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Interview with Seth Kursman, VP, Corporate Communications, Sustainability, and Government Affairs, by Aidan Starosta

An important part of working in a corporate office is networking within the company. Resolute Forest Products promotes this practice and encourages us, interns, to interact with multiple departments. Although I am in the Logistics department, the Political Science major in me is interested in sustainability and government affairs. This interest led me to Seth Kursman, the Vice President of Corporate Communications, Sustainability, and Government Affairs. I sat down with Seth to ask him some questions about his career, his work at Resolute, and Resolute’s environmental and political impacts. 

Growing up, Seth always had an interest in politics. His first exposure to politics in his career was when he was in high school when he interned for a Member of the Connecticut State Assembly. His interest in politics eventually led him to participate in a Southwestern Ohio campaign trying to site a landfill in coordination with a paper mill. This was Seth’s introduction to the forestry industry. Seth started with Champion, and then the company went through various mergers and acquisitions, meaning Seth worked for Donohue, Abitibi-Consolidated, AbitibiBowater, and then finally, Resolute Forest Products. To learn more about Resolute Forest Product’s history, view the first link in my sources section. Even though the company’s name changed due to the various consolidations, Seth has been with the same company for the majority of his career. The company also facilitated a move for him: from Texas to Montreal.

The reason Seth was able to stick with the company was that the forestry industry has readily available promotions for dedicated people. Nowadays, Seth likes to say that he “wears three hats” in the workplace: Sustainability, Corporate Communications and Political Affairs – you can see why I chose to interview him. Because he works in three different fields (even though they are closely related), on most days, he has to deviate significantly from the plan of what he wants to do at the beginning of the day. 

However, Seth thrives with the lack of predictability and monotony. He elaborated that at one point when he was younger; he worked at a box plant performing the mundane task of folding boxes in the same way, repeatedly. Nowadays as a vice president, he bounces back and forth between 15ish tasks a day and always has something new and interesting to do. When I asked him more about this movement between tasks, he explained that this style of work is reflective of Resolute’s culture. Because we are in a rapidly changing market, there are different issues associated with different parts of the market cycle. This makes for unique challenges, which are thought-provoking and encourage thinking in new ways. 

Seth furthered his point by sharing his appreciation for the people who work at Resolute, as they are team-oriented, kind, and thrive in the company’s collaborative organizational structure. Because our corporate office uses a hot-desk seating system, people who are in various tiers all work in a similar physical area.

I asked Seth about Resolute’s sustainability measures. Seth began the conversation by emphasizing how Resolute is open, honest and transparent. Our clarity is important because providing the correct information is an important aspect of social responsibility. However, the key to Resolute’s success in sustainability is not that we communicate it well; it is that we are achieving lofty goals over reasonable periods.

I also touched on the misconceptions about the forestry industry. Seth gave a few quick facts that many people may not know. First, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the best way to mitigate climate change is with sustainable forestry of trees in the boreal zone. This is a climate very common in Canada. If you would like to learn more about the forestry industry’s maintenance and sustainable conservation of the Boreal climate, click on this link. Additionally, the average age of those trees is less than 100 years. At the end of its life expectancy range, the tree is at higher risk of succumbing to fire, diseases or critters. By replanting saplings to help maintain the forest, we are doing our job to keep large carbon sinks intact, while also minimizing waste on our end when making our wood and paper products.

map of Canada's boreal forest regions

I asked Seth about the political side of his role. Seth was happy to share experiences where he brought threats to our company and industry to the attention of Ottawa and Washington, DC. He highlighted that whenever we have issues, we bring union leaders, mayors, employees, mill GMs and others with insights into a mill’s operations at various levels. Additionally, Seth also chairs Resolute’s U.S. Political Action Committee, which I found to be interesting.

To conclude our discussion, Seth left me with some words of wisdom: “We have been around for 200 years – that’s not accidental.” By working to raise the bar, Resolute is a company that I can get behind working for. We uphold our responsibilities to our customers, the environment, and subsequently, the human race. By raising the bar, we are building a more sustainable world and preparing for a better future.

Thank you for reading! 

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