As we remarked last year, paper’s importance remains undeniable even in this digital age. It features in almost all aspects of our daily lives. One might assume that the geopolitical instability and lingering supply issues from the COVID-19 pandemic would put a damper on demand. However, forecasts suggest that the international pulp and paper market will expand from $354.39 billion in 2022 to $372.7 billion in 2029.
While the global pandemic profoundly influenced every industry, most pulp and paper companies are successfully shaking off the effects. The gains made in e-commerce packaging have remained, and some firms have expanded them further. Nevertheless, public health restrictions persisted in some countries through part of 2022, and supply lines have not recovered fully. Moreover, inflation and labor shortages are affecting the whole world’s economy. But the pulp and paper industry remains robust, and some familiar faces have posted record profits. Considering these dynamics, let’s delve into the top ten pulp and paper manufacturers of 2022.
Retaining its global prominence in the paper sector, International Paper remains at the forefront of the industry and the top of our list. The company’s 2022 annual statement reveals that its operations mainly revolve around two crucial segments: Industrial Packaging, contributing to 82% of its revenue, and Global Cellulose Fibers, constituting 15% of its earnings. Furthermore, with a team of over 39,000 personnel, it is one of the paper sector’s largest employers. In 2022, the company’s containerboard production capacity reached an impressive 13.8 million tons, solidifying its position as the top containerboard producer in the United States.
International Paper is an industry leader and a strong advocate for sustainability. The company’s green initiative is commendable, with plans to rejuvenate 1 million acres of ecologically crucial forestland by 2030 and a commitment to sourcing all its fiber from forests under sustainable management. Moreover, International Paper’s Savannah Mill in Georgia unveiled the Beneficial Use Project in 2022, aiming to convert process waste streams into farming liming agents. These compounds help farmers balance soil pH and supplement nutrients essential for cultivating corn, cotton, peanuts, onions, and soybeans. The initiative successfully diverted approximately 44,428 tons of waste from landfills through the course of the year.
WestRock celebrated a remarkable fiscal year in 2022, characterised by record financial achievements and successful navigation of shifting global conditions – it was a close second to our #1! Net sales and income both soared by 13%, reaching $21.3 billion and $945 million, respectively. The company remains a huge employer in the industry, with over 50,000 team members in 2022.
In line with its focus on maximising return on investment, WestRock completed the acquisition of the remaining stake in Grupo Gondi, signalling a strategic move to capture growth in the Latin American market. Furthermore, it is planning the construction of a greenfield box plant in Longview, Washington, expected to be completed sometime in 2023.
WestRock has reaffirmed its commitment to sustainability and innovation, setting ambitious targets for 2030 that include improving carbon emissions, water usage, and sustainable forestry practices. The company also continues to advance its diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging initiatives. Among its recent accomplishments, it has been hailed as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.” and has earned a spot on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for North America for three consecutive years.
Smurfit Kappa, a leading European packaging company, experienced a successful 2022, with a 27% revenue increase to $13.7 billion. The robust performance resulted from the company’s strategic investments, innovative customer solutions, and sustainability initiatives, backed by a workforce of 48,000.
Smurfit Kappa remains dedicated to sustainability, evident in its climate emission targets receiving SBTi validation, and the company’s recognition as an industry leader by Sustainalytics. Innovation drives the firm, as it delivers circular, fit-for-purpose packaging solutions through its Better Planet Packaging initiative. A recent highlight is the launch of the Design2Market Factory, an innovative facility providing swift, flexible product development and market launch for customers.
UPM, a global industry leader in renewable and recyclable materials, reported a remarkable 2022 with a 19% rise in revenue to $12.5 billion. The year marked significant progress in its transformative growth projects and sustainable investments. Major developments included the near-completion of a significant investment project in Uruguay, set to increase UPM’s pulp production capacity by over 50% to around 5.8 million tons annually.
The launch of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant further strengthens UPM’s commitment to carbon-free energy. The company is also advancing its biochemical refinery project in Leuna, Germany, the world’s first wood-based biochemicals plant. UPM’s Biofore strategy focuses on sustainability, with ambitious targets for climate mitigation and biodiversity protection, substantiated by a track record of real action. Through innovative and renewable materials, UPM helps customers achieve their sustainability goals.
Stora Enso demonstrated significant growth in the last fiscal year, with a 14.9% YoY increase in group revenue, pulling in about $12.5 billion – the exact same amount as the other Finnish company on our list. Reflecting its commitment to innovation, Stora Enso has focused its strategy on growth and sustainability, underpinned by continuous advancements in renewable, low-carbon, and circular products. With its purpose of replacing fossil-based materials with renewable ones, the company is committed to both social and environmental sustainability.
