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Giving Consumers a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Sustainable Forestry

With certified companies such as Procter & Gamble, the Forest Stewardship Council is advancing a strategy to help consumers understand the impacts of their purchases.

From housing and furniture to tissues and office paper, we all use forest products every day. And we all share a personal responsibility to protect our forests for the generations to come. Because trees provide the air we breathe, clean water to drink and resources we need to live, as well as playing an important role in combatting climate change through carbon sequestration, it’s important to do what we can to preserve forests today.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the world’s most trusted forest certification, is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous management of forests. For example, FSC requires forest managers to protect habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species, to leave more trees along rivers and lakes to protect water quality, and to tightly restricts the use of hazardous pesticides. For these reasons and others, FSC is the only forest certification supported by major environmental groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club. By looking for the FSC logo on products they use every day, consumers can make a big difference in the way forests are managed across the United States and around the world. FSC currently certifies more than 5,000 companies and 170 million acres of forest in the US and Canada. By buying FSC certified products, we can all contribute to protecting our forests. 

That’s why companies such as Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Domtar are working to raise awareness about the benefits of FSC-certified products. Recently, P&G took a unique approach to communicating with consumers about those benefits: The company and three of its brands — Bounty, Charmin and Puffs — hosted a forest visit for influencers near Little Rock, Arkansas. Part of a strategy to engage consumers about the benefits of choosing products from FSC-certified forests, the influencers had a unique and exclusive opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at a tree farm, to meet the faces and hear the inspiring stories behind the production of paper products.

May Hall trees planted amongst pine trees at the FSC-certified tree farm | Image credit: Model4GreenLiving

Forests can seem far removed from people’s daily lives. In reality, we interact with forest products constantly, and decisions we all make as consumers directly impact forests in the United States and around the world. With certified companies such as P&G, the Forest Stewardship Council is advancing a strategy to help consumers understand the impacts of their purchases. If FSC could only get every consumer out into a certified forest for a day, we could make big progress. Spending time in the woods, talking about the way forests are managed and seeing the differences between FSC and conventional practices really drives home the importance of choosing products from responsibly managed forests. For example, FSC requires landowners to set aside additional habitat for wildlife, ensuring populations can thrive even in a forest being harvested. FSC also tightly restricts the use of hazardous chemicals in forestry, such as pesticides and herbicides, with health benefits to local communities.

Of course, it is not possible to bring all 300 million American consumers into the woods for a day. So FSC’s strategy instead focuses on influencers with large social media reach — more than 50,000 followers — who post regularly and share information about products they love. By bringing these influencers into the woods, showing them how the forests are managed, and allowing them to film and interact with the people responsible for the forests, FSC is working to bring the experience of responsible forest management to a much wider audience. 

Influencers not only bring reach, importantly they bring credibility as well. Consumers tend to be wary of environmental marketing claims from companies alone. In addition to partnering with credible environmental groups, such as Rainforest Alliance and WWF, there is growing recognition of the role influencers play as “gatekeepers” for consumers. “Green” consumers in particular tend to have higher levels of education, and higher levels of skepticism about green marketing claims. The FSC exists to provide credible, verifiable claims about forest products in the market. By partnering with influencers, we have an opportunity to reach a much broader swath of consumers.

The forest tours were part of such a strategy, creating an opportunity for the influencers to learn from leading environmental organizations about the importance of buying FSC-certified products to help protect the environment. The influencers then shared their experience on different social media channels including InstagramYouTube and a blog post. By working with partners such as P&G, FSC is trying to bring the outside into homes, so consumers can understand that they hold the power to protect forests, even as they use forest products every day. 


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