Rainforest Solutions Project

Promoting conservation and economic alternatives in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest


B.C. environmentalists buoyed by ‘green’ report

March 11, 2003

(Vancouver, BC) – Environmental groups are pointing to a consulting firm’s report that use of so-called “green” forest products is on the upswing as evidence their years of lobbying have paid off.

The report, based on discussions with 30 major customers, concludes there has been a move toward purchasing environmentally friendly B.C. wood products. The conclusions were contained in the report, A Greenward Shift in the Market for Forest Products from British Columbia, prepared by IBM Business Consulting Services.

“The findings of the IBM report are positive in that it shows the greenward shift that we’ve been talking about is in fact real,” Greenpeace spokesman Gavin Edwards said Tuesday.

“Here we have a well-respected, independent audit and survey of that trend which shows the trend is real and here to stay.”

The report was commissioned by the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society, a Vancouver-based organization.

Among the companies surveyed were Home Depot, the Tribune Company, BBC Worldwide and Mitsui Home Co. Ltd., a major Japanese home builder.

The findings come after years of publicity, including boycott campaigns, aimed at getting major buyers to avoid products from old-growth forests or large-scale clearcuts.

The report’s authors, however, point out that the survey was small and indicated only a trend.

The survey was with 30 customers who collectively spent about $2.1 billion on B.C. forest products in 2001. Data for the survey was based on 1999 figures — a year in which B.C. forest companies shipped about $18.6 billion worth of products.

“While the results reflect the views of a large and important subset of customers of B.C. forest products, the sample size is not statistically significant,” the report says.

“While some of the findings may be indicative of the wider market, they cannot necessarily be considered representative of the entire market for B.C. forest products.”

Still, environmental groups were buoyed by the findings.

“It’s a significant finding that … the companies surveyed here are saying this is a real trend and if companies in B.C. and the government in B.C. turn back the clock on forest practices then we are going to see a loss of share in the international marketplace, and this report clearly details that,” said Edwards.

Other groups, including ForestEthics and the Sierra Club of Canada, echoed Edwards.

“The report states that the marketplace will avoid controversy around the world’s endangered forests, including those of B.C., by not purchasing them,” Merran Smith of ForestEthics said in a prepared statement.

IBM spokesman Tyler Elm said the report indicates that “the adoption of forest certification has been underway in B.C. for several years but it’s still early stages.

“The general finding of the report is that environmental policies are an increasing competitive criterion among buyers.”

The report also suggests forest products consumers aren’t married to a specific products-certification criterion – a finding that didn’t sit well with Greenpeace.

Environmental groups consider the Forest Stewardship Council as the best certification scheme, said Edwards. But the report suggests that FSC-sanctioned purchases represent only a small percentage of all forest-product purchases.

“While the majority of customers interviewed are attempting to shift their purchasing towards certified products, few believe that FSC is the only scheme that will lead to ecologically sustainable harvesting,” the report says.

“The buyers in the report indicated that their certification schemes are seen as equivalent,” said Elm. “There is the Canadian Standards Association, SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) and FSC.”

Edwards said that finding was “quite a surprising for us because it’s clear from some of the major buyers around the world – Home Depot or IKEA – that FSC is the certification choice of preference.

“What this means is that the logging industry has done a very good job of muddying the waters over certification and over eco-certification and we have our work cut out for us as environmental groups in clarifying what is a sustainable certification system and what is just an industry rubber-stamping process.”

Edwards said the FSC is an international organization based in Mexico with an arm in Toronto that is preferred by environmental groups because “we see safeguards for key areas of ancient forests and endangered species protected.”

Edwards pointed to Weyerhaueser and Interfor as B.C. forest products companies that are “trying to work toward solutions.” He conceded that while environmentalists look to companies that have FSC certification, “few companies are moving in that direction right now.”