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Rising Up to Advance a More Sustainable Future

Mike Doss has been a part of the paper and wood products industry for more than three decades. He fell in love with it after touring a Michigan paper mill and folding carton plant. Seeing recycled paper turned into products used in everyday life opened his eyes.

“I was really impressed with the process and left thinking this is a real company that I wanted to be a part of," Doss said.

Today, Doss is the president and chief executive officer of Graphic Packaging International and AF&PA board chairman. He’s still proud to represent this industry, especially because of the sustainability story. 

“To me, it represents a platform for a challenging and enriching career, and what makes it more satisfying is that it centers around a renewable resource,” Doss said.

Part of the challenge? Helping the industry reach goals that will enhance our planet.

“Goals are essential to improvement. As leaders in our industry, AF&PA and its members have a responsibility to ensure a future that is not just viable, but also one that is better than [the] current state,” Doss said. “We must continue to challenge the status quo around safety, environmental and social issues within our industry so that we preserve precious resources and remain competitive.

He thinks it’s important for the industry to remain at the forefront of the conversation around sustainability. Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future helps AF&PA members stay on that leading edge. 

“We have an opportunity to model sustainability, not only within our industry, but as an example for other industries,” Doss said. "Today's consumer is much more educated and aware of the science behind the products and services they purchase. They are looking to support brands that align with their ideals and vision for sustainability, and they are very attuned to which companies responsibly manufacture their products.”

Sustainability doesn’t start and stop with improving the environment. Doss believes sustainability is in the hearts and minds of many. And when it comes to the next generation workforce, it's top of mind when it comes to choosing a career.

“As an industry, we are so fortunate that sustainability is at the core of what we do -- people can feel proud to tell their friends and family that they are in the business of making the planet better," Doss said. “We must also remember that a sustainable workforce and a sustainable pipeline of diverse talent are also critical components of the employee experience and how our industry is perceived.”

Doss said companies need to do more than simply be committed to diversity and inclusion. Reflecting on the past year, he learned the importance of putting tangible actions behind the words.

“This means we are talking about the importance of it with our employees and leaders, and in some cases being vulnerable and uncomfortable with what we hear. I like to think that every open role in my company represents an opportunity to become a more diverse organization,” Doss said.

“It also means weaving diversity and inclusion into how we develop leaders and forming affinity groups to ensure that all employees in our industry feel a connection and sense of belonging,” Doss said. “And finally, it’s ensuring that the next generation of leaders can look at the leadership teams of any company in our industry, see themselves as part of that team and have something to aspire to.

The paper and wood products industry will continue to be leaders in sustainability. Commitments to the strength of our people, innovation and better practices will aid us as we strive for a more sustainable future.

Celebrating the progress we made toward a more sustainable future, Doss gave a nod to the people who made it possible.

"We are all ambassadors for our industry and the specific sectors within it,” Doss said. “Taking pride in the fact we are helping support a healthy planet by offering more sustainable and circular fiber-based packaging solutions should permeate every aspect of our job, and influence our interactions with colleagues, neighbors and members of our communities."

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recyclable resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative —Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately 5% of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures about $350 billion in products annually and employs about 925,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of about $65 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 43 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper