Working for International Paper

A Heartwarming Tale of Career, Family, and Employee Success

Our WorkingNation film examines the bond between employees and a corporation that prioritizes their flourishing futures

Our new WorkingNation film International Paper: A Heartwarming Tale of Career, Family, and Employee Success examines the significance of community and employee support through the compelling story of Tuesday and Levell Hairston.

Tuesday, who was first made aware of International Paper at the age of 10 when the company visited her school, now serves as the global sourcing lead for energy commodities. Initiated into the company through a co-op program at age 16, her journey is a testament to the opportunities International Paper provides.

Levell, Tuesday’s husband, joined the company as well, aligning their family decisions with career choices. As their family grew, so did the opportunities offered to Levell by International Paper. Today, he holds the position of VP and GM of recycling and recovered fibers.

You can watch their story here: International Paper: A Heartwarming Tale of Career, Family, and Employee Success

‘Employee development is a distinct strategic advantage’

125-year-old International Paper Company (IP) is an American pulp and paper company, the largest such company in the world and one of the largest producers of renewable fiber-based products. Headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, IP has manufacturing facilities throughout the country and overseas and employs more than 38,000 people.

IP stresses that it strives “to build a culture in which each employee feels a sense of belonging and experiences an environment in which to do their best work every day.”

That committment to its employees and community has led to many awards and recognitions, including by the American Opportunity Index (AOI), which identified International Paper as a top employer in 2022.

AOI is a analysis of the nation’s top 250 biggest companies – and their investment in their employees and their careers – from Harvard Business SchoolBurning Glass Institute, and Schultz Family Foundation.

AOI measures which companies are most likely to create opportunity for workers in roles open to non-college graduates across three criteria: 

  • access (who is able to join the company), 
  • wages (how well they are paid), and
  • mobility (how far a worker will advance – either at that company or once they leave for another company).

The American Opportunity Index sums up IP’s assessment this way:

International Paper builds on 125 years of manufacturing expertise to transform renewable resources into products people depend on every day. This includes packaging solutions that protect and promote goods, enable worldwide commerce, and keep consumers safe. Recognizing that for its business to thrive, it must be on the cutting edge of new ideas, new technologies. To accomplish this, employees and employee development must be at the center of their business strategy.

This business strategy has enabled International Paper to post above average scores across four of the five metrics including in the upcoming 2023 American Opportunity Index. That said, the leaders at International Paper recognize that the labor market is very competitive, particularly for employees with specialized technical and trade experience. It is this labor market pressure that has led International Paper to focus its efforts on attracting and retaining employees and have posted solid results with room to grow.

Three practices embody International Paper’s emerging approach to investing in its employees to accelerate business outcomes now and in the future:

  • A strong belief set that employee development is a distinct strategic advantage: International Paper believes the continuity and consistency you get with internal development and internal promotion enables it to reach its business goals tied to safety, innovation and environmental sustainability.
  • A focus on attracting, developing and retaining employees: International Paper recognizes that its ability to operate and grow its business depends on its ability to attract and retain employees early in their career – many with little or no work experience – and arm them with the skills necessary to maintain its facilities, produce its products and serve its customers. The team at International Paper has developed learning paths for specific positions that are designed to encourage an employee’s advancement and growth with in its organization.  
  • Prioritizing a diverse and inclusive workforce: International Paper has set an explicit 30/50/30 vision: 30% overall representation of women and 50% women in salaried position and 30% minority representation in U.S. salaried position. To achieve this, International Paper is investing in hiring diverse talent, retaining diverse talent and training and developing diverse talent for key positions of increasing responsibility.
American Opportunity Index 2023

Coming Thursday, November 30, the joint project of the Burning Glass Institute, the Harvard Business School Project on Managing the Future of Work, and the Schultz Family Foundation releases its newest scorecard on which companies are helping its employees advance in their careers.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, head of strategy at the Schultz Family Foundation, tells WorkingNation that the American Opportunity Index 2023 will be adding new metrics to its assessment.

“We will be looking at measures of disparity. We’ll be looking, for instance, at mobility for individuals who are Black and Hispanic compared to those who are not at companies. We’ll also be looking at how men and women may fare differently at companies,” he says.

“In addition, we’re going to take a focus as well on the culture of the workplace, (creating an) even more robust picture of opportunity creation and to create an even more useful tool for companies to manage their human talent,” concludes Chandrasekaran.