The Missing Piece
Some estimates suggest that as much as 10 percent of the wood fiber flowing through the global marketplace originated from an illegal harvest. So having a trusted mechanism for sorting out the good from the bad is more important than ever.
In recent years, major companies such as The Home Depot, Lowe's, Starbucks, Nike, and other large wood and paper buyers have begun to prefer wood and paper that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) over alternative products in the marketplace.
With members from over 70 countries and more than 30 national initiatives, the FSC-certification program sets high standards for protecting people and the environment, while still allowing for logging of forests.
Since 1993, the nonprofit organization has been a key driver in the transformation of the forest industry's logging practices. Over 26 million acres of forest in North America are managed to the organization's standards, and more and more companies are getting on board and improving their forest practices.
What It Means to Your Business
When you use FSC-certified papers, you know you're not supporting the destruction of Endangered Forests or disruption of native tribal life in remote areas of the world. For many, this peace of mind means a lot. For some, it provides a business advantage—it says something goo
Whether it's Time Inc. touting its use of FSC-certified paper, or The Nature Conservancy printing its magazine on certified paper, an increasing number of companies are seeking affiliation with the FSC, especially as more companies adopt corporate responsibility policies.
Being Responsible Is Only Getting Easier
With each forest the FSC certifies, the availability of certified paper grows. This represents an emerging opportunity for the book publishing industry to demonstrate its commitment to corporate social responsibility.
Currently, two trends are apparent in the North American marketplace. First, paper mills that produce coated papers—text and cover weights—and business papers are joining the FSC "Chain of Custody" certification process. This assures customers that the papers from these mills meet the FSC's standards and have originated from certified sources. Second, the FSC has recently adapted its standards to better incorporate and encourage recycled fiber as part of the supply stream that supports certified paper products.
Expanding a Global Reach
Numerous certification programs exist that address forestry and other issues. Notwithstanding the relative merits of these programs, buyers should be aware that the FSC is the only certification program to address environmental and social issues on a global basis, including North America (which ensures the adequate protection of Endangered Forest areas worldwide). As the global marketplace expands, this is becoming even more important. It also is the only program in the world to have the support of mainstream, global environmental organizations like Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, National Wildlife Federation and The Wilderness Society.
The integrity of FSC's standards not only have earned FSC the strong support of environmental organizations, but have earned the support of large buyers of wood and paper as well. Over the past two years, large commercial printers like RR Donnelley, Quad/Graphics, Quebecor World, Friesens and others have earned FSC Chain of Custody certification so they can apply the FSC logo to their final products. This proves that these companies and their customers who request FSC-certified papers are concerned about their environmental and social impact.
This is one part of an overall industry transformation that includes large paper merchants and mills. While major printers have certified certain products, they have generally not certified grades commonly used in book publishing, as there has been no proof their book customers would want them.
A major announcement, however, was made in early January that could have significant impact on the industry's progress: Fraser Papers now holds an FSC Chain of Custody certificate for certain premium grades. This represents an opportunity to grow the certified book paper sector if it becomes clear to Fraser that there is demand for certified papers.
So, while certified book papers are not yet available in large quantities, it will take only a little encouragement to bring some major players in line. The only missing piece is the expression of real demand from book publishers.
The opportunity for a dramatic expression of corporate citizenship and a major shift in the paper industry lies before us now. As the magazine, catalog and office-paper segments of the market shift, the timing is right for book papers to fall in line. Ideally, though, given the chance, the book paper industry will lead, rather than follow.
—Michael P. Washburn
Michael P. Washburn, Ph.D., is the vice president of forestry and marketing for FSC U.S. (www.FSCus.org). He is the founder and former director of the Program on Forest Certification at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and former national coordinator of the Sustainable Forestry Partnership.