A network of more than 120 NGOs from six continents announced a new Global Paper Vision that will bring together organizations currently challenging the paper industry to adopt more sustainable practices. The document addresses priorities for social responsibility and environmental conservation in response to global paper consumption patterns and the industry’s influence on biodiversity, forest health, global warming, air and water quality, and local communities.
The Vision integrates several regional vision statements for industry reform from around the world into a more coordinated effort identifying seven common goals among the organizations: reducing consumption; maximizing recycled content; ensuring social responsibility; sourcing fiber responsibly; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; ensuring clean production; and ensuring transparency.
Signatories include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Canopy, WWF, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Greenpeace, Forest Ethics, Friends of the Earth (US and Australia), Environmental Defense Fund and a host of other international organizations. The aligned organizations commit to developing collaboration and dialogue between NGOs, industry and other institutions; encouraging governments to develop legislative, fiscal and operational measures consistent with the vision; encouraging only responsible investment in the industry; articulating and implementing responsible procurement and purchasing guidance; monitoring the progress of all stakeholders towards the Vision; and campaigning to end socially and environmentally damaging activities by the pulp and paper industry.
“By following the guidance of the Global Paper Vision, paper users can drive the market toward better paper products, which helps to reduce global warming pollution, save forests, conserve water and energy, and divert usable materials from incinerators and landfills,” said Darby Hoover of the NRDC.
"Paper use has social, environmental, and human rights implications and this vision points at ways to improve them all," said Saskia Ozinga of FERN (UK).
The Environmental Paper Network will serve as a hub for the signatories and facilitate collaboration and dialogue, identify and implement collective actions, host shared resources and monitor progress through publications such as the State of the Industry Report.
Pressure has mounted on the paper industry not just from NGOs but also corporations. Companies such as Levi’s and Disney publicly announced their sustainable paper policies in 2012, and in the process abandoned and thus aided in successfully pressuring supplier Asia Pulp & Paper to end its role in clearing natural forests and curb its ecological impact. Canopy recently commended Kimberly-Clark Corporation on the release of a study that concluded the company’s use of recycled paper, along with alternatives such as bamboo and wheat straw waste, had reduced environmental impacts when compared with traditional use of forest fiber. And just last month, Canopy applauded North American printing giant RR Donnelley for posting its paper purchasing sustainability practices on its corporate website, which the NGO expects to be a major driver for the industry as a whole.
While the wood-based paper industry works to clean up its act, the prevalence and viability of non-tree-based alternatives — from everything from cocoa husk and straw waste to empty palm fruit bunches — continues to increase.