At Resolute Forest Products, environmental performance is managed at the local level with oversight by the organization’s top management. Guided by the company’s Environmental Policy, our environment coordinators and mill managers have on-the-ground responsibility for compliance with local laws and regulations and for facilitating continuous improvement. Corporate environment managers work closely with each mill environment coordinator to identify and manage the issues most relevant to specific operations.
On an annual basis, each facility sets a water reduction and fiber loss reduction target. In addition, facilities can set additional targets on issues most relevant to their specific local issues. This approach was chosen to reflect the different geographic and technological realities of each operation. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are monitored at both the mill and corporate levels. At the mill level, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water usage, air emissions and waste generation are the most material areas of focus. We monitor our performance closely to maintain continuous improvement across our key performance indicators and conduct regular environmental risk audits as part of our proactive, preventive approach to environmental management. Information on these KPIs is aggregated, analyzed and, in some cases, reported to organizations such as the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).
Our pulp and paper mills, sawmills and woodlands operations are covered by environmental management systems (EMS) – the majority certified to stringent ISO 14001 standards.1 In 2016, we maintained ISO 14001 EMS certification at already-certified pulp and paper mills, wood products facilities and Canadian woodlands with the exception of our Produits Forestiers Mauricie (Quebec) sawmill, which was temporarily closed during its recertification audit. We also obtained for the first time ISO 14001 certification at our Atikokan and Ignace (Ontario) sawmills.
During the year, Resolute also began transitioning to the new ISO 14001:2015 environmental management system certification at our operations, working to comply with the increasingly stringent and far-reaching requirements of the standard. The EMS at our Thunder Bay (Ontario) pulp and paper mill is among the first in Canada to be successfully recertified under the ISO 14001:2015 standard, which requires better integration with other business activities, the identification of compliance obligations including stakeholder requirements, and emphasizes continuous improvement and performance monitoring.
In 2017, we will be seeking certification for our Menominee (Michigan) pulp mill and plan to conduct a gap analysis for eventual ISO 14001 EMS certification of our three U.S.-based chip production facilities and the two Atlas Tissue mills.
Proactive Approach to Preventing Environmental Incidents
Our employees have worked collaboratively across all levels of the organization to instill a preventive and proactive approach to environmental management, including developing and implementing environmental risk audits designed to identify potential non-compliances or environmental risks before incidents occur. In 2016, we completed the first full three-year cycle of environmental risk audits at all of our pulp and paper mills.
Other initiatives include employee outreach and education tools to support a culture change towards environmental incident prevention, rather than reactive management. Such initiatives include a 360 degree risk assessment system, environmental training for supervisors and managers, one-on-one environmental meetings with employees, and a robust near-miss reporting system based on our successful health and safety incident management approach.
In the rare event that an environmental incident does occur, our operations and Environment group review all incident investigations and action plans. Our incident management approach includes a comprehensive tracking system to ensure efficient reporting, as well as specific procedures for the internal communication of environmental incidents with the purpose of sharing key learnings between facilities. A formal investigation is always required so that efficient preventive measures can be put in place.
In late 2012, our reporting procedures changed dramatically following a senior management request for more transparency and consistency in environmental incident communications. Accordingly, the Environment group developed a policy that includes reporting methods and parameters to support information sharing and continuous improvement. In order to compare "apples to apples," we now classify significant (by volume) spills uniformly across operations, using the most stringent local laws and regulations as our baseline. Notices of violation (the documents issued by government entities to inform organizations of their violations as well as the associated administrative penalties, fines or sanctions) are also addressed through this policy framework.
In 2016, we recorded 29 environmental incidents across the company, and we continue to work toward our long-term goal of zero incidents. Our 2017 target is 38 incidents or less.
In its financial statements, the company is required to record accidental releases of hazardous substances significant enough to risk damage to human and environmental health, or that have potential liability and reputational consequences. Between 2012 and 2016, Resolute recorded no such incidents. The company is also required to disclose in our published financial statements any fines of material significance for non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations, none of which were reported between 2012 and 2016.2
Consistent knowledge transfer and the sharing of best practices following an environmental incident have revolutionized the way that Resolute’s operations investigate root causes and develop preventive practices. Operations where a similar incident might occur must evaluate their risk and implement preventive measures that are tracked at the corporate level. Regular conference calls and individual follow-up meetings have been instrumental in the success of this preventive and proactive approach, which represents a successful cultural shift for the company.
1 Includes 17 ISO 14001-certified pulp, paper and tissue mills, 16 wood products facilities, 1 hydroelectric generation and transmission network, and 7 woodlands operations out of Resolute’s 20 pulp, paper and tissue mills, 22 wood products facilities, 1 hydroelectric generation and transmission network, and 8 woodlands operations.
2 Material environmental contingencies are disclosed in the footnotes to the company's consolidated financial statements in its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2016. Certain additional proceedings are also disclosed under the heading "Item 3 – Legal Proceedings" in the Form 10-K.