A detailed new Greenpeace report, Consuming Canada's Boreal Forest: The Chain Of Destruction From Logging Companies To Consumers, traces the journey of clear-cut trees from virgin boreal stands to retail store shelves.
The group fingers what it calls the worst despoilers of northern timberland: Abitibi-Consolidated Inc., Bowater Incorporated and Kruger. The first two merged last month, creating a corporate colossus with cutting rights to an area of the Ontario and Quebec boreal as big as the state of Nebraska.
Also named are a list of retailers buying products from the three - part of a campaign to get firms to buy forest products made either from recycled material or from logging operations certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
FSC-certified companies must protect habitat and wildlife, have a reforestation program and respect Aboriginal rights. Tembec and Domtar are among the largest companies with FSC approval for stands in northern Ontario and Quebec. FSC regs don't allow cutting from intact stands.
Bowater's operations, however, are certified by the rival Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) protocol, while Abitibi has certification from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
Says Abitibi director of public affairs Denis Leclerc, "Across the world, I've been told there are 60 different (forestry) certifications. So why is one better than all the others? We don't believe having a monopoly on certification is good for the forest. When you have competition, you always have to improve."
(At Kruger, public relations officer Jean Majeau said the company would offer no comment. Reps from Bowater did not return calls by press time.)
Greenpeace and other environmental groups maintain that the FSC's are far more stringent, independent and binding than any other existing regs.
"CSA and SFI were done by industry to compete with FSC, with no imput from enviromentalists and native communities, and haven't made any big difference on the ground," says Greenpeace boreal campaigner Kim Fry. "[CSA or SFI certification] doesn't actually change anything the companies do - it just gives them a green cover.
"We want retailers to put pressure on [forest companies] by signifying that they will cancel contracts unless they change to FSC," she says.
Retailers talk back
RONA "The company does not buy any product derived from endangered species and favours the purchase of products that bear FSC, CSA and SFI certifications. Rona ensures all of the goods it procures have been produced in conditions that respect human rights and the environment.
INDIGO "We have an environmental committee whose role is to identify how we can improve our practices. Our most recent back-to-school marketing piece is FSC-certified. I realize this is an issue people recognize: they want not only corporate social responsibility but environmentalism." Lisa Huie, public relations
Tearing up the trees
Among the companies that buy products originating from intact virgin boreal forests cut by Abitibi, Bowater and Kruger:
Rona Inc.: one of the biggest Canadian retail buyers of wood
Time Inc.: much of the paper for the magazine comes from Bowater's Thunder Bay mill.
Wal-Mart: prints advertising inserts made from pulp supplied by Abitibi's boreal forest operations.
Best Buy: catalogues and advertising inserts are printed on paper from Abitibi's Laurentide, Quebec, mill.
Grand & Toy: sells office and copy paper made from pulp produced at Abitibi's Fort Francis, Ontario, mill.
Indigo Books & Music Inc. (and subsidiary Coles): adverting inserts are made from pulp supplied by Abitibi's boreal forest operations.
Toys R Us: advertising inserts made from pulp produced at Kruger's Wayagamack Mill in Quebec.
Area of Canada's boreal forest logged annually: more than 7,000 square kilometres
Percentage of logged area in the boreal that is clear-cut: 90
Number of football fields equalling the size of the largest boreal forest clear-cuts: more than 17,000
Percentage of the world's greenhouse gas emissions caused by logging and deforestation, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: up to 25
Percentage of North America's songbirds that nest in the boreal forest: 30
Percentage of North America's waterfowl that nest in the boreal forest: 40
Area of forest certified by the Forest Stewardship Council worldwide: 900,000 square kilometres