International Paper, the world’s largest paper company, and Dogwood Alliance, one of the Southern United States leading forest conservation organizations, have announced an agreement that they say will help advance science based forestry improvements in the world’s largest paper producing region. The former foes will map forests around International Paper’s southeastern operations to identify whether any endangered forests or high conservation value areas exist. This mapping will help ensure that IP is not sourcing from any endangered forests as per its long-standing company policy and will also identify mutually-agreed upon areas where conservation can be focused. In addition, IP and Dogwood Alliance will work together to discourage the conversion of natural hardwood forests to pine plantations.
This collaboration builds on initiatives recently announced by International Paper. The first is IP’s membership in the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest & Trade Network in North America. Additionally, IP announced a $7.5 million five-year project with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore and conserve forests in the Coastal Carolinas, Cumberland Plateau and Texas/Arkansas Piney Woods regions. Finally, IP announced an increase in its sourcing of Forest Stewardship Council certified fiber by more than 1.2 million tons during the past five years, and expects to triple that increase by the end of 2014. The company continues to support multiple certification standards as part of its public goal of increasing certified fiber.
“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,” says Teri Shanahan, International Paper’s vice president of sustainability. “Engaging with our critics is an important part of our process of continuous improvement. We look forward to working with Dogwood, because it’s clear that, although we approach it from markedly different perspectives, they are as passionate about the forests as we are."
“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," says Danna Smith, executive director of dogwood alliance. “We are pleased to work with IP on these initiatives, that, when combined with our collaborative effort, set a leadership standard within the Southern forest industry.”
The collaboration will kick off with a 2013 pilot project to map forests around IP’s mill in Riegelwood, NC, USA (near Wilmington). After the pilot project, IP and Dogwood Alliance will evaluate the framework used and modify it as necessary with the intent of applying it across additional IP southeastern operations.
This affiliation represents an unprecedented relationship between Dogwood and IP. Dogwood Alliance has been critical of International Paper in the past, though it has increasingly worked with industry leaders to find innovative business solutions that protect Southern forests. Until today, International Paper has not been able to reach agreement with Dogwood Alliance although the company’s focus on sustainable forestry practices has led to collaborations with a broad set of stakeholders in the conservation community.