BRUSSELS, June 1, 2014 (PPI Magazine) - The relationship between NGOs and the pulp and paper industry is now one of collaboration and cooperation.
There is no disputing that the industry has made huge headway across the board with its environmental procedures, but it has fallen victim in the past to misleading publicity - portraying the pulp and paper industry as a tree destroying, river polluting wrecking ball.
The reality (although as in any industry there are exceptions) is hard work, dedication and commitment carried out globally to meet environmental certification and legislation. At the heart of this is harmonious work with NGOs and developing transparency in environmental practices.
The WWF Environmental Paper Company Index comparison of 2013 is an example of achieving an open dialogue between the industry and consumers. Evaluation credentials includes the use of wood fiber sources from sustainably managed forests, energy consumption and transparent operations.
Södra is one of the companies that showed leadership in transparency in the WWF's 2013 index, and was the first, and the only pulp company to be included. Roine Morin, environmental director at Södra is used to this level of transparency thanks to initiatives such as the environmental section on PulpServicesOnLine, the company's intranet site for customers.
Recently, Södra's closest dialogue with the WWF has been in forestry areas on FSC certification for small forest owners. This followed Södra's concerns about FSC certification that historically the scheme had not been best suited to small forest holdings.
Södra took part in a process that involved dialogue with the WWF as well as FSC to explain what the forest management conditions meant for small forest owners. Klara Helstad, sustainability director at Södra, joined the board of FSC in Sweden and it was here that much of the work to accommodate small forest owners into the FSC process was done. She is still a member today.
Helstad and her team worked withboth the WWF and FSC to help motivate members to gain accreditation and then at ground level to get the forests certified.
Morin feels that the NGO relationship will carry on progressing in the future. "We have a good dialogue with the WWF already and that will continue. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that we probably have one of the closest dialogues with them as far as pulp producers are concerned."
Morin makes a point of catching up several times a year with individual members of the WWF over the phone and the company invites speakers from the WWF to its customer seminars.
He adds: "It's very important for all sides to talk and understand each other's point of view because ultimately we all want the best for the environment. "
Metsä Group participated in last year's index for the first time in all product categories: pulp, board, graphic paper and tissue paper.
The company and WWF Finland have been cooperating actively since 2011 with an aim of promoting sustainable forestry.
According to Riikka Joukio, SVP sustainability and corporate affairs for Metsä Group this is a valuable part of its stakeholder engagement.
She explains: "Sustainable forest management is strategically important to us and we work in close cooperation with WWF aiming to promote sustainably forestry practices."
The wood used by Metsä Board comes from sustainably managed forests. The majority of wood used in Finland comes from forests owned by Metsäliitto Cooperative's members - some 123,000 Finnish forest owners. Joukio adds: "Metsä Board considers forest management and chain-of-custody certifications to be excellent tools both to ensure and further evolve the sustainability of the supply chain and forestry operations. The wood we procure is 100% traceable and always from sustainable sources."
The push from corporate companies requiring products with excellent environmental credentials is also a massive swaying power in how the industry operates. US-based Appleton Coated is also on the WWF 2013 index, which it feels has given it global recognition in sustainability and enabled the growth of its green story.
The company has observed and been involved with situations where NGOs work with Appleton's customers to achieve environmental objectives. Diane Ernst, product manager, technically & specialty products at Appleton Coated says: "This is more frequent with consumer-related companies and appears to be more effective than NGO pressure being applied through negative public relations and press."
In one particular case study, Appleton's end user worked with Rainforest Alliance as an advisor in developing its paper procurement policy and establishing environmental goals around FSC and post-consumer waste (PCW) purchases. Ernst says: "This increased the amount of PCW content in the paper they purchased from us. In addition their chain of custody purchases increased."
Fundamentally the company has seen a much more proactive response with the NGO and paper company relationship. She explains: "Over the years we have experienced a shift from the NGOs attacking our corporate customers about not being ‘green enough' to partnering with them to achieve their goals."
Ernst concludes: "Working together is much more effective and reaps exponential benefits through the supply chain. We believe that corporations will continue to increase the emphasis on environmental sustainability and the NGOs will continue to have a role."
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