July 17, 2019  
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Fastmarkets RISI's 2019 Top 50 Power List Preview


Note: This is an excerpt from an article forthcoming in the July-August 2019 issue of Paper360°, and is offered here as a special sneak preview for Ahead of the Curve readers. To download the complete issue, check paper360.tappi.org for updates.

Over the past few years, not only people but events and issues, some of which fall outside traditional pulp and paper making, have had increasingly more influence over the industry. This year, which marks the 12th annual Top 50 Power List, is no different.

From political topics—Brexit (again) and the US presidential election (despite being more than a year away)—to social media to trade to entertainment to other issues that affect the industry such as the paper straw, they all have a place on this year's list. This year, a person returns to the top of the list, and there are many familiar names as well as many newcomers throughout. Yet, for this special sneak preview, we'll focus on the top-rated "non-people" influencing our industry.

As we have said in the past, we enjoy putting together this eclectic annual collection. It is neither a scientific study nor a popularity contest. It is more a year's worth of observation along with the opinions of many experienced analysts within the industry.

We would like to hear from you as to whom (or what) we may have missed and why they should be included. You can contact Graeme Rodden ([email protected]) or Mark Rushton ([email protected]) with your list of people and issues that deserve to be in the 2020 Fastmarkets RISI Top 50.
We'll keep the "people" part of our Top 50 under wraps for now; instead, let's take a look at some of the issues, trends, or companies that made this year's Power List:

It's almost impossible to attend any paper industry conference without hearing one analyst or another talk about Amazon (as well as other e-commerce players) and the effect they have had on the packaging sector. Its tendency to over-package goods (boxes within boxes) has come under scrutiny and any cutback could have an effect on the sector. But e-commerce is here to stay and the biggest player holds great sway over the market.

They all seem to be at it—well, a lot of the pulp producers, anyway: looking for in-roads into the textile market as it rapidly becomes clear that clothing and fabrics made from oil-based fibers are having a huge negative impact on the world's oceans. Research tells us that 70 percent of all micro plastic pollution is coming from clothing and textiles. Also, growing cotton for textiles is being proved to be unfriendly for the environment due to excessive water demands. A lot of innovative wood-based R&D is taking place in universities, research institutions, and companies in a race to capture a potentially huge market as textile production looks to hit 140 million metric tpy by 2025.

The humble paper straw has seemingly put the paper industry on the map like no other promotional campaign ever could. Major fast food brands are ditching plastic straws en masse (responsibly, we hope!) and the paper straw business is suddenly booming. Newspapers and TV programs across the world are telling everyone what we in the industry have known for years— paper is environmentally awesome! Government legislation is also helping; the latest, the UK, is implementing a total ban on selling plastic straws, drink stirrers, and cotton swabs with plastic stems from early next year. Word has it that all EU countries are set to follow with the ban. Interestingly, and according to Garden & Gun magazine, shotgun paper shells also are making a huge comeback for hunters and skeet aficionados due to nostalgia and for environmental reasons, as they are also replacing plastic.

One of the most polarizing presidencies in history continues to dominate headlines. Despite being almost 16 months away, the 2020 election is a favorite topic of discussion in all media outlets. By press time, 24 Democrats had already announced their candidacy. No doubt this election will dominate news and generate countless pages of newspapers, magazines, and Special Reports in the months to come.

It should have been done and dusted by now—at least according to last year's Power List, when we said the UK split from the European Union will "finally take place in March (2019)." But alas, chaos continues to reign as an extension has been given, and then, just as we went to press with this year's Power List, Prime Minister Theresa May resigned. This means even more confusion and chaos for the island nation, but hopefully, next year—soft or hard, in or out—the whole tiresome affair will be over.

The idea of an economic stimulus packaged designed to nudge US policy—and consumer behavior—away from non-renewables has been around for a while; yet the idea really took hold after the 2018 mid-term elections, when freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Dem-NY) called for formation of a committee tasked with creating a "detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan" to move the US economy toward carbon neutrality. With goals focused on "clean" manufacturing, water and energy use reduction, renewable energy, and sustainable building and transportation, any resulting legislation is sure to impact our industry, and may present a host of new market opportunities for sustainable materials.

This final spot goes to the appealing mascots of the P&PB's "How Life Unfolds" campaign. Our industry makes beneficial products and has a great story to tell, but we've got to stop preaching to the choir. This campaign gets the word out in print advertising, TV commercials (even during the Superbowl!), and social media engagement. Like our readers, these two do their part every day to keep our facilities running—and that deserves recognition

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