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Sustainability and Equity: A Conversation with WestRock’s Chief Sustainability Officer

For Brandi Colander, sustainability is really about people.

As chief sustainability officer at WestRock, she recognizes the important role we all play when it comes to sustainability and our relationship with renewable resources.

“As human beings, our relationship with nature is inextricably linked to our relationships with each other and our role in the ecosystem and the economy,” she said. “I believe our need to make a living off [of] renewable natural resources can be a source of dignity and a way to build a better future. The human factor is a pivotal theme for me. I believe that sustainability is about understanding our role in the ecosystem and operating with the full life cycle in mind.”

Colander recently joined WestRock’s sustainability team and comes with a background in law and policy, and experience that covers government, nonprofit and private sectors. 

Colander’s vision for sustainability at WestRock? Ambitious but simple.

“It’s about people and it’s how we do business every day," she noted.

Another core element of her vision? Equity.

“Over the years, my studies and work have revealed that equity is critical to sustainability. I have spent a lot of time in rooms where there weren’t women or people of color, and I know that my voice allows others to pull up a chair to the table. Through my policy work I learned the power of bringing diverse voices to the table and listening to better understand their perspectives,” she said.

Colander added, “the human voice and the equitable perspective are often missing in our sustainability work.”

When it comes to diving deeper into the future of sustainability at WestRock, Colander points to their recent Pulse Packaging Survey, which shows consumers agree that it is important for packaging to be sustainably manufactured.

“Here at WestRock, sustainability is not about compliance or reducing our impact. It is not a catch-all or something we only talk about on Earth Day. It’s how we do business—and why. We have an opportunity to engage the community in understanding how we create the packaging they rely on every day,” Colander said.

As Colander begins her journey as WestRock’s chief sustainability officer, she is excited to join a company that has a “proud legacy in responsible forestry and a promising future at the center of the circular economy.”

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