The human race is an intelligent species astounding the world with its creativity and innovations. We, as humans, have made rapid advancements over the last few hundred years and have evolved in just a blink of an eye.
Our briskness to adopt new technologies have made our lives better, but at the same time, we have collectively disrupted the harmony of nature. Thus, paying attention to environmental concerns has become increasingly critical, not just on an individual front but largely for C-suite executives and investment professionals. Manufacturing products responsibly has been the aim of the responsible industrialist who believes in the idea of creating a long-term ecological, social and economic-environmental impact.
That being said, that is exactly where Skookumchuck Pulp Inc. comes into the picture. With sustainability at its heart, the company is a diversified manufacturer of pulp and paper.
Skookumchuck Pulp Inc is part of Paper Excellence Canada which is a business unit of the Paper Excellence Group. The Group leverages its operational excellence and sustainable, high-quality, cost-effective products to deliver high-quality pulp and paper to its customers around the world.
With a vision to be profitable and sustainable, its General Manager, Gavin Baxter, believes in providing an environmentally and ecologically beneficial product.
To know more about their eco-friendly venture, kindly delve into Skookumchuck Pulp Inc.’s insightful journey!
A Supporter of the Local Community
Commissioned in 1968, Skookumchuck Pulp has seen substantial modernization work making the mill one of Paper Excellence Canada’s most sophisticated facilities. The mill is a leading producer of high-quality Northern Bleached Softwood Kraft pulp. Customers use these pulps worldwide to make a wide variety of products, from tissue and paper towels to fine writing paper.
Located on the western edge of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the East Kootenay region of British Columbia, Skookumchuck Pulp Inc also makes a significant economic contribution to the local community. It supports 280 full-time employees and creates 1,000 indirect jobs in British Columbia. Overall, it makes $400 million in economic contribution nationally and contributes $400,000 annually in local tax revenue.
The mill also meets a variety of environmental goals. Ninety percent of the mill’s energy comes from renewable sources, and it has made a 69 percent reduction in greenhouse gases since 1990. Seventy-seven percent of power use is self-generated green electricity. From a fiber perspective, 100 percent of its fiber supply is covered by the Due Diligence System and is certified to all globally recognized chain-of-custody standards.
Gavin Baxter – An Erudite of Paper Manufacturing
Gavin Baxter, Skookumchuck Pulp Inc.’s General Manager, earned a degree in chemical engineering and then started working at the mill in 1989 as a Process Engineer. Over the next 28 years, he worked in all areas of the pulp mill. In 1999, he became Technical Manager overseeing all the technical aspects of the pulp mill, such as performance improvement, environmental regulations, and pulp quality. In 2011, he became the Power Recovery manager looking after the power recovery operation at the mill. In 2012, he became Maintenance Manager, which meant overseeing all mill maintenance and working on mill team building. In 2014, he was named deputy general manager, and in 2017, he was appointed mill General Manager. Gavin has spent his career at the Skookumchuck mill, and he knows it inside and out!
When asked how he contributed to the company’s success, Gavin had two operational examples. First, he has done a lot of work on water reduction—reducing the amount of water the mill consumes, which is important from an environmental perspective. The mill now takes much less water from the river than it did in the 90s. Second, in 1993 a major upgrade took place, and Gavin was very involved in that. Over the last 29 years, he’s worked with employees to make sure that all the potential of those upgrades is being accessed. That means utilizing the capacity of the mill, improving the cost structure, increasing pulp production, and reducing chemical costs.
When asked how he contributed to the company’s success, Gavin also had an HR example. He’s a supporter of getting people trained to make sure they have the skills required to do the job, and he tries to support people working together to solve problems. “I try to get people engaged with the problem and develop their own solution so we can share the glory around,” said Gavin. His intimate knowledge of the mill helps him be successful as a General Manager because there are not many aspects of the mill that he doesn’t understand.
Providing Excellent Softness to Fine Paper
Paper Excellence’s BC pulp mills produce high-strength NBSK pulp. Skookumchuck Pulp Inc.’s NBSK contains mainly fine fibers and exhibits fast refining response; it is appreciated by tissue makers for its excellent softness and water absorption with decent bulk. It is used most in tissues and fine specialty papers.
While emphasizing the core value, Gavin states, “Employee health and safety is our overriding priority – all the time and at all our locations.” The company strives to continuously improve its environmental performance and reduce its ecological footprint – with a particular focus on sustainable wood fiber and green energy.
He adds, “We are an economic pillar and a partner in our operating communities – contributing to local prosperity and well-being and building constructive relationships.” The company takes a long-term view – acquiring operations with the potential to deliver good returns and investing in the productivity and other improvements needed to secure their future. “Our success is tied to the quality of our products and services – and to the value they deliver for our customers,” shares Gavin.
Aiming for Efficiency and Reliability
Right now, the mill is focused on improving its process automation to streamline the process of making pulp and try to get as much possible out of the mill. Gavin believes the goal is to run the mill more efficiently and reliably. Paper Excellence Canada is investing in the Skookumchuck mill to upgrade aging assets which will improve reliability and performance and let the mill utilize modern technology.
Gavin’s advice is that you need people who are engaged, who have an interest in improving the operation, and who are willing to move the business forward. He wants people who aren’t happy with the status quo and are constantly looking for ways to improve the mill. He’s always looking to increase efficiency and safety. “I have a passion for process improvement. I’m looking within and industry, and maybe even outside the industry, to see what others are doing.” Gavin also stresses that it’s vital that employees feel that they are part of the team striving for the same goals.
A Visionary Approach
Skookumchuck Pulp Inc is part of Paper Excellence Canada which is a business unit of the Paper Excellence Group. The Group leverages its operational excellence and sustainable, high-quality, cost-effective products to deliver high-quality pulp and paper to its customers around the world. Founded in 2006, The Group has grown through acquisitions, first in Canada, then later in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. The Group’s growing global leadership team builds on the success of its expansion throughout Canada while developing a roadmap for future growth by implementing the company’s vision: to be a profitable, sustainable, and globally competitive fiber products provider that is environmentally and economically beneficial to all stakeholders.
Endorsements to Follow
Below are a couple of recognitions the company received in 2021:
ONE OF THE CORPORATE KNIGHTS 50 BEST CORPORATE CITIZENS IN CANADA. This is the 15th time the company has been included in this authoritative ranking.
SMARTWAY® EXCELLENCE AWARD US ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 2021
Recognizing industry leadership in freight supply chain environmental performance and energy efficiency.