Every Business is in the Forest Business

So says an article from Saturday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer that focuses on the push within many of the US' largest corporations to green up their paper supply. While many businesses are becoming more concerned about their reputation for environmental stewardship, a small non-profit, Metafore, has taken on the task of showing companies like Bank of America, Starbucks and Nike that paper products manufactured from sustainably managed forests and recycled materials also helps their bottom line. At Metafore's helm sits a man who may seem like the most unlikely environmentalist: David Ford was well on his way to becoming one of the country's top lobbyist for the timber industry before embarking on his current quest to make paper production and consumption a much more sustainable process.

"Some of my colleagues in the forest products associations said, `You've gone to the dark side, David,'" Ford said. "I learned that the conflict wasn't getting us where we wanted to be."

Improving their public image and their bottom line, major corporations are moving from using less paper to demanding the paper they use comes from environmentally sustainable sources, and letting stockholders and customers know they are doing it.

This month the MetaFore Forest Leadership Forum drew 400 representatives of corporations like Bank of America, Starbucks, Nike, Staples and Time Inc. to talk paper with environmental organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, Forest Ethics and the Dogwood Alliance.

"Climate change is becoming THE issue," said David J. Refkin, director of sustainability for Time, the world's largest magazine publisher and largest direct buyer of coated paper in the United States. "Increasingly, businesses will look to do business with businesses that are leaders in sustainability."

Metafore is helping these Fortune 500 companies not just through consulting, but also by creating a database called the Environmental Paper Assessment Tool, which will go online later this year. The assessment tool was conceived with input from many of the companies that will end up using it, and takes into account factors such as "...labor practices, air and water emissions of mills, recycled content, and whether virgin pulp comes from forests certified as sustainable."

Perhaps most importantly, many of these companies are making their forest sourcing processes more transparent: Time, Inc., for instance, one of the country's largest paper consumers, publishes in its annual sustainability report a list of the printers and paper suppliers from which it buys. Bank of America has boosted the recycled content of its paper to 70%, and reduced internal paper use by 32%. In all of these cases, companies are recognizing that they're not just doing the right things environmentally, but saving a lot of money. A win-win all around. :: MetaFore via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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