further the work started in 2011 by Cepi and will guide our future actions. Cepi is committed to ensuring that our proposals have a concrete impact in the months and years to come.

As a first concrete step, we have just convened a new value chain alliance called 4evergreen. Its aim is to further boost the contribution of fibre-based packaging in a circular and sustainable economy that minimises climate and environmental impact.

It is a forum to engage and connect industry members from across the fibre-based packaging and food service value chain, from paper and board producers to packaging converters, brand-owners and retailers, technology and material suppliers, waste sorters and collectors, and more.

We have also developed, together with converters, new recyclability guidelines for paper-based packaging that is already recycled in Europe at the rate of 84.6%. They give concrete guidance to designers to ensure functionality goes hand-in-hand with recyclability. More actions on securing fully recyclable and effectively recycled paper-based products will follow in 2020».

First European recyclability guidelines for optimal packaging design

The new European guidelines intend to become the go-to document to learn more about the implications of certain converting steps on the recyclability of used paper-based packaging. The signatories of the document hope they act as a source of inspiration for innovation and the introduction of new techniques. They are convinced that a widespread awareness among the value chain – including retailers and brand owners – can truly improve the recyclability of products. They are also convinced the guidelines will help meet national protocols and requirements and further close the circularity of our industry.

Short profile of Jori Ringman

Jori Ringman is an expert in sustainability, environment, circular economy and consumer protection. In 2016, he was appointed Deputy Director General of Cepi. Prior to joining Cepi as Recycling Director in February 2005, he was a civil servant in the European Commission. He has also worked in the European Parliament Environment Committee as a political advisor (1999 – 2004), as a journalist and editor in Finland, and as Secretary General of a parliamentary group in the Finnish National Parliament in Helsinki.

Mr. Ringman has a background in Economics, Econometrics and Business Management and broad experience in communications, public administration and politics. He also holds an MSc in Environmental Decision-making.