Of Hope and Fear

Last week I was at the 4th Annual Environmental Printing Awards in Toronto, Canada – hosted by the well-respected magazine Print Action. About 400 representatives from the Canadian graphic arts community were there to celebrate their sector’s environmental achievements and leadership in Canada.

This got me thinking about what leadership is. The dictionary simply defines it as “the ability to lead”. I think that positive influence is at the core of powerful leadership – especially when it comes to corporate social responsibility and environmental initiatives.

Last night’s winners showed they have the ability to lead – the ability to positively influence their community and set an example – by implementing environmental programs or voluntary initiatives. One such winner was St. Joseph Communications – a major Canadian printer with tri-certification to SFI, FSC, and PEFC – who won the environmental Community Involvement gold award for their tree planting initiative with Scouts Canada.

The acts of leadership I witnessed at last week’s event are inspiring. These companies – be they print suppliers or print customers – are taking responsibility to improve their own backyard and by doing so they influence the whole neighborhood, so to speak. They raise the bar. That is powerful. That is hope.

The flipside of hope is fear. While we are on the definition kick…fear is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”

The keynote speaker at the awards was Tzeporah Berman of the campaigning organization Forest Ethics. She congratulated leaders in the room and specifically spoke of hope and she had a lot of positive things to say. However, when it comes to forest certification, a topic she mentioned, there is an element of fear when you scratch below the surface. Tzeporah applauded a variety of organizations that have chosen to have an FSC preference in their policy.

There is fear and there is hope. Fear is being forced into an exclusive policy to manage the threat of protestors on your door. Hope is collaboration and respect to recognize and reward leadership in the forests so that organizations feel good about being involved with changing the face of forests for today’s and future generations through recognizing and procuring products from certified forests and other responsible sources of supply. Most organizations in the supply chain that I have met with recognize the bigger pictures, that all of these forest certification standards, whether SFI or FSC, deliver on:

• Social, economic and environmental representation in decision-making

• Avoidance of illegal timber

• Identification of special biological, cultural, heritage sites

• Management strategies to protect species at risk

• Management strategies to maintain wildlife habitat

• Sustainable harvest levels

• Prompt regeneration

• 3rd party accredited certification audits

• Audit reports public available with corrective action clearly highlighted.

Multiple standards benefit everyone – they provide choice, promote innovation and drive continual improvement. I am a firm believer in the value of forest certification, and I am proud of what SFI has to offer.

A one-winner outcome is a monopoly, and monopolies do nothing for progress. SFI is interested in propelling market demand for forest certification on a global level so that one day soon we will be able to say that more than 10% of the world’s forests are certified. This is why SFI supports multiple certification and inclusive policies – we hope the work increases awareness of certification in general.

When the task at hand is improving forest management globally and promoting sustainable forest management, I think collaboration and respect are the only ways forward, especially when it comes to tackling pressing issues such as illegal logging that undermines our global forests and communities.

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