The topic of sustainably-sourced ethical paper has been percolating in my mind since our partnership with Officeworks back in July.
Officeworks is one of Australia’s leading retailers with 166 stores nationwide. Each of its stores carries over 30,000 products; 8,000 of which are paper and wood-based products. Any sustainability initiatives the company implements could mean a significant reduction in environmental impact given the company’s size.
Earlier in the year, Officeworks became the first Australian company to sign the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) ‘Vancouver Declaration’, publicly promising to sustainable sourcing of forest products. This announcement was a biggie.
In a press statement, FSC Australia CEO Sara Gipton shares: ‘’It is encouraging to see a big retailer taking the next steps after demonstrating such commitment and success in responsible procurement. FSC certified products ensure that forests are managed for all, forever – balancing social, environmental and economic interests.”
However, Officeworks still sells Reflex, a paper brand produced by Australian Paper (acquired by Japan’s Nippon Paper Group) who is the largest purchaser of wood logs from Victoria’s native forests such as those in the Central Highlands. It purchases the wood from state-owned, government-backed logging agency VicForests which then makes its way to sawmills in Gippsland. In other words, the pulp used to make Reflex paper doesn’t always come from sustainable plantation forests but rather, Victoria’s actual native forests – and the government is aware of it.
On the Australian Paper website, it states:
“Australian Paper sources managed regrowth wood from the Victorian Government through VicForests. These state forest harvesting operations produce high-grade timber for local sawmills and low-grade wood for paper manufacturing. By utilising this low-grade wood, Australian Paper is supporting Gippsland’s sawmills and timber processing industries which produce high-grade hardwood for flooring, furniture manufacturing and housing construction”.
According to The Wilderness Society, however, Victoria’s forests are logged at a rate of nearly 3,500 hectares annually (equivalent to a little more than four MCGs), which releases massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which exacerbates the issue of climate change. In addition, the native forests that Australian Paper sources its wood from, is home to threatened species including the Fairy (Leadbeater’s) Possum, the Baw Baw frog and the Sooty Owl, just to name a few. The more trees cleared, the greater the threat since logging destroys habitat.
The battle to stop the paper company from logging Australia’s native forests began in 2011, when activists publicly protested against Reflex and Officeworks for stocking the paper, which spilt over to social media. At the time, Officeworks managing director Mark Ward said dropping Reflex would not solve anything.
“All Officeworks paper is certified to the Australian Forestry Standard, which is recognised by the international group Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification,” Mr Ward said.
Little has changed since 2011. Since the problem hasn’t been resolved, The Wilderness Society continues to encourage businesses not to purchase Reflex office paper until the business leaves Victoria’s native forests alone. About 2,277 businesses, councils and organisations have signed its Ethical Paper Pledge vowing not to purchase or use Reflex paper. In its ethical consumer guide, Shop Ethical gave Reflex UltraWhite paper and its ‘100% Recycled Paper’ lines a ‘D’ grading.
Speaking with Officeworks’ Corporate Responsibility Manager Ryan Swenson about the matter while in Melbourne for our tree planting partnership, he acknowledges he is aware of the controversy surrounding Reflex and tells me that Officeworks has a 2020 goal that all paper products are either FSC-certified or 100% recycled. They are working towards ensuring all suppliers comply with this, he explains. During the conversation, he also informs me that consumers have the power of choice and there is a range of ethical paper products that they can purchase if they are unhappy.
Swenson is right. Companies are mobilising to implement sustainability policies but the economic reality is, they are profit-seeking operations with share prices, margins, expenses, investors and bottom lines to consider. If consumers want things to change, they need to align their purchasing power with their ethical values. Consumers must vote with their wallets.
So which paper brands should people be buying instead?
The most eco-friendly paper is that which is made of 100% post-consumer material as essentially it is recycled paper made entirely from paper fibre waste that has already been used and recycled rather than being sent to landfill. The origins of the materials in post-consumer paper could be milk cartons, newspapers, books or junk mail.Companies are implementing sustainability policies but the economic reality is, they are profit-seeking operations with investors and bottom lines to consider. If consumers want things to change, they need to align their purchasing power with their values.'Click To Tweet
If you or your business is currently purchasing Reflex and keen to make the switch to 100% post-consumer recycled ethical paper, here are the products and brands that The Wilderness Society recommends:
- J. Burrows 100% Recycled Carbon Neutral
- Ecocern Copy Paper 100% Recycled Post-Consumer Waste
- Canon Oce 100% Recycled Zero Copy Paper
- Fuji Xerox Green Wrap Pure 100% Carbon Neutral Recycled
Remember, though, that reducing your use of paper is the ultimate aim, even if it is 100% post-consumer recycled.
Want to save Australia’s Native Forests? Make sure to sign the Ethical Paper Pledge here. Individuals and businesses are welcome to sign. Let’s spread the message!
Title image credit: Shutterstock