The Resolute Forest Products Paper Company Wants to Wage War on Ancient Boreal Forests
May 22, 2017
Colin Beavan / Yes! Magazine
An avaricious paper company is clearcutting critical boreal forests but when Greenpeace published a critical report revealing the scope of damage caused by Resolute Forest Products, the company responded by suing Greenpeace for $300 million. You probably haven't read about this in the New York Times, Washington Post, or LA Times. Why? Because Resolute provides the paper for the nation's biggest newspapers and publishers. So it's up to independent media to speak out.
The Paper Company Threatening Ancient
Boreal Forests – and Activists and Journalists
Colin Beavan / Yes! Magazine
(May 21, 2017) -- Suppose, as a writer and climate justice activist, I want to ask you to boycott one of the world's largest paper companies -- Resolute Forest Products -- because it is unsustainably cutting trees in the formerly untouched, ancient boreal forests of Canada.
Suppose I also wanted to tell you that Resolute practices threaten the survival of the endangered woodland caribou and that the company has lost or had suspended some of its FSC certifications as a result.
Of course, I should tell you those things. That's my job as a writer, right? And you should probably know. That way you can participate in your democracy: Put pressure on the company to change its behavior, ask your elected representatives to step in, and other actions.
But suppose too, that Resolute is right now mounting an aggressive $300 million lawsuit against Greenpeace -- along with individual activists -- for publicizing the very same unsustainable forestry practices I want to write about.
Suppose I also know that Resolute has a history of mounting specious lawsuits against those who speak out against them that can potentially bankrupt advocacy organizations and individuals by forcing them to mount costly legal defenses.
So suppose I and other writers like me are scared to tell you what you need to know to participate in our democracy and politicians what they need to know to legislate effectively. Suppose it silences us.
With a daughter to support, what should I do? Should I even write this article? Or should I sit back and hope someone else with better access to legal funds will tell you? Maybe the New York Times will tell you. Oh wait. The Times is printed on paper from Resolute. Well then, the Washington Post. Oh, hell. They get paper from Resolute, too. The Los Angeles Times? Yup. Them, too.
So it turns out, because of the complex economic relationships between big media and industry, it is often up to small nonprofit magazines and websites and book writers and independent publishers and advocacy organizations to sound the alarm when a big company is doing wrong. But scaring all of us from keeping the public informed is exactly what Resolute is trying to do with its huge lawsuit against Greenpeace.
Here is the background, according to a Greenpeace report on the suit:
Greenpeace has been speaking up and raising awareness of Resolute's controversial forestry practices with the public and buyers of Resolute's products for years. … Instead of working collaboratively with Greenpeace and other stakeholders to find lasting solutions for the forest, workers, and local communities, Resolute has filed a $300 million Canadian dollar (CAD) lawsuit against Greenpeace USA, Greenpeace International, Stand.earth, and individual activists …
With these lawsuits, and with its public attacks against other prominent environmental organizations, Resolute is attempting to silence legitimate public concerns, all the while ignoring scientific recommendations for the health of the forest and thus the longevity of the forest products industry.
… Ultimately Resolute's meritless lawsuits against Greenpeace could impact individuals and groups across civil society that seek to make positive changes by making it too expensive and risky to engage in free speech, advocacy, informed expert opinions, and even research."
In other words, if the suit against Greenpeace is successful, it could be personally dangerous for me to tell you the things I've told you in this article. In this way, it could be dangerous for other journalists and advocacy organizations to tell you other things you need to know.
That is why I am standing with Greenpeace's new campaign, launched this week, to encourage newspaper and book publishing companies – whose very businesses depend on our right to free speech – to work with Resolute to find more sustainable solutions for the forest instead of pursuing lawsuits aimed at silencing their critics. In addition to the newspapers I've mentioned, Greenpeace has found that Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette, among others, all buy and use book-grade paper from Resolute. That includes from a mill in Canada's boreal forest.
But how we can help?
1. Tweet and share this article on Facebook
According to Amy Moas, a Greenpeace strategist named in the suit, Resolute operates in relative quiet because it is not a household name. So sharing this article, as well as others that show what Resolute is doing both to the forest and in their attempts to silence activists, could help put pressure on them.
2. Communicate with publishers and newspaper companies
Social media and direct emails are effective ways to do this. Moas suggests something like:
"Thank you, [publisher], for being a beacon for freedom of speech in our society. The work you do for the free circulation of ideas is invaluable. But it has now been exposed that [you] are buying paper from a company that is posing a huge threat to the freedom of speech and to forests.
Please talk to Greenpeace and take action. Continue to be a champion for free speech and stand by your environmental promises. Urge Resolute to stop attacking free speech and embrace sustainable solutions for the forest."
3. Sign the new Greenpeace petition
In a few weeks, Greenpeace will be displaying the number of petition signers, as a show of people power, at the Book Expo America in New York City. It is the largest gathering of the publishing industry in North America.
Greenpeace will also be handing over a book that contains the name of every petition signer to each publisher. This is meant to be a physical reminder that publishers' paper sourcing choices are important to their readers and global community.
Will you do those things? I intend to. And then maybe in the future people like you and me and other writers and advocates might feel safer writing articles that stand up to big industry.
Click here to sign the petition!
