Supplier's paper will no longer be used in local plant
By Kaitlin Mayhew -- email@example.com
STRASBURG -- Oasis Brands, the company that handles sales, marketing and contracting for Strasburg-based Mercury Paper Inc., announced Thursday that it plans to sever some ties with supplier Asia Pulp & Paper.
The decision comes on the sidelines of an international sustainable paper campaign championed by nonprofit organizations against APP. The campaigns claimed that the paper plants operated by APP in Indonesia are harvesting valuable ancient hardwoods for tree pulp, and therefore destroying endangered animal habitats in the process.
The raw paper sourced from APP will no longer be used in the Mercury Paper's Paseo-branded products. However, Paseo products only account for a portion of the tissue products produced by Oasis Brands' two manufacturing companies. There are two other lines, the Paseo "Away From Home"' line that is sold directly to businesses such as hotels, and their "Livi" line, which is sold as store-brand tissue products.
Both of these lines will continue to be sourced from APP until further notice, though, according to Kendell Kelton, Oasis Brands representative, the ultimate goal is to transition the business as a whole.
"We continue to work on the timing for each of our lines of business," she said.
Kelton also reported that Oasis Brands will make additional announcements regarding the other lines in "due course."
Philip Rundle, CEO of Oasis Brands, said Thursday that the decision was prompted both by customers who voiced doubts about the sustainability practices of APP and by Mercury Paper employees, who feared for their jobs because of the uproar.
He did, however, say that he continues to have faith in the harvesting standards set forth by APP.
However, until APP implements a strategy that demonstrates a level of sustainability that is acceptable to customers in the U.S., he will not be able to source from them.
"I honestly do believe that the sustainability roadmap that APP has put forward is a good one," Rundle said. "But I cannot fight that fight for them in the U.S.A."
Although he would not confirm where Oasis Brands will be sourcing from in the future, Rundle said he is currently in negotiations with three U.S. paper companies and hopes to sign contracts within 10 to 14 days.
After that point, the complete transition may take from 32 to 60 days to fully go into effect.
"They are all well known heritage mills that have been in the industry for 50 to 60 years," he said. "This is a work in progress. For an announcement this dramatic, things don't happen overnight."
He said there will be no difference in price or pulp quality after switching to the new providers.
Rundle said the changes will require the company to spend some extra money in software and equipment upgrades to accommodate the different tree pulp.
"I can't even think about the cost right now," he said.
Even without the announcement, Rundle said he thinks Oasis Brands and Mercury Paper by default would have remained in business.
But, he said he believes that this announcement is "the right thing at the right time"
"It's about what the employees think. They get scared and worried about their jobs," he said. "Our customers were demanding that we could give them a sustainable product."
Rundle said that the new suppliers, as well as Mercury Paper itself, will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
"[With that certification] I can take instant credibility on the chain of custody," he said.
According to Rundle, most retailers are familiar and comfortable with the requirements for FSC certification.