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New Leaf Paper fully lives up to its name. As a cutting edge environmental paper distributor, it partners with paper mills to develop new papers, then sells diverse grades of printing and writing "Paper with a past and a future." The company mission promotes an environmentally sustainable paper industry, and New Leaf strives to operate as a "higher standard" socially responsible business.

Founder and CEO Jeff Mendelsohn started the company in 1998. This was also a "new leaf." Jeff had launched New York Recycled Paper in 1991. In 1998, he moved that company's headquarters to California, bought out Dancing Tree (a small recycled paper company in Oakland, CA), and renamed the whole works New Leaf Paper Company.

"Our philosophy has stayed the same," says Jeff. "We believe that how we do business is as important as what we do. We chose saving forests, but we could have chosen energy conservation, organic food, or another green business." New Leaf practices socially responsible business principles, including sustainable company operations, energy conservation, and being a people-friendly workplace.

Says Susan Maguire, Administrative Assistant, "Behind New Leaf's market innovation is a team of people who are, in a word, passionate. Coming from such diverse backgrounds as printing, fashion merchandising, and, because we are based in San Francisco, defunct dot coms, we bring our diverse skills and experience together to get you the best paper there is. We listen to the radio at work. We surf. We climb mountains. We take company trips to goat farms and native plant nurseries. And we work hard, because we know that every transaction we make helps save precious natural resources. In short, we New Leafers love what we do, and that comes across in how we serve you."

Jeff is an environmentalist at heart since a very young age. In college, he realized the potential for bringing that environmentalism together with a practical application. As he explains, "Facing the usual question of how one person can make a difference, I decided that the most effective way to bring about change was to target the business community. Instead of teaching or writing in the academic or not-for-profit communities, I decided the best thing was to form a mission-based company that would be a role model for other companies."

Jeff is very active in the socially responsible business community and is a member of Social Venture Network and Business for Social Responsibility. In 2001, New Leaf Paper was featured in an Inc. Magazine article, "Can Business Still Save the World?"

Jeff says, "Our goal is to create the most environmental paper possible for each type of end-use. We consider a combination of attributes with our focus on fiber sustainability:

  1. high postconsumer is top choice
  2. other deinked fiber (preconsumer)
  3. sustainably harvested virgin fiber (Forest Stewardship Council certified)
  4. agricultural residues
  5. sustainably grown alternate fibers (kenaf, hemp)

"New Leaf is most committed to high postconsumer content because of the huge amount of paper in the waste stream," Jeff explains. "We have some of the best FSC-certified papers out with high postconsumer levels and all the virgin portion is certified FSC. Some of the bigger companies that offer FSC-certified papers have minimal postconsumer content. We are also committed to paper made without chlorine or chlorine compounds."

Bill Reed, Chief Operating Officer, joined New Leaf after working 5 years as a business manager for Odwalla Juice Company. "I grew up on a farm in Virginia," he says, "and spent most of my life running around outdoors, including lots of time in Alaska doing random jobs. I got involved with environmental movements there, and remain active with Alaska environmental issues."

Bill reports that New Leaf is growing like crazy. Sales doubled over the past year, and increased by 50% in the previous year. Half the sales are mill direct (large volume orders shipped directly to printers) and the other half is aggregate orders (i.e., many small orders aggregated until quantity is sufficient to have the mill do a run). New Leaf has 20 different product lines, with five carried in inventory and the balance in make-ready orders.

With a minimum order of $250, New Leaf can accommodate somewhat smaller buyers. But New Leaf also sells orders of $500,000. Says Jeff, "Our focus is to sell to mainstream America. Over half of sales are to big companies, such as Hewlett Packard. That said, we also supply about 80% of the biggest, most respected environmental organizations, including NRDC, Environmental Defense, and the World Wildlife Fund."

New Leaf has grown to be a national supplier with 20 employees in six locations across the U.S. "We're much larger than any other environmental paper company, and we have a much larger range of papers," says Jeff, then adds, "and therefore a much greater responsibility to our customers and to the environment."

Visit New Leaf's website.

- Gretchen Brewer
May 2003

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