Colin Beavan helps people and organizations to live and operate in ways that have a meaningful impact on the world. His most recent book is "How To Be Alive," and he blogs at ColinBeavan.com. Besides YES! Magazine, his articles have appeared in Esquire, The Atlantic, and the New York Times. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Excerpts from the Greenpeace Report, "Clearcutting Free Speech"
The Paradox for Publishers and Authors
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights all are very clear about the freedoms that form the fundamental values of our society.
These rights, including the freedom of speech and of the press, are the cornerstones of democracy because they guarantee an active exchange of ideas, open debate, the quest for solutions, and an informed public.
Authors, philosophers, journalists and other public figures have long been active agents fighting to protect these rights. Indeed, publishers themselves have been some of the most tenacious defenders against censorship. Penguin Books' groundbreaking defense of Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1960 is just one example of a publisher at the forefront of an iconic free speech battle.
Industries and organizations that challenge political, economic or other forms of power are only able to do so because the freedom of speech has enshrined their right to exist. The book publishing industry and media companies, in particular, have long recognized the importance of freedom of speech to their existence and place in society.
This is why the Association of American Publishers and almost a dozen other media organizations filed an amicus brief in 2016 in support of Greenpeace in the SLAPP brought by Resolute. They argued that free speech "is essential to ensuring a flourishing marketplace of ideas." And also, "publishers of all types rely on these broad protections to provide illuminating information to the public."
Publishers should also be acutely aware of the dangers of SLAPPs. In 2008, for example, Les Editions Ecosociete Inc. published Noir Canada, a critique of human rights and environmental violations by Canadian mining companies in Africa. One of the companies criticized in the book, Barrick Gold, responded by filing a CAD$6 million libel lawsuit against the publishers in Québec.
In 2011, the Québec Superior Court concluded that Barrick Gold had intended to intimidate the defendants through its aggressive legal tactics. Nonetheless, the lawsuit was allowed to proceed and, to avoid the costs of a full trial, the publisher ended up settling out of court. Under the weight of the lawsuit, Les Editions Ecosociete Inc. was forced to stop further publication of the book.
This then raises the question: why is almost every major global book publisher buying paper from the very company that is using this same tactic to threaten free speech?
A Greenpeace investigation revealed that many of the world's largest consumer books publishers, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette, among others, all buy and use book grade paper from Resolute, including from a paper mill in Canada's boreal forest.
Great strides have been made in recycled and sustainable production of paper, as well as heightened awareness of the forestry issues linked with paper production, and yet these publishers continue to buy paper from a controversial company linked to the destruction of intact ancient forests.
These large global book publishers are behind some of the world's most beloved novels, children's books and nonfiction works, producing millions of new titles and editions printed around the globe every year. Doing so without supporting egregious attacks on free speech and without supporting the destruction of intact ancient forests and threatened species habitat is surely in their interest. The paradox of this situation, in which a supplier threatens the very freedoms that enable their customers to operate, is clear.
Each of these publishers has some form of global paper procurement standards or environmental policies already in place which, for one reason or another, should raise concern as to whether Resolute qualifies to be a supplier without first making sustainability reforms. (See Table 1.)
Companies should be diligent in examining the forestry practices of their paper suppliers on the ground, and in communicating expectations on matters of sustainable forestry to those suppliers.
For these book publishers, it is not just about defending shared morals and protecting the rights fundamental to their own existence, but also about keeping the promises to their readers reflected in their policies.
If publishers fail to act to address these environmental and moral issues and instead wait for Resolute's meritless lawsuits to be adjudicated, they help validate SLAPPs and embolden other corporations to pursue similar legal attacks against legitimate advocates speaking in the public interest.
More fundamentally, such a position stands counter to the ethical standards of the entire publishing industry, including so many authors and readers around the world.
Examining one's supply chain, being committed to environmental policies and standing up for free speech is not simply a business decision that can wait, this is about corporate integrity and doing the right thing for the future we all strive for.
A Contentious Supplier
Resolute Forest Products (TSX/NYSE: RFP) is a multi-billion dollar corporation and one of the largest forest products companies in North America. Resolute is the largest producer of newsprint globally by capacity and a significant producer of market pulp, specialty papers and lumber in North America.
Greenpeace has been speaking up and raising public attention to Resolute's controversial environmental record including how terminated forestry certifications, and logging in and sourcing from intact forests and Woodland Caribou habitat, have defined Resolute's operations and reputation in recent years.
Many areas within Canada's managed forest have a long history of forestry. Working forests that undergo a series of cutting and regrowth cycles can provide a reliable and constant supply of fiber for the industry and steady jobs for local communities.
Greenpeace believes that this, if done in a sustainable way, can be the basis for a healthy and well-respected forest products industry in Canada, one that can support local communities and workers well into the future.
Unfortunately, logging is also happening in the last few areas of undisturbed forest left in Canada's managed forest.
Resolute is actively logging in and/or sourcing from some of the last large intact areas of this managed forest and disturbing threatened species habitat to secure fiber for its products such as newsprint and book paper. The company is ignoring guidance from the best science and is destroying these magnificent places.
Resolute has also abandoned much of its prior commitment to sustainable operations, as evidenced by it dropping its commitment to get the vast majority of its forestlands certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, as well as the termination of three FSC certifications in the last few years.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.