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New report assesses paper industry progress towards improving forest stewardship in southern U.S.

(Editor's note: Based on a press release from the Dogwood Alliance of March 19, 2015)

The paper industry has an important role to play in the conservation and stewardship of the world’s forests.

Dogwood Alliance, a conservation organization working to protect the forests of the Southern U.S. from destructive logging practices, has released a report assessing the forest management practices of top five paper producers in the U.S. South which together account for over 50% of the U.S. paper manufacturing capacity. The report documents that International Paper, Domtar and Georgia-Pacific are leading the industry towards improved forestry practices, while other major players are continuing to lag behind.

Southern forests provide critical services such as water protection, wildlife habitat and carbon storage that can be significantly impaired by industrial logging. Over the past decade, in response to public concerns about the impacts of industrial logging on the forests of the U.S. South, large buyers of paper in the U.S. have adopted new forest protection policies, setting higher standards for forest conservation for their suppliers. These new policies have been a major catalyst behind new forest conservation initiatives by the region’s major paper producers.

“Our goal with this report is to provide corporate and other consumers of paper with an independent and transparent assessment of the paper industry’s progress toward best forestry practices so they can make good choices about their paper purchases,” said Andrew Goldberg, Director of Corporate Engagement at Dogwood Alliance, and a member of the Environmental Paper Network Steering Committee. “What we found is that while three companies are making steady progress, other major paper producers have yet to truly step up. Not surprisingly, we also found that there is still room for continued improvement across the board.”

The report released on March 19, 2015 by Dogwood Alliance entitled, Green Grades: Paper Industry Progress Report, is the first of its kind to assess the practices of the top five largest paper producers in the Southern U.S. against a rigorous set of forest conservation categories. The report details progress in the following five categories: Endangered Forest protection, stewardship and conservation funding, forest management certification, maintenance of natural forests, and forest carbon management.

The five companies evaluated in the report include International Paper, Georgia-Pacific, Domtar, MeadWestvaco, and Boise/Packaging Corporation of America. The leading companies reviewed have made progress since developing paper sustainability policies with Dogwood Alliance over the last ten years.

Key indicators of success include a major increase in Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper and the conservation of important tracts of land around the region. None of the companies reviewed scored high on measuring and valuing forest carbon besides Domtar. All companies except MeadWestvaco and Boise/PCA have adopted sustainable paper policies.


International Paper – Leader on funding conservation initiatives and expanding FSC certification; still needs to improve mapping and protection of endangered forests and valuing forest carbon.

Georgia-Pacific – Leader on protection of natural forests and identifying endangered forests; has yet to identify a preference for FSC certified fiber.

Domtar – The leader on FSC-certified paper and valuing forest carbon; still lacks a conservation vision for protecting and investing in endangered forests and preventing the continued conversion of natural forests to plantations where they operate.

MeadWestvaco – Initiative working with private landowners to improve management, the company has failed to adopt a sustainable sourcing policy and is weak in all categories evaluated.

Boise/Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) – Needs to bring the PCA arm in line with the stewardship values of Boise which is a leader on recycled paper and certification.

“We’ve seen a growing effort by leading brands to help improve forest conservation in this important region of the world and this report shows that paper producers are in fact capable of meeting higher standards in the forest,” concluded Goldberg. “We are pleased with the progress to date, but the sustainability demands of the 21st Century require even more leadership and full participation by the industry. There’s still significant room for improvement.”

Southern Forests are home to the world’s largest pulp and paper-producing region and most biologically diverse forests in North America. As the leading champion of this irreplaceable resource, Dogwood Alliance continually monitors the state of the forest, considering its economic, biological and social worth, striving for a balance between each of these values with the long-term goal for protecting our forests for future generations. Learn more at: www.dogwoodalliance.org and download the full report, scorecard and company profiles at: www.dogwoodalliance.org/green-grades.

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