Pulp and Paper



The pulp and paper industry, which makes products such as office and catalog paper, glossy paper, tissue and paper-based packaging, uses between 33–40% of all industrial wood traded globally.

As one of the largest industrial sectors in the world, the pulp and paper industry has an enormous influence on global forests. This sector, which makes products such as office and catalog paper, glossy paper, tissue, and paper-based packaging, accounts for 13–15% of total wood consumption and uses between 33–40% of all industrial wood traded globally. And the United States is the second-largest paper producer and consumer country in the world.

The forest practices associated with unsustainable pulp and paper operations have had devastating impacts on some of the world’s most ecologically important places and species. Unsustainable pulp and paper operations have contributed to conversion of high conservation value forests, illegal harvesting, human rights and social conflicts, and irresponsible plantation development. Given the global nature of the pulp and paper sector, paper from these unsustainable sources can reach North American markets.

Responsible pulp and paper operations can bring many benefits to forests, local economies, and people, particularly in rural areas. Many pulp and paper companies are demonstrating leadership in responsible forestry and plantation management as well as in clean manufacturing processes and recycled content. US consumers can also play a key role in driving responsible forestry through their paper choices.

Deforestation fronts

A new WWF report on global forest cover and forest loss finds that over 160,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of California, were lost in deforestation hot spots around the world between 2004 and 2017. Deforestation puts human health and the health of our planet at risk. 


Deforestation and Forest Degradation

Some companies in the pulp and paper industry leave an unacceptably large ecological footprint on the planet. Irresponsible harvesting from natural forests, and the establishment of pulp plantations on converted natural forests, can threaten fragile ecosystems and species and cause soil erosion. Some proposed new pulpwood plantations and mills threaten natural habitats in regions with high conservation values and high rates of illegal logging. For example, the remaining natural forests and associated wildlife species in Borneo and Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, the Russian Far East, and the Canadian boreal region are all at risk because of growing demand for pulpwood.

Pulp and Paper Impacts

Disrupted Livelihoods

Especially in areas of the world where land tenure systems are weak, some forestry and plantation development has been associated with significant social conflict, as local or Indigenous communities protest forest licenses issued over areas they claim as their traditional lands. Community conflicts with pulp companies have been especially severe in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Effects of Climate Change

Pulp and Paper Climate Change

Forest impacts associated with unsustainable pulpwood production can negatively impact climate, such as in Sumatra, where carbon is released from deep peatlands that are converted to pulp plantations. In addition, pulp and paper manufacturing is among the world’s most water and energy-intensive industries. Although paper mills do utilize some of their own waste products as fuel, emissions and pollution from paper mills can be significant. The largest share of greenhouse gases released in pulp and paper manufacturing comes from the energy production to power the mills.

Water Quality and Quantity

Making pulp and paper requires vast amounts of water. Paper mills may also discharge many pollutants into surrounding water bodies, which causes damage to aquatic ecosystems and threatens the health of people who live near the mill. New technology has substantially reduced water emissions from many mills, and many companies are showing leadership in this area. Others are not, so major water pollution still occurs.

What WWF Is Doing

Forest where wood is harvested per FSC norms

WWF works to transform the pulp and paper industry into a force for sustaining natural forests, avoiding impacts on Earth’s most ecologically important forests, endangered wildlife, and ecosystems. WWF promotes responsible pulpwood sourcing, clean pulp and paper production, responsible paper consumption, and transparency across the pulp and paper sector.

Promoting Responsible Sourcing and Trade of Paper Products

WWF’s Forests Forward program helps some of the world’s largest paper and paper-based packaging manufacturers and paper buyers to implement best practices around nature-based solutions to deliver on their sustainability and business goals. Working together, WWF and participating businesses develop policies and set targets for more responsible fiber sourcing. This includes setting targets around increased use of recycled fiber, and virgin fiber sourced from Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®)-certified forests and plantations.

Highlighting High-Risk Sources

Increasingly, paper products linked to highly unsustainable practices around the globe are winding up in the US market. In cases where devastating practices are most severe, and where attempts at constructive engagement in the sourcing region have not resulted in improvement, WWF monitors the performance of pulp and paper companies on deforestation activities, violations of human rights, and unsustainable forest management practices. WWF also offers guidance and recommendations to pulp and paper producers and buyers on how to become engaged and committed to more responsible practices along the supply chain. The results are clear: market demand in the US for responsible paper products can influence and improve forest management practices, even in forests halfway around the globe.