Cascades: Creating Value for the Planet, for Prosperity and for its Partners
Cascades is a leading producer, converter and marketer of packaging and tissue products made principally from recycled fibres. Sustainability has been integral to the company’s DNA since its inception in 1964. Over the years, Cascades has remained an environmental leader largely owing to its extensive paper recovery and recycling infrastructure, pioneering of chlorine‑free whitening processes in tissue product manufacturing, proactive use of renewable energy to meet its energy needs, and active support for countless organizations and causes.
In 1996, Cascades decided to go beyond financial reporting and publish its first social balance sheet, an uncommon practice at the time. The company’s global sustainability program took on a more structured form in 2010, with the introduction of the sustainable development plan, which featured key performance indicators to be monitored and publicly disclosed. In 2016, the company launched its third such plan. This plan covers the 2016–2020 period and sets 10 new targets for the three pillars of sustainable development: planet, prosperity and partners.
Doing more for the planet
Cascades’ commitment to offering the most innovative and eco-responsible products possible is what sets it apart from other companies in the paper industry. This drive forces it to push the boundaries of simple paper and packaging products, and the manufacturing processes behind them. The numbers speak for themselves: Cascades products are made using 63% less energy and 85% less water than the Canadian paper industry average. One reason for this is that the company has chosen to work mainly with recycled fibre, which requires less energy and water than wood fibre. Another key factor has been Cascades’ tireless efforts over the years to improve the ecological footprint of its manufacturing processes. As a result, Cascades products meet the highest environmental standards in the industry and many hold renowned green certifications such as FSC, UL/ECOLOGO and Green Seal.
In recent years, Cascades’ Environment Department has worked closely with plants to identify opportunities to reduce water consumption. Together, they have used their ingenuity to reuse water as much as possible in a closed circuit, thereby minimizing the plants’ fresh water usage. A comparison of the company’s current and past performance serves as a measure of the colossal progress made: in 2015, Cascades plants consumed 2.5 times less water than in 2005.
Close to 20 years ago, Cascades set up its Energy Action Group (EAG) with a mission to increase energy efficiency at every Cascades plant. The expertise this team has acquired in industrial energy efficiency is now so widely recognized that its services are sought out by external customers. Since 2010, Cascades has also been taking part in the ENERGY STAR® program led by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and has committed to continuously improving its energy performance. Extending its leadership to the promotion of renewable energy sources, the company recently partnered with Rackam to build the Alain-Lemaire Solar Park in the heart of its industrial complex in Kingsey Falls, Québec. This solar park—a global first for the paper industry—helps reduce consumption of natural gas used to produce the steam required by the manufacturing process.
Through its Recovery division, Cascades collects its clients’ corrugated boxes, plastics and other recyclables. Part of these materials is used by other Cascades divisions to manufacture a variety of new goods. Office paper may be processed to become Cascades bathroom tissue and paper towels, for instance. As a whole, Cascades is among the largest users of recycled fibres in North America. In 2015, by recycling 3.1 million short tons of fibre (83% of its total fibre and pulp consumption), the company helped save more than 45 million trees. Beyond the recovery and processing of raw materials, Cascades also gives new life to the residuals from its own manufacturing activities. In 2015, the company diverted 76% of its plants’ residuals from landfills, using it to enrich soil, fertilize farmland and fuel biomass boilers.
Creating added value and prosperity
Another priority for Cascades is to offer innovative, value-added products and services, and to generate prosperity. This commitment is evident when looking at the company’s 2015 financial results, which, on a comparable assets basis, are the best in its history. In an effort to associate itself with suppliers that share its values, since 2012 Cascades has been working with EcoVadis, an external firm specialized in assessing organizations’ sustainable development performance. By the end of 2015, 107 of the company’s suppliers had taken part in this process, which allows Cascades to raise their awareness of the impact of and opportunities for improvement in their practices.
Giving back to its partners
Having maintained its human dimension for over half a century, Cascades pursues this commitment with its partners by paying special attention to its most valuable asset: its employees. Over the past few years, the company has strengthened its health and safety culture, resulting, in 2015, in the lowest accident rate on record at Cascades.
Following the lead of the company’s founders—the Lemaire brothers, known for their generous, down-to-earth nature—Cascades’ various units have always actively supported social and environmental causes. Doing so provides an opportunity to contribute directly to the vitality and development of the communities in which they operate. Every year, hundreds of causes and organizations receive support from the company in the form of products, financial support or time. In 2015, a total of $3,3 million in donations and sponsorships was awarded.
The values underpinning sustainable development are deeply rooted in Cascades’ culture and inform its everyday actions and business decisions. Today, no one can refute the relevance of sustainable development in business management; its advantages are numerous and its benefits tangible. Cascades intends to continue upholding this philosophy and these values as it grows and prospers, respecting its partners and minimizing its environmental footprint.