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A Sense of Belonging in the Paper and Wood Products Industry

Our industry is filled with people who bring different talents and perspectives to the table. Which is why we are focused on advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within our industry.

Frequently though, we forget an essential word: belonging. We are an industry that represents hardworking individuals from all backgrounds who make the essential paper and wood products Americans use every day. It’s important that we are fostering an environment where all employees feel that they belong.

Dr. Maja James, PHR, SHRM-CP, Senior Director Human Resources at Greif Inc., understands this need for a sense of belonging.

Joining the industry in 2018, Dr. James was looking for a career that would value her educational and professional background. While exploring her options, she found Greif and felt welcomed by the services they offered and the passion for supporting the essential workforce.

“Here at Greif, we strive to create a sense of community and belonging,” Dr. James said. “We focus on building a company whose support and care stretches beyond our colleagues and into the lives of their families and communities.”

What does this support look like? “We focus on safety in our buildings and in the communities we serve. In addition, we continuously work to have an environment that is increasingly inclusive, where our team feels valued, engaged and respected,” Dr. James shared.

Greif has employee-led resource groups, which aim to foster a diverse and inclusive space. Dr. James serves as the President of BEE@Greif, Black Employees Engaging at Greif.

When it comes to creating a diverse and inclusive space, Dr. James touched on why we must amplify different voices within our industry.

“We have a moral and business responsibility to amplify the voices of our colleagues. By doing so, we create an environment where creativity is welcomed, voices are heard, and workplace issues are viewed through the lenses of multiple colleagues driving change within the organization.”

These diverse voices inspire Dr. James each day in her own work.

“The experience with COVID has made more evident the importance and value that our essential workers bring,” Dr. James said. “Each day, they show up and give their full selves. It pushes me to do my best in providing support to our remarkable and inspirational team.”

If there is one thing that Dr. James wishes people knew about the industry, it would be this:

“In this industry, you truly can bring your whole and true self to work. The ideas and thoughts of our colleagues are not only welcomed, but also invited. Not to mention, it is so much fun!”

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