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

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….

Freelance writer Mary Catherine O'Connor finds that a growing number of companies are proving the ways that they can make good financially, socially and environmentally (as the triple bottom line theory suggests).With that in mind, she contributes to Triple Pundit, as well as to Earth2Tech and other pubs focused on sustainability. She also writes The Good Route, an Outside Magazine blog that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the active/outdoor life.To find out more, or to reach her, go to www.mcoconnor.com.