Connecting the Dots Between Envelopes and Clearcuts

Reader Contribution by Kristi Chester Vance For Forestethics
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This week Office Depot, Southwest Airlines, Cricket Communications, and Hewlett-Packard joined the growing market trend against the logging industry’s greenwash program, The ‘Sustainable Forestry Initiative’ (SFI).

That brings the total to 24 prominent brands including AT&T, United Stationers, Pitney Bowes, and Allstate that ForestEthics—an environmental advocacy group that I work for—has persuaded to act against SFI. And our campaign against SFI also includes a growing nationwide citizens’ movement concerned about SFI, including more than 20 of North America’s leading environmental organizations and tens of thousands of individuals concerned about the long-term effect of SFI’s program on our forests.

In response to our campaign, SFI has twice threatened to sue ForestEthics. Our replies to these threats affirm our commitment to continue to expose SFI’s greenwash.

And here’s why SFI is greenwash: If the SFI puts its green leaf and tree logo on a product or its packaging, that means it came from industrial logging that causes distinctly un-green things like landslides, poisoned communities, polluted water and dead wildlife. Knowing this, the logging industry invented the SFI to mask its environmental destruction—because they also know the market for their products is becoming more environmentally aware and demanding.  So SFI exploits conscientious consumers by misleading them into thinking an SFI-labeled product or package is ‘good for forests’ when it’s not. We know the name for that – greenwash – and we can’t take it lying down.

Knowing and exposing the truth behind SFI-labeled products like envelopes, catalogs and copy paper is the first step in building a grassroots citizens’ movement to stop this logging industry scam.

In Office Depot’s new Greener Purchasing Policy for Paper Products, SFI certification is only a minimum requirement and is not considered ‘green’. The brand will now give policy preference to Forestry Stewardship Council certified and recycled papers. Southwest Airlines will continue to avoid the use of the SFI logo and name on its materials and will maintain its preference for FSC-certified paper when purchasing certified paper products. Cricket Communications will maintain a strong preference for FSC certified products and will avoid using or promoting products certified by the SFI. Hewlett-Packard (HP) recently confirmed that 100 percent of its HP Everyday paper products are now FSC-certified in the Americas.  This milestone is the result of HP’s commitment to use FSC as the benchmark for acceptable forest certification in procurement and marketing.I believe that there are no bad people, only bad choices. That’s why I am particularly proud of ForestEthics’ work to educate America’s most revered brands on the impact their colossal buying power has on our environment. When we help the customers of these companies connect the dots between paper products and landslides, poisoned communities and threats to rare wildlife, we give these individual consumers a stronger voice in how America’s biggest brands use their buying power. Because when consumers connect the dots, major corporations follow.

Kristi Chester Vance is the Deputy Director of ForestEthics.

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