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Europe's paper industry gets a new face at the top.

CEPI's new managing director, Teresa Presas, takes over the reins at a critical point in the organization's history.


As the new managing director of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), based in Brussels, Belgium, Teresa Presas knows instinctively that there is little point in approaching the post with anything other than a completely open mind. With so many diverse interest groups and stakeholders to keep happy, the new managing director of CEPI is well aware that this is one of the most politically sensitive jobs in the forest products industry and she intends to make sure that she has worked out a decent map before trying to navigate the many minefields to come.

"Yes, at this stage I'm just talking to as many people as possible. I'm hoping that this will culminate in my having a much better understanding of what's important to people. Then it should provide a good basis for moving forward in a more structured way in the future. That's really my short-term goal--listen to people and then try to prioritize everything in a structured agenda."


Presas takes over from Marie Arwidson who spent almost six years at CEPI and who is widely credited for bringing a more focused and structured approach to the organization, especially in the realm of public affairs. Arwidson moved back to Sweden as director general of the Swedish Forest Industries Federation (SFIF), but she still took time out to pass on a few pointers to her successor.

"I've been very fortunate in the fact that Marie stayed on when I first arrived and we overlapped for my first two weeks. It really was an invaluable introduction for me and Marie was very open and generous with her time and her insights," says Presas. "My job will be to consolidate what she did and take it further on a parallel track."

Given the amount of time Presas plans to spend listening to the opinions of others, one might be fooled into believing that the managing director is new to many of the issues she will face in the coming years. In fact, the opposite is true. Presas comes to CEPI from a high profile role with Tetra Pak where she was active in many aspects of the company's public affairs efforts, especially on the environment, recycling, and a whole host of paper and packaging related areas. Indeed, she held two posts within the company-vice president for European affairs for Tetra Pak Europe as well as being director of corporate environmental affairs. But given the political nature of the new job, Presas' own opinions will have to take into account the broad range of CEPI's constituencies.

"There are so many opinions, priorities, and interests that there is really no other way to go other than by trying to build a common platform on issues," she said. "I'm still compiling my 'to-do' list, but there are a lot of common issues between those I experienced in my previous job and those that CEPI is dealing with."


There are certainly plenty of issues to contend with. A flick through CEPI's web site highlights just some of the major areas where the organization is contributing knowledge and trying to influence debate, such as:

* Chemical legislation (the REACH rules)

* Recycling targets

* Future wood availability

* Papinet (global e-standard for business)

* Sustainability

* Renewable energy sources

* Emissions trading directive

Presas is well versed in the minutiae of many of these topics from her 20-odd years at Tetra Pak. "Building relations with the key institutions is always going to be unfinished business because there's so much going on," she said. Much of the relationship building will focus on the many Directorates-General (DG) that make up the European Commission (EC).

"Besides DG Enterprise and DG Environment, there are others that are important to our industry--for example product safety and food contact," she continued. "But DGs such as energy and transport, research or the ones that cover social affairs and education are important too. Even for the ones I don't know all that well yet, there are other people here at CEPI that have been dealing with them for some time so I don't expect any problems."


Although she hasn't been in the job all that long, Presas reports that she has already been favorably impressed by the team working within the CEPI secretariat, which is made up of technical experts covering a range of fields.

Presas also believes that the team has a decent track record in boosting the overall image of the forest products industry and is getting recognition.

"From what I've seen, the pulp and paper industry has done a really good job already and there are even some Commission policy documents that recognize that the industry has come a long way. What we're seeing now is that they're no longer looking at the processes but at the end products. There's no doubt that they recognize that we've improved enormously--sometimes, admittedly, under the pressure of legislation. But I think what we've done has triggered a change in the Commission's attitude to the sector."

According to Presas, the next step is to learn how to be even more sensitive to the environment and to take a more balanced view of all the stakeholders' interests. On the plus side, she believes that the EC is shifting toward a better balance between the so-called Gothenburg process, which sought to boost environmental protection measures and the Lisbon process, which is aimed at boosting productivity and Europe's economic performance.

"CEPI, I think, does do a good job, but I still think we can do more to confront these issues early in the process and come up with clear facts and figures on how legislation could impact competitiveness," she said. "In the old days, sometimes you would get plenty of people complaining, but that isn't good enough. CEPI has been successful in providing positive input and alternatives to the Commission and other institutions rather than taking a stance of pure rejection. It's about being in constant contact and always trying to use a constructive approach."

To that end, CEPI recently hired a new manager to handle the organizations public affairs function. "We want a structured approach to our dealings with the Commission--and in fact all our key stakeholders."

CEPI is also set for some major structural change in the near term as 10 other European countries complete their accession to the European Union and therefore become eligible for full membership in CEPI. Poland, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Republics are already associate members of the group, but all the new countries will have an equal opportunity to join and participate in CEPI's activities through their national associations.

"It is one of the greatest and most interesting challenges for CEPI over the next two years," Presas believes. "Most of the national associations are already associate members anyway, but they will become full members. In fact, they became full members of CEPI as of January 1st as we've decided not to wait for the formal accession date. What I know so far is that they haven't been coming to our meetings quite as often as some others, but that's often because they don't have the same resources or budget to allow them to travel and get involved as much as some of the bigger companies. What I expect to see is people from the new countries contributing more and more to CEPI."

The CEPI team is aware that the new members may have different agendas from the current board, but there is a willingness to make sure the institution is able to accommodate this aspect of the accession. A new board and executive structure to cope with the enlarged body is being developed.

While Europe presents some particular challenges, CEPI is increasingly looking to the global picture on a number of issues as well. Presas has experience in global issues such as illegal logging and global warming and is keen to promote CEPI's viewpoints.

"The move toward a more international industry association already exists and CEPI took a large part in the leadership of that initiative, helping to set up the structure of the body," she points out. "In fact, I was there last year in Johannesburg when the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) was created. Not only that, we're also very active in the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) working group on forest-based activities. It's not only CEPI's role though. It's everyone's role to be concerned about global governance."


* How Teresa Presas is "learning by listening" at CEPI

* The critical issues faced by the European paper industry

* Structural change in CEPI as new countries join the EU


* CEPI Web site:


Jim Kenny is contributing editor/Europe, for Solutions! magazine, and is based in Brussels, Belgium. He is the former vice president of editorial for Paperloop and today heads his own company. DSI. Contact him by phone at +32 2 534 4960, or by email at


COPYRIGHT 2004 Paper Industry Management Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Europe
Author:Kenny, Jim
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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