Carbon Footprint

The carbon footprint of a product is the sum of all the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with its entire life cycle. For pulp and paper, it goes from the forest to manufacturing to the recycling center to landfill  minus sequestered or avoided emissions. Measuring and analyzing Resolute’s carbon footprint is an essential step in reducing the environmental impact of our operations.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

GHG emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), are mostly generated by the combustion of fossil fuels at various stages in the papermaking process. Methane is also produced when paper and other waste decompose in landfills.

Resolute relies on the Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for global warming potential (GWP) rates over a 100-year horizon in order to convert non-carbon-dioxide emissions into the standard measure of carbon accounting: carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). 

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is a tool used widely by governments and businesses to calculate and manage GHG emissions. It provides standardized methods and industry-specific calculation tools for corporate accounting and reporting. The long-standing partnership of the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) works with a variety of global stakeholders to tackle climate change with GHG inventories and management tools. Visit www.ghgprotocol.org for more information.

To standardize and provide transparency in reporting, operational boundaries are set GHG emissions are tracked under three scopes defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol:

  • SCOPE 1 includes "direct emissions," which come from sources controlled by the company, such as the combustion of fuel at the mill to generate heat to dry the paper or to create electricity.
  • SCOPE 2 encompasses "indirect emissions" (the result of company activities occurring at sources controlled by another company) associated with the consumption of purchased electricity. Scope 2 emissions physically occur at the facility where electricity is generated. Resolute’s electricity suppliers provide us with their grid emission factors, which the company then includes in its scope 2 emission data. The grid emission factors for 2019 were updated and confirmed by our suppliers in 2020. Final GHG emission data is made public following the completion of Resolute’s corporate GHG verification and audit. 
  • SCOPE 3 is an optional category used to report all other indirect emissions not covered in scope 2, such as greenhouse gas emissions from the production of purchased materials, or transportation activities in vehicles not owned or controlled by the company.

We report GHG emissions for all of our pulp, paper and tissue manufacturing operations, but not for our wood products facilities as these operations have a comparatively small carbon footprint. Resolute’s wood products facilities represent less than 5% of our total annual GHG emissions. Facilities representing less than 5% of a company's total annual GHG emissions can be excluded from GHG reporting, as permitted by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which allows exclusions of up to 5% of total emissions. In March 2021, we committed to including the previously excluded wood products facilities’ GHG emissions in our GHG inventory by 2022.

In March 2021, we also announced a commitment to reduce absolute GHG emissions (scope 1 and 2) by 30% against 2015 levels by 2025. This new target builds on the company’s 83.4% reduction in absolute GHG emissions from year-2000 levels, two-thirds of which reflect reductions in emission intensity. By achieving its target, the company will have reduced its emissions by nearly 700,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents per year compared to its 2015 level.

The year 2015 was chosen as a baseline in order to take into account the significant investments that have been made over the past 15 years to reduce our GHG emissions. For more information on these investments, please consult our Climate Change and Energy page. We sold the Fairmont (Virginia) pulp mill in 2018, the Catawba (South Carolina) pulp and paper mill in 2019, as well as our Augusta (Georgia) newsprint mill in 2020. Our Thorold (Ontario) newsprint mill was idled indefinitely before being sold in 2020, but remains in our GHG inventory. In addition, GHG emissions from our landfill sites were added to our inventory in 2000.

The Carbon Cycle, Carbon Sinks and Avoided Emissions

Forests both store and release significant amounts of carbon as part of a natural cycle. Responsible forest management not only reduces a forest’s potential as a carbon source, it can also increase the effect of its carbon storage capacity. Carbon moves in and out of the atmosphere through a natural process called the carbon cycle. Some years, forests hold more carbon than they release. When they capture more CO2, they are called carbon sinks.

The process of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it for a long time is called sequestration. Trees store carbon by converting CO2 into plant material through photosynthesis, which uses the energy from the sun and releases oxygen. When a tree is harvested and milled into lumber, a small amount of that carbon escapes, but most of it remains trapped within the cellular structure of the wood, effectively prolonging the effect of sequestration.

Wood products, as well as books, magazines and other durable paper products, store the carbon that began in the forest, and the recycling of paper avoids the methane emissions that occur at the landfill. These carbon sinks and avoided emissions can be subtracted from the emissions generated in the life cycle of wood products. 

Forest Carbon Cycle

diagram illustrating the forest carbon cycle

For more information, check out our blog post on Avoiding Carbon Emissions by Building with Wood and the article that details 8 Things to Know About the Boreal Forest and Carbon.

"Cradle-to-Grave" Carbon Footprint

The diagram below illustrates the operational boundaries of the GHG emissions and carbon sinks attributed to the manufacture, delivery and end-use of our products.

diagram of operational boundaries


Tracking and Reporting Our Carbon Footprint

Since 2006, we have reported our carbon footprint — including scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions — to the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), an independent not-for-profit organization representing close to 600 institutional investors with a combined asset base of $110 trillion. On their behalf, the CDP compiles information from the world's largest companies on the business risks and opportunities presented by climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Visit www.cdp.net for more information.

In CDP’s 2020 climate change program, Resolute scored a “B-”, placing us at the management level. CDP places companies at the management level in recognition of their actions to reduce GHG emissions. The score also indicates we have taken steps to assess environmental risk to our business and implemented actions to manage those risks. Resolute has reported our carbon footprint to CDP since 2006, beginning with scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions, and adding scope 3 (supply chain) emissions in 2015.

For detailed information on how Resolute calculates our carbon footprint, including scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, download our CDP Climate Change Disclosure available at www.cdp.net.

The composition of our carbon footprint is illustrated in the chart below. Sequestered or avoided emissions are omitted.

bar graphs showing Resolute's greenhouse gas emissions since 2000 at its pulp and paper mills

Scope 1 and scope 2 emissions are the focus of our emission-reduction programs. They are tracked and reported on a monthly basis. We also track GHG emissions related to our supply chain, or scope 3 emissions. They too represent an important aspect of our carbon inventory. We have committed to implementing scope 3 standard GHG accounting and, in 2015, enhanced the disclosure of scope 3 emissions by reporting all relevant scope 3 emission categories to the CDP.

In March 2021, we committed to further integrating sustainability practices in our supply chain by working with our suppliers and related stakeholders to develop scope 3 GHG emission reduction commitments. 

Partnering With Our Industry Associations

Resolute welcomes the opportunity to work with others to support global carbon emission reduction efforts. As a member of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), we have signed on to its "30 by 30” Climate Change Challenge, which commits the Canadian forest products industry to removing 30 megatons of CO2 per year by 2030 – more than 13% of the Canadian government’s total emission reduction target. FPAC estimates that from 2015 to 2018, the industry increased annual net carbon removals by 8.3 megatonnes, nearly 1/3 of "30 by 30" target. In the United States, we are working with the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) to support its goal of achieving at least a 20% reduction of members’ GHG emissions from 2005 to 2020. Together, AF&PA members achieved a 23.2% reduction of absolute GHG emissions in 2019 compared to 2005.

Joining the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition

In July 2016, Resolute became an inaugural Canadian member of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC), a voluntary global partnership that brings together leaders to help address climate change by putting a price on carbon. Resolute supports carbon pricing policies as a market mechanism that drives competitiveness, creates jobs, encourages innovation and delivers meaningful emission reductions. A market price for carbon is currently included in decision-making at our facilities. We advocate, however, for an equivalent carbon price across North American jurisdictions to avoid carbon leakage and competitive issues.