The time has come again for an interview with one of our inspiring members. It’s the month that brings us “March Madness,” and I’d like to share my discovery that there are a few different classifications of the term for our readers, including:
1) A single-elimination college basketball tournament held each spring in the United States.
2) The month of the government of Canada’s fiscal year end (March 31), when departments traditionally rush to spend the remainder of their budgets.
3) The height of the breeding season of the European hare.
Understanding forest product certifications can sometimes create a little “madness” of its own for organizations and companies seeking to be a part of credible solutions. With that in mind, this month I interviewed Jim Ace, Senior Campaigner for the Stop SFI Greenwash campaign at this month’s featured member, ForestEthics.
SB: First Jim, this is a great chance for me to get to know you better. What’s your background in conservation? What inspires you each day to work for an advocacy organization helping to transform the forest and paper industry and advancing corporate social responsibility?
JA: I loved the outdoors as a kid and spent lots of days fishing and tromping around the woods. My first exposure to environmental activism was on September 16, 1990 when I traveled down to Washington, DC for a “Save America’s Forests” rally on the steps of the US Capitol. I saw pictures of enormous clearcuts, all on our National Forests. I learned that the US had less than 5% of our original old-growth forests left. The experience lit a fire in me. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a part of saving the planet.
I take inspiration from my two children, youth and students in general, my colleagues past and present, and anybody taking direct action to liberate themselves and improve their conditions…or for crazy ideas like social justice and equality.
SB: You’ve been working in the environmental field for a long time and worked for several organizations. What is your favorite part about working for ForestEthics? What makes it unique?
JA: Two things. First, ForestEthics has a unique approach to corporate engagement with our corporate targets. My friend and mentor, Aaron Sanger, calls it a “sales”-oriented approach, when what we’re “selling” is environmental responsibility.
Second, is ForestEthics’ commitment to personal sustainability and mindfulness…what we loosely refer to “work-life balance.” At ForestEthics, “binge working” is frowned upon. Busyness and martyrdom are not badges of honor. I am supported and encouraged to develop my own mindfulness practice. We even meditate on our weekly staff calls! The purpose behind it is not necessarily to be better humans. The point is to improve our performance in order to make a bigger impact on the world…to work smarter, not harder. We strive to be strategic, focused, creative, and efficient. We can’t do that if we are burned out or exhausted, or if we don’t regularly practice another way of working. I am passionate about my work and I tend to throw myself at it, so ForestEthics’ mindfulness approach is one I struggle with on a daily, even hourly, basis.
SB: What is ‘SFI Greenwash?’ What are the top few reasons that your campaign advises companies ‘Don’t Buy SFI?’
JA: SFI stands for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The SFI is a greenwashing scam created by the timber industry almost 20 years ago that certifies forest destruction as “green.” Companies that promote SFI in their marketing and products are greenwashing. Those of us involved in markets-based work should insist that companies that want to be perceived as environmentally responsible should stop promoting and reduce the use of SFI-certified products.
Why should companies not buy SFI?
1) SFI Hurts Communities
2) SFI Hoodwinks Consumers
3) SFI Misleads the Market
4) SFI Certifies Forest Destruction As Green.
SB: What should paper purchasers do instead?
JA: Companies should align their money, and their paper policies, with their values. It is absolutely critical that all paper purchasers commit to reducing the use and avoiding the promotion of SFI. Without that commitment, all the preferences for more environmentally responsible alternatives are undermined. Once companies act against SFI greenwash, they can take on a higher goal: publicly adopt a procurement policy that states an explicit preference for FSC or better. But without explicitly addressing the SFI controversy, their brand is at risk.
SB: Since you began working with ForestEthics last year, how have you seen momentum build in this campaign?
JA: 21 major companies have publicly taken a stand against SFI greenwash. This 21 will be joined by several more in the coming weeks. The trend of big companies standing against greenwashing will only build as the controversy grows and the environmental movement unites.
SB: What can we expect in 2013 from the Don’t Buy SFI campaign? And how can readers find more information or get involved?
JA: Three things. First, expect to see us start telling the SFI story through the experiences of people and wildlife directly impacted by SFI greenwash, starting with landslides and flooding, toxic chemicals, and endangered species. Second, we’ll be ramping up our effort to toxify the SFI brand with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC’s job is to protect consumers from misleading marketing and advertising claims. We’re pushing the FTC to take effective action against the SFI. Third, we want to create the conditions for individuals, organizations, and the ultimately the entire environmental movement to unite against the biggest greenwasher of forest destruction: SFI. On that note, over the coming months, we are asking ENGOs to:
2) Submit a complaint as an individual to the FTC.
3) Submit a complaint as an organization to the FTC.
We are asking companies to send a letter to the FTC asking it to resolve this controversy.
I encourage anyone to contact me for more information. Click here to email me or call the office at 360-734-2951.
SB: And last but not lease, I always have to ask… Why is ForestEthics a member of the Environmental Paper Network?
ForestEthics deeply appreciates the EPN’s leadership and its role facilitating collaboration between organizations concerned with forest issues.
I’ll close by thanking the EPN for this opportunity and asking each of you to please sign our petition and submit a complaint, both as individuals and organizations, to the Federal Trade Commission. The more complaints we submit, the more likely the FTC is compelled to take effective action against SFI’s greenwash.
Thanks for getting to know Jim and his work at ForestEthics. Please keep an eye out in April for our next featured member interview with Re-nourish.