Spotlight on IP – Millions of Dollars Spent Greenwashing

Part 4 of 5 part series exposing as the South’s largest forest destroyer is the largest pulp and paper company operating in the Southern US and the largest paper company in the world. As the industry behemoth, the company is in a unique position to drive the evolution of modern paper production. But rather than embracing a truly green and sustainable vision for the way paper is produced, the company has not only chosen to remain a stalwart of destructive forestry practices but taken the lead in painting those poor practices in a thick layer of greenwash.

The cornerstone of IP’s greenwashing efforts is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which was the paper industry’s response to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management certification system, which is the only certification system that has wide-scale support from the environmental community across North America. Instead of embracing the critical, stepwise improvements forwarded by environmental organizations, indigenous communities and progressive players in the wood and paper manufacturing industry via the FSC, IP and its cronies at the American Forest & Paper Association created the SFI. The SFI “certifies” millions of acres in the US and is used on numerous products… meaning it is one big problem!

Unlike the FSC, SFI rubber stamps some of the most destructive logging practices, attempting to hide them behind a green sheen. SFI allows for large-scale clearcutting, conversion of natural forests to plantations, unlimited use of toxic chemicals in forest management, and many other of the worst practices that leave behind a wake of degradation and destruction. IP has spent millions of dollars supporting the SFI and aggressively works to ensure its continued misuse.

Recently, both our friends at ForestEthics and the Sierra Club filed complaints against SFI at both the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. The organizations accused the certification program of lax standards and deceptive marketing intended to obscure irresponsible foresting standards. To read more about this, check out this article or this one.

Recently, IP announced FSC chain of custody certification for most of its mills in North America. The fact that IP now has this certification at some of its facilities means simply that it has the appropriate mechanisms in place to be able to track FSC certified fiber from the forest, through the mills and to an end product. It does not mean that IP is actually moving FSC certified fiber through its mills or producing any FSC certified products. Most importantly, it does not mean that anything at all has changed in the forest. To read more about our take, go here.

Unlike many of its competitors who have embraced FSC as the gold standard for certification in North America, IP continues to promote SFI as equal, hasn’t produced one FSC certified product to date and refuses to work with conservation groups on expanding FSC on the ground. So, while IP is moving in response to market pressure, there is no tangible evidence yet that IP is in fact changing its behavior. While IP now has the keys to the Prius (FSC) it is still driving a Hummer (SFI).

While a litany of other paper companies and a growing number of Fortune 500 corporations that make up the bulk of IP’s customer base are changing the way they think about paper and its impact on our planet, IP continues to support business as usual forestry, meaning more logging of endangered forests, large-scale clearcuting, conversion of natural forests to plantations and some of the worst practices on the ground in our forests and local communities.

Check back next week to learn why is one big problem and how you can help change that!

Same old Forest Industry

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