SAVING TREES THE SMART WAY
SAVING TREES THE SMART WAY
2006-03-23 at 11:08:00 am #15087
Saving trees the smart way
firms, customers and environmental groups are working together to get
companies to use more “green” paper, but some forests remain
endangered.March , 2006
NEW YORK – In this season of annual reports, Corporate America is putting on a green face.
Depot , Johnson & Johnson , JP Morgan Chase , McDonald’s, Lowe’s
and Wal-Mart will print their reports on paper that meets the exacting
standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, an alliance of nonprofits
and paper companies aimed at promoting sustainable forestry.
11 big companies that buy tons and tons of paper, including Bank of
America , Hewlett Packard , Staples , Toyota and the Time Inc.
division of Time Warner publisher of CNNMoney.com and fortune have
formed the Paper Working Group, a coalition aimed at using their
purchasing power to make “environmentally preferable paper” more
available and affordable.
This is good public relations for now and
good business in the long run, since no big company wants to see
deforestation, destruction of wildlife habitats and unpredictable
climate change. (Forests help slow down global warming.) The question
is, are these corporate initiatives making a significant difference?
A complex business
a hard question to answer, in part because the forestry business is
global, complex and under financial stress. There’s no doubt that
sustainable forestry is a big trend — the acreage certified by the
FSC, whose supporters range from activist groups like Greenpeace to big
Canadian timber firms like Domtar and Mohawk Paper, has more than
doubled in the past 3 years. About 68 million hectares have been
certified by FSC.
A competing standard called the Sustainable
Forestry Initiative, backed by big U.S. firms like Weyerhauser and
International Paper, has certified even more land. Somewhere between 6
and 10 percent of the world’s harvestable forests are certified as
sustainably managed. The standards are only about 10 years old, so
The trouble is, about 60 percent of America’s
commercial forests are owned by private landowners, about 10 million of
them. For various reasons, they have a harder time getting their land
certified. Forest land in North American is also being sold for real
estate development. And timber production is shifting to South America
and Asia, where trees grow faster but environmental protections are
“Forestry practices are improving, but the threats continue
to grow as well,” says Justin Ward, director of the agriculture,
forestry and fisheries programs at Conservation International, a
Washington-based environmental group that works closely with business.
“The greatest threats are in the world’s tropical forests.”
than half of the tropical forests have been deforested, he says, and
another 1 percent is lost each year. Some wood is used locally for fuel
or housing, so don’t blame big business for that.
Catalogs: Where trees go to die
pulp produced in the global south also finds its way back to the United
States and Europe where, despite e-mail, paper consumption continues to
grow. (The U.S. ranks No. 2 in the world, behind Belgium.) One reason
why: Roughly 18 billion catalogs were mailed last year, which comes to
64 for each person in America, according to Time magazine.
retailer, Victoria’s Secret, mails about 390 million catalogs a year –
more than 1 million a day. Some of its paper comes from old-growth
“It just doesn’t get any worse than that,” says Todd Paglia
of Forest Ethics, an advocacy group that is running a campaign called
Victoria’s Dirty Secret at http://www.victoriasdirtysecret.net.
Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, as well as Express, The Limited,
and Bath & Body Works, says it is trying to improve its
environmental stewardship. The company prints some catalogs on recycled
stock, along with its annual report.
forestry practices has long divided environmentalists and loggers.
What’s new are the initiatives that bring together timber firms,
customers and environmental groups.
Rainforest Alliance, a New
York-based nonprofit, works with forestry companies and their customers
to promote the use of FSC-certified paper and wood. Liza Murphy of the
alliance says: “This is not about ‘put a fence around the forest so
nobody can use it.’ It’s about ways everybody can win.”
the CEO of Metafore, a nonprofit which organized the Paper Working
Group, is pushing for more transparency, so that big buyers can know
the full impact of their paper purchases, including how much energy and
water is consumed to produce and ship it. His partner companies are
looking at everything from the kinds of business cards they use to the
packaging required to ship automobile parts.
“There really is power in specifying how you are going to spend your money,” he says.
Complicated as the issue may be, companies and consumers can take simple steps to make a difference.
can buy certified paper, and not just for their annual reports.
Environmentalists favor the FSC standard, which is tougher than the
industry-backed SFI standard, although the differences are narrowing.
also can buy certified or recycled paper. Staples and Office Depot
promote 30 percent recycled paper, which costs about 20 cents a ream
more than regular paper.