Second Chance Employer Profile

Georgia Pacific

Dating back to 1927, when it was founded as the Georgia Hardwood Lumber Co., Georgia Pacific has become a world leader in the pulp and paper industry. It processes and manufactures a variety of goods. Most notable among them are tissue, pulp, paper, corrugated packaging and wood building materials. Its household consumer product brands include AngelSoft, Brawny, Dixie and Quilted Northern.

With headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., Georgia Pacific employs more than 30,000 people at more than 150 facilities in 33 states. It was acquired by Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in the U.S., in 2005. Koch is a member of the Second Chance Business Coalition and, along with its subsidiary Georgia Pacific, has become a prominent example of what a major corporation can achieve in this area.

Second chance hiring practices 

“Out of all of our companies, Georgia Pacific is the most aggressive in this space,” says John Buckley, outreach strategies manager for Koch Industries.

Every potential employee goes through a background check, which is done by senior H.R. members and senior recruiters who are supervised by one of the company’s lawyers. They do a careful risk-based analysis to determine whether there would be a risk to the work force or a risk to the candidate’s ability to do the job.

In spite of this careful background check – or maybe because of it – Koch Industries hires a large number of second chance employees.

“In just the first six months of this year (2022) we have hired 15,800 people in the U.S. About 5,600 came back with negative information (as a result of the background check). From that 5,600 we were able to hire 98.2% of them. We’re hiring felons, misdemeanors and folks who have drug records. It’s an effective review process that has really created a second chance for our employees,” says Buckley.

Once hired, they become part of the GP Second Chance Program. Although the company calls it a program, Buckley points out that it’s broader than that. “It’s not just a program. It’s a mindset,” he says. “Each individual location has their own unique approach based on their needs, the communities they are located in and the organizations with which we can partner.”

Buckley estimates that 30% to 35% of the company’s workforce consists of second chance employees. And hiring them provides many benefits.

“Enabling folks who are justice involved to find employment gives us a very loyal employee. And it reduces the community’s cost for incarceration. The individuals are contributing to our communities. GP has created this to improve the communities in which we work and give us quality employees,” he says.

The company has partnered with Honest Jobs — a job search site that specializes in connecting job seekers who have felonies to second chance employers – to source employees since 2018. It also partners with nonprofits, agencies and work release programs in locations across the U.S. where it has facilities. These organizations not only supply potential employees but also often offer wraparound services. On occasion the company has received letters from individuals looking for employment and has worked with them directly.

Although it’s hired second chance candidates in nearly every career field Georgia Pacific offers, Buckley says the best fit for this demographic has been manufacturing, skilled trades and maintenance jobs.

Although Buckley doesn’t deny that training programs are needed, he warns that we should reevaluate what types of positions people are being trained for.

“I come across a lot of companies and states who are creating welders, but there’s not a lot of welding jobs” he says. “So why aren’t we training people in IT. Why aren’t we focusing on the skills and experiences that companies need. Businesses have to say, “Here are the skills we need.”

Buckley feels it’s important to spread the word about second chance hiring. “In the future we plan to be more aggressive in telling the stories and announcing to the public, ‘we’re creating second chances,’” he says. “That way, people will understand that it’s out there.”

To learn more about Georgia Pacific