CEPI invites Canada to Paper & Beyond

Sylvain Lhôte, Director General of CEPI

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

The 2018 edition of CEPI's annual conference, previously known as European Paper Week will be held on 16 and 17 October 2018.

This year's conference is titled Paper & Beyond and will be organized around themes such as industry innovation, circularity, bioeconomy and policy implications of the current trade and sustainability agendas. PaperAdvance discussed the upcoming event with Sylvain Lhôte, Director General of CEPI, the European association representing the forest fibre and paper industry.

Interestingly set in the Solvay Library an institution named after Ernest Solvay, a notorious Belgian industrialist and chemist. Participants will be able to learn about the latest developments relevant to the industry and to an increasingly large number of associated industry sectors including those active in manufacturing, food, beverages, personal and household care products.

CEPI is expecting around 200 participants based on last year's attendance numbers and chose—a first after 18 years—to reformat its annual gathering. The event will not only be set a few metres from the European Parliament, it will be shorter, allowing busy business people, policy wonks or researchers to spend only one night away from their boards, committees or microscopes.

“Our job is to make sure we take the long view on industry development and this is a distinctive feature of the conference.''

New Format, New Challenges

Sylvain Lhôte explains that the conference remains a unique forum to exchange on recent technological innovation in the context of a complex political context both in Europe and internationally. Many other events of interest are organized across Europe for companies operating pulp and paper mills or producing paper, cardboard, pulp and other bio-based products but none concentrate their attention in this way on major challenges for the forest fibre and paper industry. "Our job is to make sure we take the long view on industry development and this is a distinctive feature of the conference due to our pan-European outlook."

Also unique to the Brussels meeting: "the occasion to take a beer with policy makers and colleagues from 18 national associations representing roughly 22% of world production". A third of the participants to the event are from the Brussels area and most of the others are from Europe. North Americans show a growing interest in the event where roughly one third of the participants are from the private sector, another from political circles and another from universities and research institutions.

History in the Making

Notwithstanding the splendour of the Solvay Library, the choice of the venue is not without interest explains CEPI's Director General. "Not unlike us at CEPI, says Mr. Lhôte humorously, Ernest Solvay was convinced that the future of mankind came from the sharing and diffusion of knowledge." Solvay created what we would now call a science and innovation hub to house various research institutes. "The famous Solvay Councils were held in the precinct—the beautiful Leopold Park—often in the Solvay Library itself and, from 1911 onwards, they were an occasion for scientists and forward looking intellectuals to discuss and solve issues of the time."

Famous guests of Solvay like Max Planck, Marie Curie or Albert Einstein may not wear the 'Paper & Beyond" name tag this October, yet, forward thinking will still be mandatory for participants and speakers coming from the European Commission, the Institute of Sustainable Process, the University of Twente, ICFPA, Sappi, Stora Enso, Iceland (British supermarket chain), VTT, RISI, etc.

Sylvain Lhôte is a firm defender of the idea that competitiveness is linked to innovation in products and manufacturing processes suggesting that the conference was built around this notion. In fact, today more than ever, "the development of new products or services is interwoven with our technological and political responses to the ecological crisis". Renewability is just one subject that should appear on all business people's radars. This concept is a good example of what issues became especially prominent in the last 12 months.

"A stratification of geopolitical events obliges our community to learn from one another and our event is an invitation to do just that," adds Mr. Lhôte. Climate policies (and tragedies), increased regulations on circularity (following the EU's Circular Economy Policy), trade tensions (following protectionist trends) as well as an increased awareness of certain plastic products impact on the environment; "all concur to a very recent tipping point in industrial thinking on the use of natural resources and the production of new material."

The context described by CEPI's Director General is probably not only of interest to those involved with forest fibres. In the wake of a European Commission Directive Proposal on single used plastics dating from May 2018, companies from Nestlé and Procter & Gamble to small and medium-sized soap shops are questioning the status quo and are looking for alternatives.

Towards an Innovative Bioeconomy

"Plastics and in particular single-use plastics have become a huge deal in Brussels and this is not without reason, deplores Mr. Lhôte, the quantity of plastic marine litter in our seas is rising and harm ecosystems and, by extension, our economy and our health." The issue causes widespread concern and was also prominent at the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Canada, this summer. There, five of the G7 nations (excluding the US and Japan), have agreed to an ocean plastics charter. The non-binding agreement may not be enough to save our oceans but indicates a serious worry, one shared by societies around the world.

The inevitable transition to a circular economy is nothing new to CEPI. "Our sector has been working towards an energy and climate transition for years and this is just part of our 2050 target." What lies ahead is also the further development of innovative solutions for multi-use alternatives and alternative single-use products and CEPI often recalls that forest fibre allows bio-based products as much as paper.

“The systemic change ahead on the question of material substitution should encourage the production of the bio-based alternatives we already offer, yet, we expect new opportunities for businesses if appropriate policy frameworks follow.”

"The systemic change ahead on the question of material substitution should encourage the production of the bio-based alternatives we already offer, yet, we expect new opportunities for businesses if appropriate policy frameworks follow." Sylvain Lhôte is to hold an informal press conference just before the opening of "Paper & Beyond". He is likely to evoke this "new field of opportunity with unlimited potential for an industry thriving on biosourced and recycled material".

Glimpse at the Program

Mr. Lhôte describes the program of the two-day conference as one built along three streams: a policy stream where we will discuss how, in Europe and beyond, society can support the industry and how, in return, the industry can help society attain its goals; a market stream where the needs and convenience of consumers take centre stage and where we explore developments in different regional markets, and; a technology stream which includes a session held in conjunction with ProviDES, a research and innovation project within the Biobased Industries Initiative.

CEPI’s largest event is certainly looking into the future with paper and beyond.

"These streams all meet in the end, says Sylvain Lhôte, and one cannot discuss advancements in science and technology without exploring for example how the EU or state funded technology can help Europe achieve its low carbon bioeconomy targets or how this can also benefit consumers." This year, CEPI's largest event is certainly looking into the future with paper and beyond and there are very good chances this will be echoed in the years to come.

For more on the upcoming event in Brussels, please visit : Paper & Beyond.

Paper & Beyond 2018 will present novel innovation from the best and brightest young researchers from across the continent, in depth policy analysis from bioeconomy and Circular Economy leaders, news on the latest market data and technology shaping the Europe’s circular bioeconomy transition and last, but not least, unique networking opportunities.

For registration: https://www.paperandbeyond.com/registration-1

Mathieu Régnier, Journalist,
Paper Advance