CARDIFF, UK, Nov. 12, 2010 (RISI) -The European pulp and paper industry is about to meet once again for CEPI's annual European Paper Week in Brussels. The theme of this year's event is "European paper industry at the core of green growth".
While the public perception too often may still be that this is a polluting industry, expert evidence suggests that the European paper sector's claims are no "greenwash" or idle boast. As Duncan Pollard, WWF's former Director, Conservation Practice & Policy recently told RISI's monthly "Environmental Matters' newsletter, "Over the last years there has been an improvement in performance both on wood sourcing and on manufacturing processes."
One sign of such improvements is Stora Enso's inclusion in the FTSE4Good Index for the 10thconsecutive year. This benchmark, which measures the performance of leading companies across all sectors on criteria such as environmental management, climate change, human rights, supply chain labour standards, and efforts to counter bribery, reflects the highest standards of responsible business practice. "The index is uncompromising - if you stop improving you risk dropping out," notes Stora Enso CEO Jouko Karvinen.
Working with the environmentalists
Another sign of the industry's improved performance is its willingness to work with the environmental movement, rather than against it. Hence the participation of five globally significant fine paper companies - M-real, Mondi, Stora Enso, UPM and the North America-based Domtar - in
WWF's Paper Company Environmental Index, an online voluntary rating tool for paper companies to report on their global ecological footprint.
Companies up and down the pulp and paper supply chain are also increasingly taking steps to improve levels of sustainability, as recently announced initiatives from Akzo Nobel, Procter & Gamble and Staples Inc. will attest.
Of course, with the industry increasingly globalised and more and more production shifting to Asia or (in the case of pulp) South America, European-led initiatives such as the Paper Company Environmental Index (which rates companies according to the impact on forest ecosystems of their fiber sourcing, emissions from manufacturing processes and corporate transparency) can only be of lasting value if companies based in growth markets further afield also participate.
Asia Pulp & Paper in particular would be well advised to take up this opportunity. Certainly, it would be an excellent way to lay to rest continuing accusations by Greenpeace International that the firm is sourcing timber from rainforest destruction.
Which is the bigger threat: climate change or deforestation?
The importance of placing sustainable forest management at the core of green growth is illustrated by new research from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (as reported in the latest edition of the journal,Science). The institute studied the effects of temperature increases on ancient trees to determine whether or not rising temperatures caused by climate change are likely to cause water shortages that will threaten the future of tropical rainforests. The study found evidence to the contrary, that trees actually become more efficient in their use of water when it is more scarce. As scientist Carlos Jaramillo, who led the study, observed, "Rather than global warming, the [trouble] for tropical plants is deforestation. The fossil record shows that, when you don't have humans around, the plants can deal with high temperatures and CO2."