Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Corporate buyers look to eco-certified forest companies

March 15, 2003

A survey of 30 large corporate buyers of B.C. forest products shows they want to avoid controversy so badly that they are willing to support a complete ban on purchases from old-growth forests. But they say they don’t really know what is meant when environmentalists talk about endangered and old-growth forests and they are not willing to pay a premium to get eco-friendly products.

Despite the ambiguity of their responses, the buyers say they believe the market for green forest products is growing and that they want to buy from producers who have eco-certified forest management systems. IBM Business Consulting Services surveyed the 30 global forest products customers for the Institute for Media Policy and Civil Society, a Vancouver-based activist organization.

The results are viewed by environmental organizations as proof that their marketing campaigns against B.C. forest companies have paid big dividends. “Pragmatic, bottom-line business leaders are saying that buying wood products from environmentally sustainable sources makes sense,” said Lisa Matthaus, of the Sierra Club.

Forest companies initially fought environmentalists’ efforts to sway customer opinion but when they started getting messages from their customers to end the controversy, coastal companies in B.C. began making peace with the eco-groups. Buyers didn’t want to purchase two-by-fours with a protester hanging off the back, one forester said.

Greenpeace campaigner Gavin Edwards was one of those protesters. Today he wears a suit and spends more time in boardrooms than on blockades. “The more we got into the marketing campaign, the more we realized we have a receptive audience out there,” said Edwards.

He said eco-groups have long believed that targeting buyers of forest products was an effective way to bring change. That doesn’t mean organizations like Greenpeace will abandon civil disobedience, Edwards said, but the green trend in forest products gives them new ammunition to convince corporate buyers they are not alone if they adopt green policies.

Greenpeace has been encouraging companies to change their procurement policies, initially by conducting stunts to draw attention to eco-issues and more recently by showing up in boardrooms armed with consumer information. Greenpeace is forwarding the report to its next corporate target, customers of construction lumber from Canada’s northern forests.