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 some 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. U.S. 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 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, Southern Chile and the Atlantic forest region in Brazil 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 Brazil and Sumatra.

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 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. In fact, the pulp and paper industry is the single largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in developed countries. Paper mills may also discharge many pollutants in surrounding water bodies, which causes damage to aquatic ecosystems and threatens the health of people that 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

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 Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) works in a solutions-oriented way with some of the world’s largest paper and paper-based packaging manufacturers and paper buyers to develop policies and set targets for more responsible fiber sourcing. This includes engaging with suppliers and setting targets around increased use of recycled fiber, and virgin fiber sourced from credibly certified forests.

Highlighting High Risk Sources

Increasingly, paper products linked to highly unsustainable practices around the globe are winding up in the U.S. 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 has publicized the forest destruction associated with specific products or companies. This includes some tissue products associated with tiger habitat destruction in Sumatra. The results are clear: market demand in the U.S. for responsible paper products can influence and improve forest management practices, even in forests halfway around the globe.

Improving Plantation Forestry

WWF works to identify, promote and communicate better practices for plantation design and management, through initiatives such as its New Generation Plantations Project. These programs offer an opportunity for the forest products industry, regulators, financiers and other stakeholders to work collectively to develop and promote the adoption of best practices in plantation forestry.

Transparency Across the Pulp and Paper Sector

WWF has developed free tools such as the Paper Company Environmental Index and the Check Your Paper Database that encourage paper producers to demonstrate transparency by reporting on the environmental parameters associated with their paper products, and for paper buyers to evaluate papers and paper companies.

How You Can Help