August's Featured Member: Climate For Ideas
By: Suzanna Baum
SB: What are some of the services that Climate for Ideas provides to help companies or other organizations?
JF: As your introduction said, Climate for Ideas offers research and analysis on issues of forest conservation, biodiversity, the climate and the forest products industry. Anywhere two of these issues cross, we can provide scientific or market research and analysis for both non-profits and businesses. In particular, Climate for Ideas is on the cutting edge of carbon footprinting for wood and paper products and we have undertaken carbon footprinting projects for both non-profits and companies. In this vein, we write reports that detail the latest science on Life Cycle Analysis and Carbon Footprinting, about the impacts of forest products certification, impacts of forestry on forest values (especially in Endangered Forests) and other issues. Companies that need help to reduce or eliminate negative impacts on forests, biodiversity and the climate through their wood and paper supply chain can depend on us to give them the best information available and know that we have the backing of the key NGOs, so they won’t get half-hearted efforts that will get them into trouble with the advocacy community. Most NGOs (non-profits), meanwhile, lack a research department or particular expertise and need our services on an as-needed basis and most companies lack access to really objective, scientifically objective and rigorous consultants that don’t pander to suppliers’ (i.e., forest and paper products companies) needs relative to the needs of buyers.
SB: Why did you feel there was an important role to play for an organization like Climate for Ideas?
JF: There are two areas where Climate for Ideas provides services that are unique: first, we provide non-profits with rigorous analysis that they can rely on to produce reports on specific issues, such as the trade in forest and paper products, certification or carbon footprints of paper and wood products. The second is for companies: businesses can rely on Climate for Ideas to provide scientifically rigorous analysis and research that is backed up by the non-profit sector. We are something like three-way bridge between science, non-profits and companies that really want to do the right thing for forests and the climate.
SB: Is there enough transparency in the environmental performance of the paper industry as a whole? If not, what are one or two things that the paper industry needs to do to increase the transparency of its environmental performance?
JF: The forest products industry has virtually no transparency barring third-party monitoring. This is unfortunate, but true. That doesn’t have to be the case, though. Certification to the FSC standard is a key way for forestry and paper companies to provide greater transparency. Working with non-profits to produce findings that are honest and really meant to find ways forward and deal with sticky issues like sourcing endangered forest fiber.
SB: One of the Working Groups that you’ve been a part of in the EPN developed an online resource called Pulpwatch.org that assigns ratings to mills selling market pulp around the world. Why is this an important research tool for large volume paper buyers?
JF: Purchasers need to know where their wood ultimately comes from and many companies do recognize that. At the same time, contacting suppliers for truly useful information to assess the practices of a particular company in the forest products industry is probably either hopeless or damaging to your need. A company that buys a lot of wood or paper products needs a really rigorous and challenging approach to their suppliers to get to the truth about whether their sourcing is truly sustainable and responsible or not. Many consultants on wood and paper issues will tell you they can provide this, but very few actually produce results and the companies end up in the hot seat again and again after working with many ‘consultant’ companies because they don’t really understand the demands of non-profits and want to find easy ways out for companies. We take another approach: complete honesty with companies, no deference (but respect, yes!) to suppliers on information, and a full understanding of what the science is behind issues of certification, endangered forests and climate.
SB: You recently returned to the United States after almost a decade living in Europe, which included helping to launch EPN’s sister network, the European EPN. Briefly, what organizations are leaders in the European Network, and how are they helping accelerate transformation in the paper industry. Are there clear, priority issues of concern globally reflected in both Networks?
JF: The European Environmental Paper Network is much like the one in North America. We have decided to focus on the issue of paper consumption and really show some results in a project we call ‘Shrink.’ And we have. Businesses and institutions control a large proportion of the paper that we use and we have challenged companies to reduce wasteful paper uses, like too much packaging, junk mail, needless paperwork and this kind of thing. It’s all about efficiency in the end: efficiency with our resources and efficiency for businesses and institutions. We’ve had good success in the UK in encouraging businesses to do this, especially in the workplace. We hope these examples will spread worldwide so that paper (and the massive resources needed to make it) can be used for those things we really need without doing great environmental damage.
SB: Here’s a tougher one: Did you come away from your experience on the “Future of Paper” panel this Spring at RISI’s conference in Amsterdam with any new insights into how the conservation community can find common ground with the paper industry to advance urgent environmental goals?
JF: I love being able to carry on a dialogue with businesses. It does everyone a lot of good. Companies, when given the right incentives, can do things that we, the public, need them to do because they have concentrated market leverage. However, we also learned that anti-environmental campaigns like ‘Two Sides’ are willing to say and do anything to make a buck selling paper: the leader of Two Sides stated as much publicly. So, there is a balancing act between carrying on an honest and open dialogue and publicly challenging the dishonest and greenwash.
SB: Can you please tell us why you’re involved in the Environmental Paper Network?
JF: The EPN is a powerful tool for achieving our various organizations’ goals, share resources, learn from each other not only what is happening in the paper world, but also what is effective in terms of improving the paper industry. We’ve undertaken a lot of projects that just would not have happened had we not collaborated and I’m really proud to have been part of that.
Thanks for getting to know Climate for Ideas, please visit their website, www.climateforideas.org, for more information. Please keep an eye out in July for our next featured member ForestEthics.