It’s time to connect with our friends at Friesens for another episode of Industry Leaders in the Pembina Valley. 

Canadian Sales Manager Ryan Hildebrand joined us in studio Tuesday morning to talk about the company’s focus on sustainability in publishing and manufacturing. The conversation began with Hildebrand talking about Friesens' focus on being an environmental steward on many levels, beginning locally.

"Being a huge employer in the community, having 500 plus employee-owners, we know how much of an impact we can make both positively, and in a negative way, if we're not careful," he shared with CFAM Radio 950 Morning Show Host Chris Sumner. "For us, being environmentally sound is just an important part of our makeup, and something we've been managing for many years. We continue to do it by making small shifts in what we do to make a big impact."

Hildebrand noted we all know small things can add up quickly, and that is a perfect way of thinking about how little changes at Friesens production facilities in Altona can add up to big impacts. He stressed there's a good business case, too, for being environmentally sustainable, pointing to the example of how much is recycled at their plants.

"We've been recycling for so many years," he said. "The trucks you see leaving our building are not waste trucks, they're trucks filled either with product or recycled goods. It could be simple things like taking the ink we use that's vegetable based, and then ordering them in large drums and reusing those drums with our suppliers. So connecting with our suppliers is always so important. The beauty of it is the employee-owners all try and come up with these ideas to to save small, small things that add up to meaningful things at the end of the day."

Hildebrand noted Friesens has been recycling since 1967.

"Anything that goes into our recycling bins gets recycled, gets brought back to the mills and they get reused and made into new paper," he explained. "We have a wonderful circular environment when it comes to books. We often think of trees, but you think of the recycled makeup of so much of the paper we do, it all comes from managed forests. There's certifications we're part of that we get audited on, and making sure we're using products and materials that are from sustainable practices and suppliers." 

And from that larger, industry perspective, Hildebrand shared a very cool story involving one of the most popular book series of all time Harry Potter.

"It was really an amazing, impactful event that a publisher here in Canada, Raincoast Books and Friesens, partnered on what was a massive project," he shared. "It was the first book in the world, under the Harry Potter umbrella, that was printed on 100% recycled paper. It got all the way back to the author J.K. Rowling, and post that project the publisher and what we did created a movement whereby any future books they did were printed on recycled paper."

Hildebrand added it was more than just changing the course of printing that book, it quickly created a movement in the industry.

"The industry, actually, gravitated now to 100% recycled stock, and it made it not just trendy, but actually environmentally impactful, "he said. "It was also a social responsibility that many of the publishers gravitated towards, especially in Canada, and it's been a movement we've seen elsewhere in the world as well."

You can listen to the entire conversation between Chris and Ryan, below.