In another sign that the global paper industry may be steering toward more sustainable practices following years of bruising activist campaigns and pressure from buyers, International Paper (IP) has committed to identifying and protecting endangered forests and high conservation value areas in the southern U.S. The company, which is the world’s largest paper maker, will be partnering with its tenacious NGO critic, the Dogwood Alliance, in order to map out forests in the region and, furthermore, move away from converting natural forests into pine plantations.
“IP has a clear, built in need to maintain healthy forests; our business creates the economic basis for millions of acres of land to remain as forests over long periods of time,” the Vice President of Sustainability at IP, Teri Shanahan, said in a statement. “Engaging with our critics is an important part of our process of continuous improvement.”
IP and Dogwood Alliance will begin their partnership by mapping out forests around Riegelwood, North Carolina in order to protect endangered forests. In total, IP has access to 121,400 hectares (300,000 acres) of forests in the southern U.S., most of which are privately owned. The company has also announced that it hopes to triple the amount of Forest Stewardship Council-approved fiber it produces by the end of next year. Although the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is generally considered among the best sustainability certification schemes out there, some environmental groups remain critical of its policies, including certifying the destruction of old-growth forests and monoculture plantations.
“IP’s leadership on FSC certification and its recently-announced commitment to fund conservation in regions that have long been a priority for us opened the door for transitioning our formerly adversarial relationship to one of collaboration”, the Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance, Danna Smith, says, adding that she hope the collaboration “set[s] a leadership standard within the Southern forest industry.”
However, IP’s commitment regarding endangered forests and high conservation value areas appears to only apply to southern U.S. forests at this time. The company also owns 485,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of forests in Brazil and 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of forest in Russia.
The announcement follows shortly after a different paper giant, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), an umbrella brand of different companies in Indonesia, committed to a zero deforestation policy.
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