Retailers Costco and Amazon.com flunk sustainable paper use, WalMart and Target fare little better

Jeremy Hance
August 27, 2009

Every year forests are destroyed for the production of paper: habitat is lost, greenhouse gases are released, species are impacted, and fresh water sources damaged. Some companies have begun to move towards more sustainable paper production, seeking paper sources stamped by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and increasing the use of recycled paper, however other companies in the industry have yet to change their way. The 3rd annual report card conducted by Dogwood Alliance and Forest Ethics focuses both on the companies who continue to make progress toward sustainable paper production—and those who don't.

"Companies like FedEx Office, Unisource, Office Depot, United Stationers, and Target have used their purchasing power to stop the purchase of paper from some of the world’s most destructive companies," Daniel Hall of ForestEthics said. "Unfortunately, companies like Xpedx and Amazon.com continue to fund forest destruction. And while Wal-Mart has made great strides on other environmental factors, they fall short on their paper practices."

Logging in the boreal forest in Alaska. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Top retailers across the U.S. scored poorly on the report card. Amazon.com and Costco both were slammed with F's, while WalMart and Target received D+'s. Costco and Amazon.com were found to be sourcing paper from endangered forests across the world, including the boreal forests in Canada, Southern forest in the United States, and tropical forests in Indonesia sourced by Asia Pulp and Paper, a company that has become infamous with environmentalists for degradation.

WalMart sources from International Paper, known for destroying endangered forests in the Southern U.S. and replacing them with plantations. However, the report acknowledges that WalMart has begun to work with conservation organizations to establish a more green policy related to paper consumption. Target is also looking ahead to establishing a new paper policy, but currently it still sources from endangered forests.

With office-related retailers, FedEx Office received top honors with an A-. Office Depot received a B, while Staples received a B-. OfficeMax was last in this category with a C.

FedEx Office, Office Depot, and Staple have begun to move multi-million dollar paper contracts toward more environmental forestry operations certified by the FSC. In addition, FedEx Office and Staples have been active in working with the government of Ontario for stronger legislation to protect the boreal forest.

The wholesale and distributor sector showed less advancement. Unisource came out best with a C+ and United Stationers was second with a C. However, both PaperlinX/Spicers and Xpedx flunked the year. Xpedx sources from International Paper in the endangered forests of the Southern U.S., while PaperlinX/Spicers sources from endangered forests both in North America and Indonesia. Both companies have also been accused of greenwashing by telling customers that their paper is sustainably sourced when the converse is true.

"When environmental laggards exaggerate or distort claims of being green, they undercut the hard-earned achievements of the companies whose values are demonstrably greener than the rest," said Andrew Goldberg of Dogwood Alliance. "But a number of companies in this report card talk a green game while supporting destructive paper companies like International Paper and hiding behind less than credible certifications like those of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative." Current trends find many companies moving from the heavily-criticized certification of Sustainable Forestry Initiative toward the FSC.

Forest Ethics and Dogwood Alliance's report card ranks each company on six categories: chain of custody, endangered forests, plantation and controversial sources, responsible forestry and FSC certification, recycling and reduction, and other leadership.

Related articles

Sears catalogue continues to harm boreal forest and caribou

(08/17/2009) Sears Holding Company, most known for their ubiquitous catalogues, continues to stall on releasing a more environmental paper policy, according to the nonprofit environmental organization ForestEthics. Sears’ long delay to implement a more forest-friendly policy is adding pressure to already threatened caribou populations and deforesting forests in Canada, where the company sources much of its paper.

Greenpeace gets called out by activist group on logging agreement

(08/13/2009) A forest activist group has called out Greenpeace on its support of Kimberly-Clark's new fiber-sourcing policy.

Kimberly-Clark announces greener wood fiber sourcing, sparking debate between environmentalists

(08/06/2009) Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands, has announced stronger fiber sourcing standards that will reduce the company's impact on forests worldwide. The move comes in response to a long campaign by Greenpeace, an environmental group that is now advising Kimberly-Clark on its forest policy.

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (August 27, 2009).

Retailers Costco and Amazon.com flunk sustainable paper use, WalMart and Target fare little better.