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Kentucky Fried Forests: Dogwood Alliance Pushing KFC to Improve Paper Sources

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday April 8th, 2010 | 5 Comments

The Dogwood Alliance, an environmental group that works to preserve forest lands in the Southern regions of the US, launched a campaign today aimed at pressuring Yum! Brands and its quick-service restaurant brand Kentucky Fried Chicken to adopt more sustainable packaging sourcing practices and requiring their paper vendors–specifically International Paper–to source paper only from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This Kentucky Fried Forests campaign kicked off with a public rally in front of KFC’s flagship store in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Alliance has focused its efforts on pushing major corporations in a number of industries, including office supplies and media, to purchase paper and packaging materials only from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  It has had some victories with companies including Staples and Sony, says Scot Quaranda, the Kentucky Fried Forests campaign director. But, he says, “Yum! Brands has been reticent–at best–with us and our attempts at dialogue. So now is a good time to raise the stakes with the company–and when you look at Kentucky Fried Chicken, it stands out as an iconic southern brand. So the most recognizable piece of the campaign is the KFC bucket of chicken.”

He says KFC and Yum! currently purchase much of their paper and packaging from International Paper, which has a member on the board of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), an alternative forest-certification group that is backed by the paper industry.

“We consider SFI to be the fox guarding the hen house,” says Quaranda. “It allows for the worst practices, including logging endangered forests and allowing genetically engineered trees to be introduced to nature.” (He adds that this has not yet happened.)

As a major purchaser of paper products from International Paper, KFC has the ability to influence industry-wide change by committing to only using FSC certified products for the company’s needs throughout its supply chain, from shipping to stores. That’s the thrust of the campaign. Yum! also owns Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silvers, so it would also like to see these chains use only FSC-certified sources, as well.

Quaranda says that Dogwood Alliance worked with the Borealis Centre, which provides research and related services to NGOs, to learn that Yum! and KFC sources paper from poorly-managed Southern forests.

The Dogwood Alliance also notes that, based on data collected from the US Forest Service Southern Research Station, the southern region of the US is the largest paper producing region in the world and provides 20 percent of the globe’s pulp, paper and lumber while only being home to 2 percent of the world’s forests.

International Paper claims to have “the largest FSC manufacturing platform across the globe.”  However, Quaranda says that this is part of what he calls IP’s efforts at greenwashing its environmental record. IP holds FSC Chain of Custody certificates, which “simply means that the mills have been certified to handle FSC fiber, it does not mean that they are necessarily using FSC fiber,” says Quaranda. “So they have systems in place to segregate fiber coming from FSC certified forest management and can then use that in FSC branded products…but IP is not currently producing any FSC certified products.  They are not supporting their Southern fiber suppliers to go FSC.”

He does note that some of IP’s international partners–such as Ilim Pulp in Russia–are managing their forests to FSC standards. But that’s not the case at the mills that IP uses to source paper from the Southern US, he says.

The Dogwood Alliance has made progress convincing  the “major, iconic fast food restaurant in the world” to change its paper sourcing practices, but because the negotiations are still in process, he would not name the company (but it’s not hard to guess).

Maybe while they’re in there, the Dogwood folks can explore ways for these restaurants to start improving food sourcing programs and talk about how to pull calorie counts down from the heavens, too….

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  • DWA Rose

    Somebody is not doing their own research. Instead, they are following the other eco-sheep who accept groups like Dogwood at face value.

    I prefer facts over slogans. And the facts aren't hard to find. A quick run through just a few Forest Stewardship Council certification audits shows huge clearcuts, unabated chemical use and poor treatment of First Nations on FSC forests. Check it out:

    FSC in Ontario – http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/forestry/doc
    FSC in Manitoba- http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/forestry/doc
    FSC in China – http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/forestry/doc

    Note the Chinese forest is a plantation — just part of the over 8 million hectares of monoculture plantations around the world certified by Forest Stewardship Council.

    So tell me again — why does Dogwood seem to think it is justified in blackmailing companies to force them to use products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council?

  • mcoc

    DWA Rose: you're a much faster reader than I am if you can do a quick run through the 300+ pages of documentation you shared above. However, I take your comment seriously (and I know you have a beef with FSC, based on past comments) so I will bring this to the attn of Dogwood Alliance and see what they have to say about it. Thanks much.

    • DWA Rose

      I agree, Mary. You shouldn't have to read through all that stuff. But it's important to me that more people know this is not a simple matter.

      My beef is not with the Forest Stewardship Council. My beef is with organizations like Dogwood who continue to peddle blatant misinformation and falsehoods assuming no one will challenge them. So why do so many believe everything they say? Dogwood certainly hasn’t earned my trust.

      In fact, I think Forest Stewardship Council has a lot to offer. So does the Sustainable Forest Initiative, American Tree Farm System, and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes. They are all improving the quality of forest management.

      Dogwood will likely tell you they never said the Forest Stewardship Council is perfect. But their claims suggest they are viewing FSC through rose-colored glasses while refusing to recognize anyone else. How is FSC better than any of the other programs I mentioned above? None of them are perfect but they are all improving practices. Shouldn't that be our common goal?

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  • scotq

    DWA… thanks for your comments, we always appreciate feedback and it seems like this is an important issue to you. I posted a comment on Marc Gunther's story as well, but will repeat it here.

    Your choice to compare the FSC with other certification programs says to me that you have not done your homework. FSC has flaws globally, but in a region like the Southern US that has been hammered by the pulp and paper industry for over a generation and is 90% privately owned it is the best available option.

    SFI, American Tree Farm, and PEFC are all products of the paper industry in response to the FSC. It is quite literally the fox guarding the hen house. I have walked many logging jobs in the region that were either FSC or SFI certified and the difference were clearly evident. The SFI still allows for the worst practices in the forest – large-scale clearcutting, logging of endangered forests, conversion of natural forests to plantations, and reliance on toxic chemicals in forest management. This is patently unacceptable and none of these practices equate to sustainable in our mind.

    You also missed the main message of the campaign which is reducing the use of packaging and increasing the use of post-consumer recycled fiber. These two options will reduce the pressure on our forests and make certified fiber a good complement.

    I am guessing you will disagree with our stance on this and imagine we could debate it until the cows come home, so my advice to you is get out in the woods and see for yourself. In the absence of mandated protection, this is currently the best option we have. I would also urge you to engage with FSC and pass along your comments. The only way we are going to make this world a better place is by acting to improve it. KFC has a long way to go to protect the forests in their own backyard and we feel this is a good start.

  • DWA Rose

    “FSC has flaws globally, but in a region like the Southern US…it is the best available option”

    Then why is Dogwood extorting corporations like Staples, Office Depot, OfficeMax, FedEx and all the other victims of your paper campaign and Green Grades report to buy FSC or else? (Yes, I have been doing my homework.) How can KFC tell whether it is buying FSC fiber from the Southern US or Canada or a plantation in Brazil? It all carries the same label, right? I go back to what I said earlier: None of the certification programs are perfect but they are all improving practices globally. Shouldn't that be our common goal?

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