Domtar announced today that it will certify all of its logging operations in Canada’s Boreal Forest to the environmental standards of the Forest Stewardship Council. This includes sensitive Woodland Caribou habitat in Ontario and Saskatchewan transferred to Domtar from Weyerhaeuser in a deal closed earlier this year. These are the same areas Weyerhaeuser refused to certify to the FSC in negotiations with RAN just prior to the deal.
It’s a sign that the tables are turning in Canada’s Boreal Forest, and that Weyerhaeuser is on the wrong side.
Background and my thoughts on the implications of this announcement after the jump…
Those following the Old Growth Campaign know that we’ve been pestering Weyerhaeuser for some time now to minimize their impact on human rights and the environment in Canada’s Boreal Forest.
We make our case with two case-studies. On human rights we point to Grassy Narrows. Since 2004, we’ve worked with the community to document how Weyerhaeuser’s demand for aspen and poplar trees fuels clear-cut logging that threatens to wash away the community’s cultural ties to the land.
On the environment we point to the Woodland Caribou, a threatened species that relies on broad expanses of undisturbed Boreal Forest to survive. In 2004 and 2005 We profiled Weyerhaeuser’s clear-cut logging along the southern fringe of Canada’s Boreal Forest in Ontario and Saskatchewan and its disastrous implications on this keystone species.
The campaign took an unexpected turn late last year when Weyerhaeuser announced that it would combine its fine paper division with Domtar. Part of the deal involved transferring logging rights within the same areas that we profiled in our campaign–Ontario’s Trout Lake Forest and Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert Forest.
The contrast between the two companies is telling. Since day one, Weyerhaeuser strongly opposed FSC certification–in these areas or anywhere else. Responding to a shareholder proposal to examine the possibility of FSC certification, the company responded that “Weyerhaeuser finds no shareholder value in incurring the costs of reassessing its certification decisions.” That stands in stark contrast from today’s announcement from Domtar:
Responsible purchasing is on the rise in North America as a growing number of corporations and consumers give preference to products that support socially and environmentally responsible practices. Now, more than ever, business leaders and consumers can be assured that they are making a responsible choice when they select paper that is FSC-certified – the only standard endorsed by 85 of the world’s leading environmental groups.
The announcement is a testament to the leadership of Domtar CEO Raymond Royer. Under the terms of the deal, Weyerhaeuser shareholders took a 55% stake in the “new Domtar.” Domtar’s COO also came from Weyerhaeuser. Still, Royer (and/or his staff) recognizes the value that FSC certification lends to Domtar’s brand. Good on ‘em.
The test now, of course, is to see whether the new FSC certs will deliver on their promise to protect habitat. We’ll stay tuned.