Forest Product Procurement: The Influence of European Corporate Environmental Procurement on Forestry Practice in British Columbia, Canada

Article excerpt

THIS ARTICLE EXAMINES HOW, in Europe, the development of partnerships between environmental NGOs and business has led to 'green' corporate demand for the procurement of certified wood and paper products that has made a significant contribution to the 'greening' of forestry practices in British Columbia. 'Green' in this article refers to policies and practices that improve care and sensitivity to the environment and promotes sustainability.

The article examines the environmental NGO confrontation with wood product retailers in the UK that led to environmental NGO/business partnerships in Europe to secure environmental procurement of wood and paper products. Documented is the forest certification debate that led to the establishment of the environmental NGO/business partnership in the global Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard and the 'buyers' groups' such as the WWF 95+ Group in the UK.

This examination looks at the forest 'sustainability' measures taking place in BC; the reaction of the BC forest industry to proposed forest certification (the global FSC system in particular); the influence in BC of green buyers' groups in Europe; and the reaction in BC to a boycott of BC forest products in Europe as the result of an international campaign against existing and proposed forestry practices in part of the BC temperate rain forest (the Great Bear Rainforest).

The article concludes with highlights of the globalisation of environmental procurement within the networks of one industrial sector and its implications for BC. These include the influence of an environmentally sophisticated regional market, with its unique drivers for green corporate customer demand, on global forest product procurement and forest practice. Also included is the role of environmental NGOs in successful confrontation with business which led to a positive partnership with business to help achieve forest sustainability. The proven use of a market mechanism to contribute to sustainable forest management in BC is also highlighted.

Forest product certification and procurement

Forest product certification and green forest product procurement came about in the late 1980s because certain sectors of the public, government, business and environmental NGOs were concerned about the perceived destruction of global tropical rainforests, temperate forests and temperate rainforests. There was also concern about industrial forestry practice such as clear felling and use of monoculture forest plantations. These concerns occurred at a time when environmental NGOs (such as WWF, Greenpeace, foe, Rainforest Alliance) were initiating campaigns to protect the quantity and the quality of world's forests. The environmental NGOs were particularly dissatisfied with international and national government commitments and legislation and industry's Good Practice Codes, most of which failed to protect forests or ensure quality through sustainable management. There was also some consumer demand for sustainable wood products at a time when there was consumer dissatisfaction with wood product green labelling. Labels were not trusted, since they were regarded as being inconsistent, lacking both credibility and independence. In particular the 'chains of custody' of wood products were not clear. Furthermore there was some corporate interest in forest certification and certified wood products. The result of this interest was the founding of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in 1993 as an international non-profit organisation of diverse members from environmental and social groups, the timber trade and the forestry profession from around the world. As a response to this interest competing forest certification schemes were developed - in Europe, Pan European Forest Certification; in Canada, the National Sustainable Forest Management System (SFM); and in the United States, the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI).

The process of forest certification is concerned with the definition and validation of a sustainable forest. …