GHIC 2020: Global Health & Innovation Conference
April 4-5, 2020
Yale University, New Haven, CT

Unite For Sight's 2011 Global Health & Innovation Conference

Blog Report by Daniel Ting, Unite For Sight Global Health Leadership Intern Alumnus

"The Power of Social Entrepreneurship to Change an Industry," Jeff Mendelsohn, CEO, New Leaf Paper

According to Jeff Mendelsohn, CEO of New Leaf Paper, it is no coincidence that Martin Luther King, Jr. began his famous speech with “I Have a Dream” and not “I Have A Nightmare.” To spur change, leaders must instill a sense of optimism in their followers, a promise for a better tomorrow if we can make sacrifices today.  

Climate change is one of the most important global issues of our time, with a recent BBC report indicating that the warming of the planet has reached statistical significance.  “If the planet had a voice,” says Menselsohn, “it would be screaming constantly.” The paper industry is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States manufacturing sector. The industry is also infamous for generating waste. Indeed, 40 % of landfill waste in the United States is paper waste.

New Leaf Paper was founded in 1998, with a mission to develop a business model whereby profitability and sustainability could flourish together, thus encouraging other paper companies to follow suit. Mendelsohn believes that creating change requires both the proverbial stick as well as carrot. While the stick—in the form of anti-pollutant taxation or legislation—can drive action, the carrot provides a positive solution and convinces companies to proactively seek change.

New Leaf was able to price their products competitively by seeking out paper mills who were willing to invest in new, environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes. In return, these mills were given the right to print paper for the high-volume customers that New Leaf was able to secure. A turning point came in 2003 when Raincoast Books agreed to print the Canadian edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on 100% post consumer recycled, chlorine-free paper. By doing so, millions were made aware not only of the environmental impact of paper production, but also that sustainable paper can be of high quality.  

The cost of environmentally friendly paper production is inevitably going to be more expensive than traditional methods. New Leaf has been able to use its environmental mission as negotiating leverage, and also prints a characteristic environmental footnote on each book, demonstrating to the consumer how much natural resources the book has used. According to the New Leaf website, their sustainable paper production has, compared with conventional methods, prevented the use of over 2.2 million trees, 192 million pounds of greenhouse gases, and 97 million pounds of solid waste. Most tellingly, in 2005, three other paper companies launched similar environmentally friendly paper products, representing a start in whole industry change.     

In recognition of its environmentally conscious business model, New Leaf Paper was recognized as one of 81 founding B Corporations. B corporations, or “Benefit” corporations are different from conventional “C” corporations in that their company mission involves a socially responsible component. Some state legislatures are now introducing tax benefits and other incentives to reward B corporations. For more information on third-party certification including B corporations, click here.

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