Making the Case for Sustainable Forestry

With the Rainforest Alliance and Others, We're
Encouraging Appalachian Landowners to Harvest
Smart

The world’s forests are environmentally and economically essential. They provide indispensable ecological services, like absorbing and storing carbon dioxide that might otherwise accumulate in the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming. At the same time, forests fuel commerce and job creation. For forests and the rest of us to survive, humanity must soon find the balance between conserving them and using them as a necessary resource.

At Avery Dennison, many of our products are made from paper, so our business depends on a sustainable paper supply. To help create one, and to promote sustainable forest management for its own sake, we’ve committed to sourcing 100 percent certified paper by 2025, 70 percent of which will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC), creators of the “gold standard” in sustainability for wood products.

Because more FSC®-certified forestland of any kind is a good thing, we’re also working to increase it in places where trees are harvested for something other than paper production. In 2016, we joined the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance, a partnership including the Rainforest Alliance, the U.S. Forest Service, Staples, Inc., Evergreen Packaging. Columbia Forest Products, Kimberly-Clark and Domtar. The aim of the partnership is to encourage more owners in south and central Appalachia to manage their land in accordance with FSC® practices, while enhancing markets for sustainable timber products.

Unlike the vast stands of government- or corporate-owned forests in the American West, much of the woodland in the Southeast is owned by thousands of smallholders on tracts that average a few dozen acres in size. Unlike timber companies, smaller landowners don’t view their forests primarily as a cash crop. They see them first as a signature feature of the landscape and a place for recreation.

Historically, Appalachian woodland owners have tended to harvest timber just once or twice in their lifetimes. They’d take out some trees when it was time to send a child to college, say, or to retire. But owners are increasingly being enticed to sell their lands to developers, who remove  large swaths of trees at once to make way for housing or stores. When the woods go, much that’s irreplaceable—environmentally, economically and culturally—goes with them. By convincing more landowners to achieve FSC® certification, the Alliance hopes to preserve the forest’s value for generations.

It requires reaching out, owner by owner, and demonstrating how managing and harvesting woodlands sustainably can deliver returns as good as or better than conventional logging. Local foresters are joining the Rainforest Alliance staff in making the case. Other “ambassadors” from within the local forest industry are also spreading the word.

Working with an advisory group of regional experts, the Alliance has developed recommendations for supporting a healthy forest ecosystem that give woodland owners clear guidance on how they can support conservation. The Alliance has also developed a forest-management assurance tool design to leverage existing wood procurement systems and provide a point-of-harvest assessment, with the aim of significantly growing the volume of sustainably harvested forest products.

“The point is to show owners how sustainable forest management is in their best interest so that they say, ‘Why wouldn’t I do this?’” says Richard Donovan, senior vice president and vice president of forestry for the Rainforest Alliance.

Roland Simon, leader of corporate sustainability and vice president of procurement for our Label and Graphic Materials business, agrees. “If you’re going to harvest timber from 1,000 acres, there’s a sustainable way to do it and an unsustainable way to do it. And if the cost is exactly the same and the revenue is exactly the same, we think more people will be rational and say, ‘I’ll do it in the way that keeps these woods around for generations.’”

Read more about our commitment to FSC® here.