Dogwood Alliance, the campaign group dedicated to protecting forests in the Southern United States, has long been known for its strategic corporate campaigning—slamming corporations like KFC for using unsustainable paper in their packaging, but also being willing to praise corporate giants like McDonalds and Starbucks who adopt more sustainable policies, even if those companies are still far from paragons of treehugging virtue. (See Lloyd's take-down of Starbucks' cup-to-cup recycling efforts for example.)
The Dogwood Alliance's latest campaign victory is no exception—but this time they are not celebrating one restaurant chain, or one office supply store, switching to certified or recycled paper. They are celebrating a groundbreaking agreement with the world's biggest paper company, International Paper (IP)—a company who they have been criticizing and campaigning against for years. The agreement represents, campaigners say, a major commitment to science-based conservation and sustainable forestry.
The collaboration will see Dogwood and IP working together to map the areas of the South that IP operates in, identifying any endangered forests or high conservation areas. It will also see the two groups working together to discourage the conversion of old growth forests to pine plantations.
Crucially, says Dogwood, this is just one step among a whole host of initiatives from IP. Here's more from the Dogwood announcement:
This collaboration builds on initiatives recently announced by International Paper. The first is IP’s membership in the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest & Trade Network in North America. Additionally, IP announced a $7.5 million five-year project with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore and conserve forests in the Coastal Carolinas, Cumberland Plateau and Texas/Arkansas Piney Woods regions. Finally, IP announced an increase in its sourcing of Forest Stewardship Council certified fiber by more than 1.2 million tons during the past five years, and expects to triple that increase by the end of 2014. The company continues to support multiple certification standards as part of its public goal of increasing certified fiber.
Of course, there will be many in the environmental community who will argue that the concept of sustainable production of paper on the scale that the world is actually using it is, quite simply, an oxymoron—and they have a point. Any truly sustainable approach to paper use must include a shift away from our throw away mentality. But then it also requires a radical rethink in how we structure our economy. In the meantime, we must continue to set strategic goals and a pathway to achieving them.
Here's Dogwood Executive Director Danna Smith on why this announcement should be celebrated:
(Disclosure: Some time back I worked with The Dogwood Alliance on their Kentucky Fried Forests campaign in my capacity as Creative Director for The Change Creation.)