Progress, but not enough
by Andrew Goldberg
The office products industry has a critical role to play in protecting and advancing the sustainable management of the world’s forests.
Everyday we hear more about the importance of the world’s forests to the health of the planet. From Brazil to the Canadian Boreal and from Indonesia to the Southern Appalachians, forests serve as our greatest buffer against climate change, are a vital source of clean air and water, and are home to much of the world’s biological diversity.
And yes, these forests are also the raw materials for the office products industry’s trade in copy paper, file folders, envelopes and desks. Because 43 percent of industrialised logging worldwide goes to the production of paper, the office products industry has a critical role to play in protecting the world’s forests.
Industry leaders are aware that consumers are looking for environmental responsibility, whether they’re shopping for a car or buying notebooks and paper.
Since campaigns carried out by Dogwood Alliance and other environmental groups first prompted environmental paper policies from the office supplies sector in 2002, leaders in the industry have made dramatic progress in moving towards more environmentally responsible paper sourcing, and moving away from controversial destructive sources. For example, choosing FSC certified products, engaging suppliers and investing in the on-the-ground projects that improve forest management and protect remaining intact and special forests. After nearly a decade, we have learned that the market demand from the office products industry can be an extremely positive force for forest protection.
A recent example of the success of market pressure in a green-conscious marketplace involved the 1.2 billion acre Canadian Boreal forest, one of the largest intact forest and wetland ecosystems remaining. These majestic forests are home to some of the planet’s largest populations of wolves, grizzly bears and woodland caribou, and are critical breeding grounds for almost half of North America’s migratory ducks, geese and songbirds.
Under the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, member companies of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) have committed to the highest environmental standards of forest management and conservation, while environmental organisations have committed to global recognition and support for FPAC members’ efforts. If all goes as planned, the market pressure that brought all the parties together in this agreement will have protected globally significant forests while providing an ongoing sustainable source of forest products, a win for everyone involved.
Unfortunately, there still remain plenty of areas where controversial industrial forestry operations for pulp and paper production are destroying the earth’s forests.
In the US South, which contains only 2.5 percent of the world’s forests and yet is the largest pulp and paper producing region in the world, the impact of industrial logging is severe. Across the region, which contains the most biologically diverse forests of North America, many forest types have been all but stricken from the landscape, and monoculture tree plantations cover fully 43 million acres. Nine million acres of those plantations have replaced natural forests in the last decade alone.
Outmoded destructive practices such as the ditching and draining of wetlands for tree plantations and large-scale clear cutting are still common. Overall, six million acres are clear cut each year primarily for the production of paper. Progress has been made towards a new, more responsible business model, but more needs to be done, and more stakeholders need to come to the table.
The Boreal Agreement teaches us that when key stakeholders come together in a solutions-driven process, real progress can be made. The time is right to bring this model to the US South. The need for a sustainable source of paper will not go away, and the office products industry, along with forest products companies, landowners, the government and civil society, is an important stakeholder and an influential player in the ongoing debate on the world’s forests.
By entering this conversation now, you can join in the progress already made and chart a course for a future where sustainable business and a sustainable environment don’t come at the expense of one another.
Andrew Goldberg is Director of Corporate Engagement for Dogwood Alliance. Its fourth annual Green Grades Report Card on the paper practices of the office supplies sector was released in September 2010. To contact Andrew Goldberg, call Dogwood Alliance on +1 828 251 2525.