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Women’s Contributions to Advancing a Sustainable Industry

At Ahlstrom-Munksjö, women are a vital part of the organization -- from running paper machines to developing the next sustainable product. 

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Natasha Chorlton in safety gear in a managed forest
Natasha Chorlton in a managed forest

It’s why the company has advanced gender equality as a key initiative. They believe women and girls around the world can help build a more sustainable future for the paper and wood products industry-- and for everyone else. 

For Ahlstrom-Munksjö, that starts with helping their women employees thrive in their roles and inspiring the next generation.

Natasha Chorlton, Manager of Circular Economy and Recyclability, said she always had an interest in sustainability. 

Her career began in ecology, then she landed in the packaging industry where sustainability was rapidly growing in importance. 

“I always had an idea of helping different companies with their sustainability work but it wasn’t a well-known career at the time," Chorlton explained. “Using the value of what sustainability can bring to the business, customers and consumers through value selling and partnerships really helps drive change. That helps ensure the good focus on sustainability continues. This is very rewarding!”

Chorlton thinks more focus is needed to continue in bringing women to roles focused on sustainability. She emphasized the many career paths sustainability offers.

“Let’s raise awareness before university level,” she said. “It can be quite challenging to get the first job or experience in a sustainability role, and I would like to see companies introducing more entry-level positions to help get young women into the field.”

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Lisa Schultz inspecting a piece of paper
Lisa Schultz inspecting paper fibers

Lisa Schultz, Product Development Engineer, has also seen a lack of women in manufacturing during her career in papermaking. But that hasn’t stopped her from evolving in her career path or dampened her love for papermaking.

“I have found a great sense of accomplishment working in the manufacturing setting. Also through working with our amazing employees to solve problems and bring new business to our manufacturing facilities,” Schultz shared. 

Schultz found her love for papermaking and engineering through an enthusiastic chemistry teacher and two aunts who worked in the industry. 

She encourages other young women to consider a career in papermaking, as it offers a way to solve problems and create sustainable products for everyday life.

“I am passionate about the work I do in the paper industry because I have a love for nature - beginning with local loggers who provide trees from the sustainably managed forests in my area, the same areas that I use for my personal recreation and enjoying the outdoors,” Schultz said. “Likewise, it is important that the products I help create can be recycled and composted to ensure the cycle of sustainability comes full circle.”

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 recycle 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 four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures nearly $300 billion in products annually and employs approximately 950,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $60 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 states. Visit AF&PA online at afandpa.org or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper.