For a long time, Cascades worked quietly behind the scenes ensuring its activities showed respect for the environment, people, its partners and its employees. Since 1964, the company has progressively become a multinational that asserts its leadership position in the area of sustainable development – and today asserts it openly, though that was not always the case. Why not? Simply because it was not very long ago that talking and thinking about sustainable development was not part of everyday business.
This propensity towards sustainability has its roots in the history of the company, as my colleague Charles Coutu explains in his post, A multinational with a human touch. After the Lemaire family, the founders of the company, were singled out for their unusual methods for the era – reuse and recycle – they were able to convince thousands of people to join them in their vision and dare to do things differently.
At the start, it was by necessity that Cascades integrated sustainable development into its operating methods. Until 2010, in fact, when we agreed it was not enough. Instead of gazing over our shoulder at our past achievements, we decided to change direction and become more proactive. Cascades now sets out specific objectives for the future that are at the heart of an ambitious action plan in which our progress is reported transparently.
To ensure the legitimacy and consistency of the project, Cascades has structured its approach carefully by forming a committee with representatives from all its sectors, by working in consultation with stakeholders and by entrusting an independent third party to evaluate its performance. Energy, water, waste, the health and welfare of employees, yield on assets – these are just some of the areas targeted for improvement.
Sustainable development must come from real conviction. Yes, sustainability can translate into substantial savings for a company. But an action plan based solely on cost-cutting and short-term benefits, poorly integrated and without fundamental values, too often leads to the “greenwashing” that taints the field and undermines the credibility of those who are sincere in their commitment to sustainability.