Shareholders to Weyerhaeuser: Wake Up.

Written by Brant Olson

Topics: Frontline Communities

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JESSICA BELL REPORTS:

This morning, we attended Weyerhaeuser’s shareholder meeting at the company’s headquarters just south of Seattle. The crowd consisted of over 500 mostly white men and women.

Those expressing concerns included four folks from RAN, Lynne Barker from the Healthy Building Network, the Teamsters, the Carpenters, Calvert Group, the world’s largest socially responsible investment institution, New Ground Social Investment and Grassy Narrows’ member, Bonnie Swain.

Hazardous InvestmentOutside, local grassroots activists set up banners at Weyerhaeuser’s corporate headquarters on their expansive lawn, including one that aptly stated “Weyerhaeuser – bad investment”. Activists also dressed up in white hazardous materials suits and pretended to find Weyerhaeuser “products of mass destruction.”

Inside, the meeting started off with Steve Rogel – who’s quite a rigid, hulking kind of fellow with a monotone voice – talking for half an hour about how wonderful and green Weyerhaeuser is.

In order to mitigate genuine and legitimate environmental concerns, Weyerhaeuser played a 10 minute video promoting the 32 houses that they’ve built with Habitat for Humanity, and announced that they were integrating and re-branding some of the products that they sell to the housing industry under the category “iLevel” and using the color green in their marketing strategy.

It reminded me of Grassy Narrows’ member, Bonnie Swain’s comments whilst we were walking through Weyerhaeuser-owned supposedly “green” Quadrant Homes housing division on Tuesday. Bonnie was angry because they were making nice homes in Seattle with wood stolen from her land, yet Grassy Narrows was suffering from a housing shortage with the government building two few poorly made homes to houses the community. “It feels like I’m walking through my forests now,” she said as we toured the homes. Bonnie Swain took the opportunity to speak to Weyerhaeuser’s shareholders for three minutes during the meeting. She read a powerful and eloquent letter that her sister and fellow mother Chrissy Swain wrote to Weyerhaeuser.

The letter includes statements like: “If a stranger came into your home with an axe to threaten your family and loot your home of whatever he wants, he is committing a crime. To me, the actions of Weyerhaeuser, Quadrant, and other companies taking forests from our land are no different.” Her speech cut through the B.S. that Steve Rogel and his ilk spilled out, making vague promises about vision and sustainability when in reality they are tearing apart communities and threatening a way of life.

Not only did we identify the problem but we also promoted the solution. Stu Dalheim from Calvert Group, presented a shareholder resolution to the board asking the company to determine the feasibility of certifying their lands as sustainable under Forest Stewardship Council certification standards. Similar to the organic label for the food industry, FSC certifies that a forest is managed in a way that meets independent standards that respect indigenous rights – including the right to free, full and prior informed consent of indigenous communities, as well as some protections for endangered forests. If Weyerhaeuser was FSC certified the company would not be allowed to steal wood from indigenous territories.

Lynne Barker, from the Healthy Building Network, talked about how Weyerhaeuser is actively sabotaging any attempts to promote FSC and a legitimate LEED standardized-green building industry of which she is a part.

RAN’s Executive Director, Mike Brune, spoke last, as usual giving a charismatic, succinct and easy-to-understand account of RAN’s efforts to help Weyerhaeuser become the forward thinking and sustainable company that it can and deserves to be. His final quip of “we’ll see you next year” drew a nervous giggle from the audience.

After last year’s fiasco where Steve Rogel consistently gaveled and interrupted shareholders and eliminated the question and answer session of the meeting, this year Steve had clearly been instructed by his handlers to act politely; he sat down on a stool and adopted a grandfather-like “I’m listening” stance during the question and answer session, and said “thank you” to shareholders that were inciting criticism that was anything but friendly.

Despite the fact that the question and answer session was allowed to continue Weyerhaeuser’s “head in the sand” and “belligerent” attitude towards shareholders revealed themselves. When Rogel was asked if Weyerhaeuser was going to stop buying wood from Grassy Narrows he responded by saying “next question.”

And so the campaign continues.

7 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Chris Dougherty says:

    I am an architect in New Jersey who is looking to be more involved with Sustainable design. This was a very eye opening article about Weyerhauser. I wihs you luck on these endeavors.

  2. Judith Maron says:

    Even though I did not attend this meeting I felt compelled to comment as I beleive that we all have a stake in these matters of our environmental health. I agree with Bonnie Swain’s scenario about those “steeling” trees from private lands as it happened to me on a piece of property I own in Florida. Since I have been living in the PNW I have been saddened and even sickened by the acceleration of clear cutting that has been going on including, now, in our national forests. How much of this is Weyerhauser responsible for as it seems I see so many of there signs right up against these forests stating that they have planted trees in these areas? And, why is it that the folks with the most money gained from these actions seemingly resist in taking responsibility for their actions?

  3. The Firm I am with has hired me specifically to develope “green” practices in our firm. This is no easy task as we are classical with a capital “C”. We have taken the stance that all buildings can be designed and built in an ecologically sound manner, without regard to typology or style. We want our clients and the rest of the world to live in a healthy environment and in a healthy home. This article has helped me see through the “green washing” Weyerhaeuser is doing and allowed us to keep on the proper path to our objectives. Architects are on the front lines in this fight and we need to continually educate ourselves about products and where they come from. Jeffery Cuppy

  4. dani says:

    im studying this as a progect and i find it verey interresting would you beable to send me pictures and more infomation on this subject

  5. Brant says:

    Dani, Check out http://www.freegrassy.org for more information and pictures.

  6. sheera macfarlane says:

    Happy New Year iLevel Employees
    With yesterday’s weyerhaeuser annoucement that 141 people would be layed off from the weyerhaeuser ilevel plant here in Kenora, ontario, Canada , 41 permenently and the rest will have to wait and see as there is no timeline as to when they will start up again. I guess one could safely say that the line of crap that flowed from VP of Strand technologies Mr. Denning’s mouth prior to christmas was just that, CRAP. It would seem that weyerhaeuser just woke up on the morning of January 8th and decided to lay-off all these people considering that he asked the community not to talk about things they did not know, several weeks before christmas ie. layoffs and closures. The way that this plant has been run from the start is no great surprise to many of us and one would have to surmise that weyerhaeuser will contine to steal, lie and destroy our planet. The only “green” thing weyerhaeuser cares about is the ink on their currency. The good thing about this layoff is that they will stop spewing their toxic waste into the air. I urge anyone who is either building a home or designing one for someone else to avoid not just iLevel products but anything weyerhaeuser produces. This is not an ethical corporation and if the shareholders had half a brain the would pull out and invest in an ethical company.

  7. Mike says:

    This is a nation-wide problem. The need for lumber is outrageous. I remember as a child growing up in South East Oklahoma, “Quachita National Forest”, all the forest was so thick and the trees grew all the way to the edge of the road and it was so nice. I never go back home anymore due to the fact of there is very little forest left. Back in the day a logging company had to leave trees a distance from streams well, now they cut everything. Before to long it will be the “Quachita National Desert”. There has been a horrible strain on the local wildlife, this is a fact, this can be seen in the population drop from reptiles to mammals due to the fact of the destruction of habitat. The local forestry department is a joke and always has been. Drawing a check is all it amounts to. I hate it, Alot of memories is all we have now of the area.

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