Recipe for a sustainable sourcing policy with sauce

Originally published in Rolland Inc. by Canopy Campaigner Neva Murtha.

Over the 15 years Canopy has been working with publishers, printers, large corporate paper buyers, and pulp and paper mills (including Rolland) to develop and implement sustainable paper procurement policies, we have seen tremendous shifts in where the “leadership bar” is set. Some companies, such as Kimberly Clark, Sprint, Marks and Spencer, Esprit, H&M and EarthColor have embraced their commitment to sustainability, leading to much more rigorous policies and meaningful implementation. The result is that the benchmark for a leading environmental policy has shifted significantly and meaningful environmental action looks a lot different today than it did five to ten years ago.

With this progress, a clear gap is emerging between sustainability leaders and the rest of the pack. As with many things in life, not all policies are equal. In the paper sector, many logging and paper companies have ‘environmental’ or sustainability policies posted to their websites, but the rigor of implementation and meaningful action towards fulfilling these policies varies widely. In very basic policies you’ll see producers adopt language about meeting local laws and doing their bit to recycle. In the more rigorous policies, where real leadership is displayed, there is language that states a company’s commitment to go well beyond what the local laws require, a commitment backed up with targets and timelines for implementation, as well as a sustainability report that transparently reveals what stage of implementation that company is at.

As the baseline for progressive policies has been shifting, the marketplace is changing along with it. Companies are striving to meet shareholder and customer expectations, developing in-depth corporate sustainability policies and scrutinizing their suppliers. The triple bottom line has become an important indicator of future viability.

To meet customer expectations, companies wanting to develop a leading policy that shows vision and meaningful sustainability commitments in the paper and printing sectors will want to incorporate the critical elements of a leading policy. These include but are not limited to strong language focused on the protection of:

  • Ancient and endangered forests (not just making a no-deforestation commitment);
  • High carbon values in their tenure and/or supply chain;
  • Conservation and biodiversity values in their tenure and/or supply chain, and

Strong commitments to:

  • Engage on joint solutions for conservation agreements in critical forest ecosystems such as the Boreal, Indonesian and South American Rainforests, temperate rainforests of the Pacific North West and endangered forests in the US SE,
  • Maximize paper efficiencies,
  • Maximize recycled content,
  • Work with suppliers and other stakeholders to ensure that forest management practices conserve endangered forests and support biodiversity and ecosystem integrity,
  • A preference for Forest Stewardship Council Certification management in the forest,
  • Support the research and development of papers made with agricultural residues, such as wheat straw residues,
  • Pollution prevention,
  • Decrease the carbon footprint of pulp and paper sourcing,
  • Ensure free, prior and informed consent of local peoples and communities in the areas from which pulp and paper originates,
  • Be transparent about timelines, benchmarks and accountability.

Think this is a tall order? Think again. A couple of paper producers themselves have policies with these key elements along with hundreds of publishers and printers in North America, as well as major global clothing brands. Many are sourcing 100% recycled papers and have invested in helping advance conservation solutions for critical endangered forest hotspots such as the Great Bear Rainforest in order to be part of collaborative solutions that a leave a legacy of protected forests for future generations. View the full list of companies with leading ‘forest conservation policies’.

Sustainability is important to the marketplace, investors, policy makers and consumers. If your company is already well down the road to implementing a sustainable paper policy, congratulations! If not, there’s no time like the present! Whether you’re already well along an environmental path or just starting out, Canopy is happy to bring its experience and resources to help you build a sustainability initiative that is meaningful and meets your company’s environmental and market goals.