Mark Sutton became chairman of the International Paper Board of Directors on January 1, 2015 and CEO of International Paper on November 1, 2014. Immediately prior to becoming CEO, he served as president and chief operating officer with responsibility for leading the company’s global businesses. He has been a member of the International Paper board of directors since June 1, 2014. Sutton has been with the company his entire career. He joined International Paper in 1984 as an engineer at the Pineville mill in Louisiana. In 1994, he was named manager at the Thilmany mill in Wisconsin, which at the time was part of International Paper’s industrial papers business. In 2000, Sutton relocated to Europe to serve as director of European corrugated packaging operations and was promoted to vice president and general manager responsible for all corrugated packaging operations across seven countries in the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) region in 2002. In 2005, he was named vice president of corporate strategic planning and relocated to Memphis. He was named senior vice president, global supply chain, in 2007 and in 2009 became senior vice president, printing and communications papers in the Americas. Sutton was appointed to senior vice president, industrial packaging, in November 2011.
Sutton serves on the American Forest & Paper Association board of directors and the International Advisory Board of the Moscow School of Management – Skolkovo. He is a member of The Business Council and the Business Roundtable. Sutton was appointed to the U.S. Section of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum and also serves on the board of directors of Memphis Tomorrow and board of governors for the New Memphis Institute.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana State University.
International Paper has been providing fiber-based packaging and paper solutions to the world’s largest consumer and industrial brands for more than a century. That says a lot about the enduring value of the products we make and our commitment to safe, sustainable business practices. It also speaks to the talent, engagement and commitment of our employees and the strong leaders they have become. Our culture and people, supported by our commitment to safety, sustainability, customers and operational excellence, are essential to our long-term vision to be one of the best, most respected companies in the world.
International Paper, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., is a global leader in packaging, paper and pulp with manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Russia, Asia and North Africa with approximately 58,000 employees to serve customers worldwide.
Sustaining operations in a manufacturing-based company requires a significant amount of human capital with strong technical, analytical and problem solving skills. From the boardroom to the engineers, technology teams, control room operators and maintenance crews, we have a vested interest in ensuring there is a skilled workforce to keep our global operations running safely, reliably and cost-effectively. The US Department of Labor estimates significant short falls in qualified college graduates with sufficient STEM related skills to meet the rising demands of employers over the next three to five years. This estimated gap and International Paper’s broad-based needs has led us to expand our approach to STEM both inside and outside the company.
Ensuring an effective STEM curriculum exists in primary, secondary, trade schools and universities is a critical component to building a technically skilled workforce. Attracting young and diverse talent in STEM programs is largely dependent on structuring them in a way that builds confidence and is relevant, fun, and not intimidating. As a major employer in many of the communities where we operate, we engage with local school systems, technical colleges and universities to support and enhance their STEM programs.
Our educational outreach includes classroom interaction, technology demonstrations, career day participation, after-school STEM program sponsorship and many other activities. Our main focus is to inspire and motivate a diverse group of high school and middle school students to pursue a STEM-related education.
We recognize the role played by educators in encouraging students to pursue STEM majors and careers. We provide practical information to teachers, school administrators and counselors as they guide students in their pursuit of a STEM education. We inform them about the growing volume of US-based technical and manufacturing jobs and the rewarding careers available to students with STEM skills. Through these efforts, we broaden their understanding of the scope of job opportunities and salary rewards that exist for students who pursue STEM courses of study.
We engage with city and state governments to influence STEM programs and efforts, through our leadership support. Our goal is to increase the alignment, collaboration and effectiveness of STEM-related activities that are not well coordinated across stakeholder groups including high schools, universities, local businesses and governments.
Enhanced recruiting initiatives and internship programs are another significant part of our approach to target and enrich the educational experience of students pursuing STEM careers. We augment many of these activities financially with educational grants through the International Paper Foundation.
Expanding STEM education into the workplace through professional and technical development is essential to ensuring that the current workforce is equipped to handle changing technology. International Paper’s professional development philosophy is based on a 70-20-10 approach. We target 70 percent of an employee’s development through on-the-job experiences. By rotating employees through a variety of positions early in their career, we help them establish a broad skill set and diverse work experience that enables them to excel. This is especially important in STEM-centric positions. Coaching and mentoring is also important for employee development. Regular feedback sessions where employees and supervisors discuss performance successes, gaps and development plans make up another 20 percent.
Training fills out the remaining 10 percent and is addressed through company-based programs or outsourced to educational institutions. We use a broad range of technical training methods that include the application of technology: video-on-demand, computer-based training, basic simulations, video-conferencing sessions, iPad®-based troubleshooting, and live e-courses. In the future, we envision having scan-ready QR codes on equipment that will allow for on-the-spot, readily available equipment and technical training.
We also recognize the importance of developing leadership skills and business acumen in a workforce that is heavily centered on STEM skills. Strong leadership skills translate to better employee engagement, productivity, safety, customer loyalty, profitability, and sustained growth. By developing leadership, business knowledge and STEM skills, we are helping to shape strong leaders who will drive our future success. This is a well-ingrained philosophy at International Paper. In fact, more than 50 percent of our executive leadership earned STEM-related degrees. Having leaders in our organization who possess strong analytical and leadership skills is critically important for a winning people strategy in a highly technical industry.