BOSTON, Sept. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Fastmarkets,
the industry-leading cross-commodity price reporting agency (PRA),
has announced that Mark Sutton, CEO
of International Paper, has been named the 2021 North American CEO
of the Year.
Fastmarkets started the award program in 1999. Mr. Sutton will
accept the award and give a keynote address on September 28 at this year's Fastmarkets' North
American Conference. This hybrid event will be hosted virtually and
in person at the Seaport Hotel in Boston, MA.
International Paper is undergoing a mini-transformation
worth more than $2 billion, during a
world-altering Covid-19 pandemic, with the planned spinoff of its
global papers business and selling additional non-core assets. This
is $2 billion for a company whose
2020 annual sales were $20.58
The spin-off and asset sales, Sutton explained, is a way
to "simplify" the company, focusing on the industrial
packaging business (containerboard and corrugated boxes,
especially in the USA) and on
global cellulose fibers (absorbent pulp). By streamlining the
portfolio, the company will focus on the geographical markets and
product segments where it can create the most value for customers
and shareowners. International Paper already is the largest North
American containerboard producer by capacity. The company's global
cellulose fibers business largely serves customers in absorbent
hygiene and medical use market segments. Analysts seem confident
that International Paper will look to further integrate its huge US
containerboard and corrugated converting plant system.
During the pandemic, Sutton saw International Paper employees,
in a manufacturing sense, as essential workers who needed to "work
at a higher rate" and be "versatile" while at the same time
"staying as safe as possible." Sutton credits International Paper
workers for further developing an already collaborative teamwork
approach in how they worked. He proudly told Fastmarkets' PPI
Pulp & Paper Week that 85% of International Paper's 48,000
workers continued to keep operations running at mills and plants
each and every day during the pandemic. Their safety rules were
simple: "come to work, stay safe," and look out for each
Speaking of the company's performance, Sutton said that they
have "turned up the dial and accelerated our customer focus." Along
with producing a very good product, the company is refining its
commercial strategy and customers should expect a more agile and
more commercially-oriented organization.
Mark Sutton grew up in a "DuPont"
family in southwest Louisiana
where he learned point-blank about industrial manufacturing. Today,
he speaks wholeheartedly about safe, trusting manufacturing for
employees like it's in his blood. His two major influencers have
been his father, David Sutton Sr.,
and his father-in-law, the late Air Force Major General
Thomas Craig. "My dad taught me
about perseverance," Sutton said, "and he taught me the value of
people making products."
Sutton was born in New Orleans
and raised a short distance away in La Place, LA, a town on the
eastern bank of the Mississippi River in St. John the Baptist Parish. A DuPont
Chemicals plant called DuPont Pontchartrain Works was nearby in
Reserve, LA, where Mark's father
worked for most of his career in petrochemicals. His father was a
manager. Mark worked a summer at a plant and would later attend
nearby Louisiana State University
(LSU) in Baton Rouge.
Sutton studied electrical engineering at LSU and thought he would work in the petrochemical
industry like his father. But when Sutton graduated in 1984 from
LSU, a recession caused him to expand
his job search and he landed at International Paper, where he has
worked for 37 years. He started in 1984 as an engineer at the
Pineville, LA, containerboard
In 1994, Sutton became mill manager at the then-International
Paper lightweight packaging paper and pressure-sensitive material
Thilmany Packaging manufacturing operation in Wisconsin, where he learned about leadership
and how important the mill manager is to a local community. He once
described a mill manager as a "local CEO." From his
experience, Sutton understands management's important connection to
the workers who make the company's products, and this connection
was especially important during the pandemic.
From being a mill manager, Sutton continued to move up the
leadership ranks at International Paper. In 2000, he took
over the $1 billion corrugated
packaging business in Europe. He
became International Paper's CEO in late 2014, replacing two-time
North American CEO of the Year, John
Now on the verge of his 60th birthday, Sutton looks back and
credits his father and father-in-law for helping him learn about
industrial manufacturing and leadership. He is especially proud of
the company's focus on giving back. In the past three years,
International Paper contributed nearly $70
million to signature causes in local communities. He also
led the company in creating measurable, robust targets to drive
sustainable outcomes for people and communities, the environment
and customers as part of its Vision 2020 and Vision 2030 goals.
Peers credit Sutton for his approach.
"For years, Mark has been a dedicated leader in our industry,"
American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) CEO
told Fastmarkets RISI's PPI Pulp & Paper Week. "As
the immediate past board chair of the American Forest & Paper
Association (AF&PA), he has been an advocate for our industry's
safety and sustainable practices."
"Mark is passionate about our industry's remarkable
sustainability story," Brock added. "And he is a thoughtful,
inclusive, and collaborative leader. He facilitates the open
exchange of ideas to drive innovation and growth. I can honestly
say I am a better leader and person for knowing Mark Sutton. We are fortunate to have him as a
leader in our industry."
Originally published in Fastmarkets RISI's PPI Pulp
& Paper Week on July 15,
2021 by Gregory Rudder.
To attend Fastmarkets' North American Conference, please
Fastmarkets is the industry-leading Price Reporting Agency (PRA)
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