Coming Clean: Corporate Sustainability Reporting and Dogwood Alliance

Dogwood Alliance has a long history of combating corporate greenwashing, including speaking clearly and forcefully on the negative impacts of the forest products industry. As we implement our agreements with large forest products companies, including International Paper and Georgia-Pacific, to improve the way they do business in the forests of the US South and beyond, our obligation to serve as a counterbalance to corporate power with their millions of dollars in corporate propaganda remains critical. Later this year, we will set out our own guidelines on what Dogwood Alliance thinks are important measures for true sustainability in the Southern paper industry. Similar to what we did with our Green Grades reports that looked at the environmental paper performance of the big office product sellers, including Staples, Office Depot and more, we will call out sustainability leaders and laggards among the Southern paper industry.

Dogwood Alliance’s 2010 Green Grades Report

Recently I went to Chicago, Illinois for training on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) which has become the most used sustainability reporting framework for companies to measure and report their sustainability performance. We share the non-profit GRI’s belief that this kind of reporting done transparently and with accountability can drive progress in corporate sustainability. Understanding how and why corporations make public their environmental impacts will help us moving forward. As the GRI pushes corporations to go public with their environmental footprint, we have more leverage in obtaining information on these impacts and more support in establishing them as important criteria. At the Chicago training, we dug deep into how corporations report on the impacts of their supply chain. I was able to see first-hand the results of Dogwood’s work, as some of the participants worked to improve and report on their environmental footprint. This change in corporate behavior was based in large part on the demands from large customers with whom who we’d worked to make their own sustainability policies that addressed supply chain issues. 

There are new corporate sustainability reports out nearly every week, chock-full of words and graphs. Certainly there is good news to report, but we need to combat misleading or vacuous corporate speech dressed up with fancy graphics and warm fuzzy photos. We do this with a deep analysis from our own important perspective. As we move forward in this critical work with companies that have such a large impact in the forests that we love and fight for, our analysis and reporting needs to be honest and fair with a strong and clear voice.

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