It’s wonderful to see more and more companies jumping on the sustainable forestry bandwagon. But, as this relatively new certification comes to bear on industry practices, there are bound to be kinks in the chain-of-custody that need working out.
Cary Sherburne, senior editor for Lexington, Kentucky-based WhatTheyThink, reported on a dilemma faced by Alpharetta, Georgia-based Neenah Paper. Her article, Environmental Sustainability: Not Always Easy; Lessons Learned from Neenah Paper FSC Certification Issues, appeared May 13 on the website www.whattheythink.com. Excerpts of the most salient points have been edited for space and are reprinted here with permission.
On April 25, Neenah Paper notified customers its FSC Chain-of-Custody (CoC) certification had lapsed. This lapse resulted in product being manufactured and packaged with the FSC logo during March and April when [technically,] the company was not certified and, therefore, unauthorized to use the logo. Neenah was quick to point out that none of its CoC practices had changed since its original certification in 2003, and at the time of the lapse, it had been nearing the conclusion of the recertification process with the New York-based Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program.
“When we initially certified in 2003 as one of the first premium mills globally, and one of the first North American mills in any category, the process took one month,” said John O’Donnell, president of Neenah Fine Papers. “Recertification, on the other hand, took seven months, much longer than anyone anticipated.”
Dave Bubser, U.S. regional manager for certification agent SmartWood, stressed that FSC certification is a voluntary program, [yet it] holds a lot of appeal throughout the supply chain. He also explained that CoC certification is all about inventory control and making accurate representations about the actual fiber content of, in this case, paper. (There is also FSC certification at the forest level that is more comprehensive and includes environmental, social and economic criteria covering everything from protection of endangered species to water protection and workers’ rights.)