Danna’s Inside Scoop on the IP Victory

Decade-long Campaign to Protect Southern Forests Motivates World’s Biggest Paper Company to Leap Forward

Today marks a pinnacle moment in Dogwood’s campaign to protect Southern forests from the impacts of industrial forestry for paper production. Since our humble beginnings in 1996, Dogwood Alliance has been openly critical of the paper industry’s impact on Southern forests. After all, the South is the world’s largest paper-producing region. And at the forefront of all of our campaigns over the past twelve years has been International Paper (IP). As the largest paper producer in the world’s largest paper-producing region, IP has had a significant footprint in our forests. And we’ve known for many years now that if we wanted to halt the conversion of natural forests to industrial pine plantations and the loss of unique forested ecosystems we would need to need to win over the Southern forest industry’s most influential player.

To take on IP seemed like a monumental task over a decade ago. But, we had a long-term vision, and we believed we could achieve it. We were going to convince IP’s biggest customers to join us in our fight to protect Southern forests. And once we had some big customers on our side, we were going to convince IP’s competitors to respond to those customers who were asking the right questions. We believed that this would create a new context where paper companies would have to compete for business not just on the price and quality of paper, but also on their commitments to forest conservation. Our strategy was perhaps part theory and part dream. Some doubted that it would work, but we didn’t let it stop us.

Over the years, one by one we convinced major customers of IP including Staples, Office Depot, OfficeMax, FedEx Office, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Universal Music Group and McDonald’s to embrace new environmental standards for their paper suppliers. That paved the way for three of the South’s largest paper producers, Domtar, Georgia-Pacific and Resolute Forest Products to begin working with Dogwood Alliance to improve forestry practices by embracing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and/or committing not to purchase any wood from endangered forests or from plantations established at the expense of natural forests.

And then, about a year ago, in the midst of a campaign targeting another one of IP’s customers, Yum! Brands/KFC, I got a call from IP’s new VP of Sustainability, Teri Shanahan. Fast forward to today and IP has developed the most comprehensive approach to addressing long-standing concerns about the impacts of industrial logging in the US South. Not only are they working to aggressively expand the acreage of FSC certified forests across the South (by 2014 they expect to be one of the world’s largest users of FSC certified fiber in the world), but they have also committed to invest $7.5 million to help conserve forests in the ecoregions that have been the focus of our campaigns. Beyond that, they have agreed to work with Dogwood Alliance to map endangered and other high conservation value forests and to discourage the future conversion of natural hardwood forests to pine plantations.

This is a big shift from business as usual in the Southern forest industry, and IP deserves credit for embracing new approaches and beginning to create a new paradigm for their industry. They also deserve a lot of credit for seeking out Dogwood Alliance, one of their biggest critics, as a partner on their path of continuous improvement. That takes courage and a bit of a leap of faith.

We still have a long way to go to ensure our forests have the protection they so deserve. And there is still need for even greater improvement in the paper industry. But, today is a day to celebrate and to feel hopeful about what’s possible in the future. This has been a long road. It has been hard work involving the time, energy and support of many people over the years. Together we dreamed a big dream and it came true…at least in part… giving rise to an even greater confidence in our ability to manifest even bigger dreams for Southern forests in the future.

Read more about this game-changer in the paper industry and how it will protect Southern forests

4 Responses to “Danna’s Inside Scoop on the IP Victory”

  1. Randolph Wilson

    Danna, thank you for your reply. Truly you and the entire Dogwood Alliance staff are to be congratulated for your work to bring IP to the table and to finally hold IP accountable to cease the future destruction of Southern forests.

    My sketicism remains….for as a former, long term employee of IP….to my regret….I witnessed first hand the conversion of Southern hardwood forests to pine plantations on lands then owned by IP. Now that IP is stepping up to the plate to take responsibility, to me anyway, is akin to the Fox guarding the chicken house after the Fox has eaten all the chickens. However my sketicism aside, this is indeed progress.

    I worked for many years in the Atlantic area of North and South Carolina. The najority of these lands are now owned by Resource Management Services (aka Red Mountain Timber), so it will be interesting to see how RMS co-operates in this initiative. I know RMS has a 15 year wood purchase agreement with IP, so perhaps IP can exert influence to bring RMS along.

    BTW….let us all work together to keep the genetically engineered Eucalyptus out of the Southeast.

    Good Luck and continue the good work.

  2. Randolph Wilson

    While your partnership with IP is indeed a victory…..it is on the other hand a day late and a dollar short.

    IP no longer owns any timberlands in the Southeast US…..no timberlands in the US….only on Brazil. IP sold 6.5 million acres of timberlands in 2006…all of the corporations land holdings and retained those lands in Brazil. I should know…as I was employed by IP for 32 years as a Forester in the Southeast.

    IP is also a partner with ArborGen who wishes to market/sell and plant test plots…of genitically modified Eucalyptus in the Southeast. Righly so…..is being many enviromental groups (including Dogwood Alliance) is fightng to stop.

    I wish you much success as the Southeast has been devasted by these huge timber companies. But knowing IP’s past…..I am not holding my breath.

    • Randolph, thanks for your thoughtful response. You are right IP does not own any timber lands anymore and for many years has been claiming that because of that, they have no responsibility. (Even when they did onw a lot of land they still relied on other landowners to supply them with around 75% of the wood for their operations. But, the reality is that IP as one of the largest buyers of wood in the region has huge influence over how forests are managed. This agreement is paradigm shifting in that large paper companies are now taking responsibility for the landscape level impacts of their wood sourcing, regardless of the ownership. Private landownership has long been held up as an excuse for the status quo. And, you are right about ARborgen…we are well aware of that and will continue to work hard to stop the industrial release of genetically engineered trees. IP still has a long way to go, but they have made some real progress here.


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