Stora Enso employs a workforce of roughly 21,000. The team’s impressive achievements are driven by a decentralised business model promoting agility and operational excellence. Stora Enso’s commitment to sustainable practices aligns with the UN Global Compact’s ten principles and the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The company remains an example of balancing growth with sustainable practices.
Oji Holdings Corporation, a leading company in the pulp and paper industry, employs over 35,600 individuals and generated revenue of $12.2 billion in 2022. The firm’s primary operations include industrial materials, household and consumer products, functional materials, forest resources, and printing and communication media.
In their quest for green innovation, Oji Holdings is focusing on developing new materials derived from wood fiber, venturing into the medical and healthcare field using their forest resources and proprietary technologies, and creating eco-friendly paper products. The company is harnessing its core technologies, developed over its 150-year history, to create a recycling-oriented society and contribute to sustainable forest management. This commitment to sustainability and innovation places Oji Holdings at the forefront of addressing global environmental challenges.
Mondi Group, an international paper and packaging firm, showcased robust resilience in 2022 amidst significant global challenges. Achieving a remarkable 28% increase in revenue from 2021, Mondi hauled in an impressive $9.54 billion. This success is attributable to the relevance of its products, its integrated low-cost business model, and strong financial flexibility. In terms of innovation, Mondi prioritises the growth of its packaging businesses, focusing on sustainable products and eCommerce solutions.
The company’s expertise and broad product portfolio enable customers to make progress toward a circular economy. Sustainability is a crucial aspect of Mondi’s strategy. Their Mondi Action Plan 2030 (MAP2030) outlines their commitment to circular-driven solutions and climate action. They are among the first in their sector to have their Net-Zero greenhouse gas emissions reduction target validated by the Science-Based Targets initiative.
Nine Dragons Paper, a leading paper manufacturer in Asia, demonstrated resilience in the challenging economic climate of FY2022, marked by residual COVID-19 restrictions in China, geopolitical unrest, and high inflation. Despite these hardships, the company strategically maximised operation efficiency and preserved a steady sales volume, resulting in revenue of $9.1 billion, up 4.8% from 2021.
In response to raw material shortages, Nine Dragons embarked on integrated pulp and paper mill projects to increase wood pulp, recycled pulp, and wood fiber production capacities, which will enhance the company’s upstream capabilities. With over 20,000 workers and a current paper production capacity of 18 million tons, Nine Dragons is investing in new production facilities to add 4.7 million tons of capacity and boost high-margin products. Maintaining a commitment to sustainability, the company follows environmentally responsible practices and seeks to implement stronger low-carbon governance measures.
Nippon Paper Industries, a leading global paper manufacturing conglomerate, shows remarkable resilience amidst an unpredictable global economic landscape. The company still faces lingering challenges from a global pandemic, and the persistent war in Ukraine has destabilised its supply chain. Nevertheless, Nippon Paper posted $7.5 billion in revenue in 2022. The company, however, has faced increased raw materials and fuel costs that have affected profitability, leading to price adjustments for various products. Although the company acknowledges the decline in demand for graphic paper, it sees potential growth in packaging, household paper, and healthcare products. Its robust strategic framework, the 2030VISION, reaffirms its focus on revenue generation, innovative product development, and sustainable business practices.
Nippon continues to exhibit an unwavering commitment to innovation and sustainability. It operates with a clear vision: remaining a comprehensive biomass company that shapes the future with trees. Key to its strategic trajectory is its focus on sustainable forest resources and cellulose. Nippon’s commitment to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions illustrates its dedication to sustainability.
Sappi Limited is a leading global manufacturer of diversified wood fiber products, with a special focus on dissolving pulp, paper, packaging, and biomaterials. Headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sappi’s strong presence in Europe, North America, and Southern Africa earned $7.3 billion in revenue in 2022.
With a deep commitment to sustainable practices, Sappi utiliszes renewable resources to create innovative solutions that meet evolving global demand. Beyond paper, the company is recognised for its high-quality dissolving pulp used in textiles and consumer products. Sappi’s wide range of paper products includes graphic papers, casting release papers, and packaging and specialty papers, serving numerous industries worldwide. Despite challenging market conditions, Sappi remains committed to its growth strategy, focusing on product innovation, operational efficiency, and sustainability.
Despite Kimberly-Clark coming towards the top of our list for revenue, information on their pulp and paper material production is lacking. For this reason, we included them as a notable mention.
Kimberly-Clark is a producer of mainly paper-based consumer products headquartered in Irving, Texas, United States. In 2022, Kimberly-Clark marked its 151st year in business with a massive revenue of $20.2 billion. These figures lead to a 2.44% increase in revenue for 2022. In total, Kimberly-Clark employs over 45,000 individuals worldwide and has its brands selling in more than 175 countries. Their well-known portfolio of brands includes Cottonelle, Depend, Kleenex, Poise, Scott, Andrew, Wypall and more.