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3M, ForestEthics Bury Hatchet, Save Forests

Andrew Burger headshotWords by Andrew Burger
Leadership & Transparency
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In a significant turn of events, 3M announced yesterday that it is launching a new paper and wood pulp sourcing policy designed to trace virgin wood fiber and ensure it is coming from renewable sources.

Along with improving its public image and reputation for social and environmental responsibility, the new pulp and paper sourcing policy brings an end to a running, decades-long confrontation with prominent environmental NGOs, including ForestEthics, Greenpeace and The Forest Trust.

ForestEthics has been after 3M to make a change to its pulp sourcing for nearly a decade. According to the NGO, production, distribution and sales of 3M products, including Scotch tape and Post-it-Notes, contribute to deforestation around the world.

At the root of the NGO's concern was 3M's lack of recycled content and its use of SFI-certified pulp. SFI is considered by many to be an inferior certification standard as compared to the popular FSC. ForestEthics has been joined by other prominent environmental NGOs, including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, in protesting the office supply giant. 

Last year, ForestEthics took its complaints to San Diego, where it waged a three-day campaign against 3M during the 2014 Sustainable Brands Conference, an event for which 3M was a sponsor.

“They’ve refused to deal with us or do the right thing, so they’ve put us in a position where we needed to drag the brand out and make an example of it,” ForestEthics spokesperson and senior campaigner, Jim Ace, told 3p contributor Christine Arena last year.

“The corporate world isn’t moving fast enough on major environmental issues,” Ace told 3p at the time. “In some cases, they are regressing backwards, reverting to strategies and tactics that may have been relevant in the 1950s.”

Forging a new sustainable timber industry standard


3M, for its part, has defended itself as being a socially and environmentally responsible corporation. Responding to public criticism, management claimed to make a greater effort to engage the company in positive, constructive dialogue with its stakeholders. With this new initiative, 3M puts its money where its mouth is. The policy is the result of collaborations with ForestEthics and Greenpeace to craft its new pulp and paper sourcing policy.

ForestEthics was quick to praise the office supply giant's policy as one of the strongest in the industry. “3M will now hold paper and pulp suppliers accountable to one of the highest standards in the industry for environmental protection and respect for human rights," the NGO stated.

The new policy requires suppliers to trace and report the original “forest sources” of the wood, paper and pulp they sell to 3M. The office giant will then assess those sources. It states that it will refuse to buy any materials from threatened forests.

Human rights activists can also put a notation in the win column -- another new standard requires loggers  to get the informed consent of indigenous people before logging on any traditional lands.

These sweeping changes will affect 5,000 pulp and paper suppliers in 70 countries, the company said on Thursday.

“We are taking responsibility for making sure our pulp and paper suppliers meet the requirements of the policy and help them to raise their performance if necessary,” said Jean Sweeney, vice president of 3M environmental, health, safety and sustainability operations, as quoted in the Star Tribune.

*Image credits: 1), 2) ForestEthics 

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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