Information and reputational risk drives big shift in office paper choices

Thursday 29 April 2010, 7:21AM
By New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development

Business and Government get together in Wellington this evening to launch a new edition of an influential guide to buying sustainable office papers.

Publication of the first edition of the guide in 2008 saw stocks of certified sustainable office papers at one of the major suppliers rise from 10% to 41% after 4000 copies were sent to printers and graphic designers nationwide.

The aim is to offer those buying an estimated 44,000 tonnes a year of office paper help to avoid buying from suppliers which are harming the environment and people.

The chair of the National Party’s Blue-Green caucus, Nicky Wagner, MP, hosts the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development and members of the printing industry at Parliament at 5.30pm to launch the second edition of the paper buyers’ guide “Which Paper?”

Published by the Business Council and sponsored by a member, Blue Star Group, the guide is the only one in New Zealand listing all office papers certified by third parties as coming from sustainable sources.

The 2010 edition covers papers offered by six suppliers, two more than the first edition published in 2008.

Some of the office paper used in New Zealand is coming from unsustainable sources.

The guide reports 40% of the world’s industrial wood harvest is for paper production.
And 8 to 10% of global wood production is supported by illegal logging.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson, in remarks prepared for the guide’s launch, says businesses can attract or lose about a third of the market when people find out about their behaviour.

Companies which publish on paper sourced and produced in ways which have adverse impacts on people, pollute the air and water, cause soil erosion, destroy forest habitats and increase waste to landfill are running severe risks if they’re found out, Mr Neilson says.

“How many brands can withstand a customer perception that they don’t care?

“Not investing in sustainability will eventually define a company as being out of touch.”

Mr Neilson says there is strong evidence now that firms will shift to behaving sustainably when given information.

Mr Neilson says it is pleasing to see companies like Spicers Paper have now decided not to buy from paper from Indonesia from paper maker APP.

According to the World Wildlife Fund APP is one of the world’s largest vertically integrated pulp and paper companies. It operates mills in China as well as Indonesia. It is responsible for more deforestation in Sumatra than any other company. Since its operations began in the 1990s it is estimated to have cleared 1 million hectares of natural forests in Indonesia’s Riau and Jambi Province.

APP has repeatedly failed to apply high conservation values within its logging areas and WWF has ended its efforts to help the firm.

Other companies that have ended their relationships with APP in Indonesia include Woolworths, Fuji Xerox, Corporate Express and Office Depot.

“When businesses and customers have detailed information on the source and sustainability of companies’ products – then informed choices will lead to a deserved drop in market share for those which fail to ensure they profit while also looking after the environment, people and preserving the world’s precious biodiversity.

“So it’s pleasing to see what impact information can have on this market place.”
Ms Wagner says: “We need to make sure that we are buying from the good guys.

“This Guide is an excellent tool for industry and Government departments to use to help make purchasing decisions that are well informed.

“The Government encourages a voluntary approach to product stewardship. This guide is an excellent example of industry working together to produce guidance on how we can collectively reduce our environmental impacts.”

Since its first publication in 2008 NZ paper merchants have significantly increased their stock of certified papers from sustainable forests. This reflects greater demand from industry and government departments, Ms Wagner says.

Mr David Jupe, Chief Executive of the Blue Star Group, sponsoring the guide, says his firm decided several years ago that “it is our business to know that the paper stock which we use and recommend to our customers is sourced from forests that are well managed and carry recognised third party certification.

“Given only 10% of the world’s forests are certified, this presents a real challenge both in terms of availability of stock and having a commercially viable business.

“However, we believe that not to source from sustainable forests comes at a much bigger environmental and societal cost.

“Everyone is concerned about disappearing trees but wood reserves are now greater than 100 years ago. More trees are growing than are being cut down and thanks to better standards of forest management many forests are getting bigger.

“New Zealand has one of the highest paper recycling rates in the world. The paper which we recover here is used to make packaging and other paper products or exported. However we also import office and report paper which is made of recycled content from overseas.

“Our customers trust us to make the right choice. We cross check the sustainability claims of every paper.

“There is an alternative route which may be cheaper but it is not what we believe our customers and the New Zealand consumer want,” Mr Jupe says.

“Which Paper?” can be viewed and downloaded at

Research detailing how 28 in every 100 New Zealand firms have sacked suppliers in the past year because of environmental, social or ethical behaviour, and related green market mega trends, is available here: