On the morning of October 7 two highly-trained climbers rappelled down the side of Minneapolis’ Washington Avenue Bridge and unfurled a gigantic 40 x 40’ Post-It Note launching a new campaign against the destructive environmental practices of 3M, the St-Paul based corporate giant that produces Post-It Notes and Scotch Tape. The banner, a 1,600 foot square of iconic yellow that hung about the Mississippi river for more than four hours, revealed that 3M has already checked off “Destroy forests,” “Pollute communities,” and “Mislead customers w/ SFI” on its ‘To Do’ List. But it still hasn’t gotten around to the last item: “Do the Right Thing.”
The campaign should certainly come as no surprise to 3M. The company consumes large amounts of forests to manufacture its 55,000 different products. As a larger buyer of pulp and paper, 3M also influences the broader market. ForestEthics has pressed 3M for constructive engagement for years, but the behemoth has yet to budge.
ForestEthics has over a decade of experience helping large companies to better protect the world’s forests successfully persuading over a hundred corporations, including Walgreens, Staples and Home Depot, to purchase forest products from more environmentally responsible sources and to reject the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), a cynical public relations scheme that’s funded and governed by the timber industry – and aimed to take advantage of consumers who want to do the right thing for the environment.
Post-It Notes are in most offices—and homes—around the world. Given the brand’s power and potency, 3M has a responsibility to demonstrate real environmental leadership. But 3M’s actual practices stand in stark contrast to the green image it markets to consumers who want to be conscientious with their purchasing. 90% of Post-It Note products contain no recycled content. Zero. That is not environmental leadership—it’s outdated and egregious behavior in the 21st century. Post-It and 3M proudly market their use of the logging industry’s phony SFI eco-label, even when they know SFI certification allows for destructive practices like massive clearcuts, spraying toxic herbicides, and harming wildlife.
SFI certification isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The deceptive green scheme is designed to conceal from consumers the clear-cut old-growth forests, the land saturated with toxic herbicides that poison communities, workers, wildlife, and insects, the monocropped GMO tree plantations that wipe out biodiversity and resistance to disease and fire, and the landslides and polluted fisheries that are all the routine byproducts of their corporate clients’ forestry practices.
SFI is an industry-run eco-scam designed to trick people who don’t want their purchases to destroy the planet, but who don’t have the time or information to sort out all the environmental claims that bombard them on every aisle. Independent certification systems were supposed to allow consumers to distinguish genuinely sustainable products from those merely decorated with empty claims, like “natural” or “green.” 3M betrays its customers’ trust when it uses SFI to mislead them into thinking its products are “good for forests.”
When ForestEthics first engaged 3M, it simply asked the company to stop promoting the timber industry’s SFI greenwashing. 3M refused. As ForestEthics dug deeper, the more it found 3M’s connections to the destruction of endangered forests around the world. 3M will now be forced to thoroughly and comprehensively address its role in deforestation. The banner hang is just the beginning. With the support of grassroots activists around the country and world, ForestEthics will continue to ratchet up pressure on 3M. Together, we will put the 3M and Post-It brand at such risk that 3M will be forced to act.
There is a solution to 3M’s greenwashing problem that benefits forests, consumers, and 3M itself. 3M can become forest friendly by rejecting the hollow SFI certification and working with ForestEthics to develop a paper sourcing policy that prioritizes recycled, post-consumer waste, and paper certified by a credible forest certification like the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). Starting immediately, environmentally conscious consumers are encouraged to contact 3M to demand 3M do the right thing for forests.
Jim Ace is a Senior Campaigner with ForestEthics. ForestEthics is a non-profit organization devoted to public engagement, outreach and environmental advocacy – including political advocacy. They secure large-scale protection of endangered forests and wild places and transform environmentally destructive resource-extraction industries. For more information: www.forestethics.org