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Profits with Purpose: New Leaf Paper

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

Profits with Purpose: New Leaf Paper

San Francisco, California
Jeff Mendelsohn, CEO

New Leaf Paper develops and distributes environmentally superior printing and office papers that compete aesthetically and economically with leading virgin-fiber products. New Leaf Paper offers a selection of more than 35 coated, uncoated and office papers, many with 100% post-consumer recycled content and Forest Stewardship Council certification.

The paper industry is one of the most polluting and resource intensive industries in the world. It is responsible for over a third of worldwide timber harvest and over 40% of all landfill waste in the U.S. When New Leaf Paper was founded in 1998, the paper industry had demonstrated a high resistance to change. With low margins, a commoditized international market, and huge capital investment in the status quo, paper companies resisted efforts to integrate sustainable principles into their business practices.

New Leaf Paper was founded specifically to change this picture -- with the mission of leading a shift toward sustainability in the paper industry. The company developed a unique approach to business, embedding its social and environmental values into every product line and every business relationship. New Leaf Paper's innovative strategy is solving the classic "chicken or the egg" dilemma in the paper industry, in which both the supply side and the demand side of the market were unable to change their behavior. Leveraging the strength and clarity of the company's mission, New Leaf Paper developed a market for truly environmentally responsible papers and served this market through leading product innovation.

Using this model, New Leaf Paper was first to market with 100% post-consumer papers of unparalleled brightness and printing specifications, including the first-ever 100% post-consumer recycled coated papers, book publishing papers and more. Its product innovation and market success has caused major paper manufacturers to take notice and to enhance the environmental design of their products -- indirectly widening New Leaf Paper's environmental impact. Thus, the company's business activity both generates immediate environmental benefits and serves the company's greater mission by pioneering markets and shifting the behavior of its competitors.

An example of New Leaf Paper's innovative strategy is its development of New Leaf Everest, the world's first bright white letterhead paper made with 100% post-consumer waste and processed chlorine free. This paper was developed in partnership with a large customer, Bank of America. Leveraging the bank's buying power, New Leaf Paper worked with its supplier to produce a beautiful letterhead paper using 100% post-consumer waste. New Leaf Everest became the market leader and now five paper companies have followed New Leaf Paper's lead with competing brands. There has been a rapidly growing, competitive market for writing, text, and cover papers made with 100% post-consumer fiber ever since.

New Leaf Paper also led the paper industry in quantifying the benefits of using post-consumer recycled fiber, with the New Leaf Paper Eco Audit. From 1998 through 2006, New Leaf Paper saved the following resources by manufacturing paper using post-consumer recycled fiber instead of virgin fiber:

  • 1,157,765 fully grown trees.
  • 251,790,720 gallons of water.
  • 524,602 million Btu of energy.
  • 55,083,015 pounds of solid waste.
  • 93,080,113 pounds of greenhouse gases.

New Leaf Paper sets out to model the behavior it hopes to see in its competition and in the paper industry in general. Its strategy is one of continuous leadership and innovation in driving better and better environmental specifications in its products without losing sight of meeting the demands of the marketplace. This strategy has been critical in driving the company's financial and social performance. Since its founding, the company has never sold any paper made with 100% virgin fiber, and every product line serves the company mission while meeting the business needs of our customers.