Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Business shifts attitudes on forest products

May 5, 2003

Two years ago, the provincial government proposed to protect parts of B.C.‘s coast known around the world as the Great Bear Rainforest. To no one’s surprise, that decision and the temporary suspension of logging activities in ecologically important areas of the Great Bear Rainforest was applauded by conservation organizations that helped negotiate the agreement.

What may surprise readers is that a lot of businesses that buy wood products supported it as well. A growing number of purchasers of pulp, paper and wood embrace announcements like the Great Bear because they believe such decisions are catalysts for positive change. This applies not only to forest companies but also to forest product purchasers who can play a valuable role in the marketplace by financially supporting good logging.

Many companies including the one I work for, Raincoast Books, are eliminating products derived from endangered forests like the Great Bear Rainforest.

Raincoast is perhaps best known for publishing the Harry Potter book series, which to date have sold more than six million copies in Canada. Recognizing that much of the wood fibre that went into making the hundreds of millions of pages in those books – and in many of the other books that we publish — comes from endangered forests, our company decided shortly after the Great Bear announcement to chart a new course in our purchasing decisions.

We did not do so in isolation, but as part of an industry-wide movement and working with an environmental coalition, Markets Initiative. And we are not alone. Today, more than 30 Canadian book publishers — supported by a growing list of major authors — are moving in a similar direction. Hundreds of other businesses internationally, including big names such as IKEA and Home Depot, have reached similar conclusions.

As purchasing is changing, we are witnessing a newfound willingness on the part of some forest companies to rise to the challenge of conserving important forests and modifying their logging methods.

One of the more significant signals of a changing attitude by businesses in terms of the forest products they want to buy was captured in the pages of a report released recently by IBM Business Consulting Services. Interviews with 30 major purchasers of B.C. forest products show a significant shift in the international market toward green alternatives.

Environmentalists praised the report as proof that many companies want to ensure their purchasing decisions do not further jeopardize endangered forests.

At Raincoast, we’re excited by the ecological benefits that will flow from our new procurement policies. This summer, when we release Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we will do so knowing that 14,000 trees will be spared, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced and energy and water resources conserved. Such savings will build on similar successes already achieved by other Canadian publishers enacting parallel policies.

Remembering the Great Bear decision, we cannot forget that challenging work lies ahead. Decisions are outstanding on the future of millions of hectares of forests in the region. Will the 2001 promise to further protect critical ecological areas in the Great Bear Rainforest be fulfilled?

At Raincoast, we hope that over time adequate conservation and ecologically sound forestry will become the norm in forests in B.C. and around the world.