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We help organizations develop, refine, and implement plans to achieve profitable growth even as demand for traditional pulp and paper products is rapidly changing.

The world of paper and forest products is both rooted in tradition, centered as it is on the harvesting of basic materials and undergoing enormous change as consumption patterns evolve. We help clients refine their business strategies and operating models to resolve pressing business problems, such as how and where to find growth when their core business is stagnant or contracting, how to reduce costs throughout the business in the face of intense cost-price pressure, and how to evolve strategies and transition capacity in declining markets such as graphic papers. We also help companies respond to opportunities to innovate both in operations areas such as energy consumption and in product lines such as packaging.

What we do

We partner with companies and governmental agencies to understand and respond to global and regional growth opportunities as well as trends such as the rapid transition to digital platforms that reduces demand for traditional paper products in most markets. We work with them to meet growing demand for consumer paper products such as tissue paper by the expanding middle class in emerging markets. These overarching issues impact every subsector of the industry, whether an organization is a government or involved in harvesting/forest management, production of construction, packaging and energy materials, or distribution.

Our senior experts have strategy experience and specialize in other aspects of the industry value chain as well. They help organizations around the globe understand trends and relevant regulatory polices to determine where and how to compete in a changing world. We can assist them in identifying pockets of growth, redefining their business models and portfolios to make the most of new opportunities, and reallocating corporate and business unit resources to better support strategic goals.

Examples of our work

As consumer demand for traditional paper products shifts, we have helped some of the largest players re-focus their product portfolios and geographic footprint and evolve their organizational structure and governance model to serve these new markets and consumers. For example, we helped a large producer of packaging board whose volume lagged competitors’ develop a growth strategy through 2020. McKinsey collaborated with the client to identify over 100 potential growth ideas, ranging from exploiting existing strengths to M&A and creative industry moves. After prioritizing this list by potential and feasibility, the company developed business cases for 10 varied opportunities to serve as the basis of an overall growth plan which it is currently executing.

In addition to corporate strategy, we also work with clients to assess business unit performance, evaluate potential acquisitions or strategic alliances, and analyze and plot responses to new competitive threats. McKinsey brings unsurpassed, cross-industry understanding of growth dynamics as well as best practices in industrial and operating processes and we use those insights to help industry players fine tune strategies to gain competitive advantage. Recent examples of our strategy work also include:

  • assisting a major forest products player in developing a bio-energy and biomaterials strategy
  • working with a packaging company to identify key market trends and determine whether, where, and how to grow in North America and Europe
  • collaborating with a producer to develop a wood market/distribution strategy for the North American market

We continually invest in original research on current and anticipated issues in the industry and publish articles in our publication McKinsey on Paper.

Learn more about our expertise on the Strategy & Corporate Finance Practice site.

Featured Experts

Oskar Lingqvist

Senior Partner, Stockholm

Yasir Mirza

Senior Partner, Atlanta