Eco Group to Launch Catalog Blacklist

ForestEthics isn’t afraid to name names. The San Francisco-based environmental advocacy organization is threatening to go public with a “blacklist” of catalogers that it feels are practicing harmful eco practices.

The group slammed several multimillion-dollar catalogers, including Lands’ End, J.C. Penney, L.L. Bean, Williams-Sonoma, J. Crew, and The Limited, during a session at the American Forest Products Association’s Paper Week conference in March. ForestEthics accused the companies of not using enough recycled material and instead using too much pulp fiber sourced from endangered forests.

“It’s just unacceptable that what took a millennia to create is being turned into a one-time marketing offer,” says ForestEthics paper campaign director Evan Thomas Paul, who spoke with Catalog Age after the conference.

ForestEthics also encourages catalogers to mail fewer books and to stop buying from paper suppliers who refuse to improve their sourcing plans. According to Paul, the organization contacted the catalogers it cited in the week following the conference to set up meetings to discuss five-year goals for ending the practices ForestEthics considers environmentally harmful. If companies are unwilling to comply, Paul says the organization will put them on a “blacklist” and encourage consumers to boycott them.

‘A continuous, evolving process’

At press time, ForestEthics was planning to launch at the beginning of May a media campaign focusing on at least one “irresponsible” cataloger; it wouldn’t reveal the target of the campaign. Other companies that do not agree to comply with a timeline for ecological improvement of its practices will also be mentioned in the campaign. Paul says that the organization will be outspoken as well about catalog companies that have agreed to make improvements.

At least one of the catalogers cited by ForestEthics, Dodgeville, WI-based Lands’ End, says that it’s unrealistic for an organization to expect a company to commit to a deadline for attaining specific eco-friendly goals. “It’s a continuous, evolving process with no timetable,” says Chris Mordi, spokesperson for the apparel and home goods mailer.

Mordi says that Lands’ End is working on making its production process more environmentally friendly but will not release the specifics of its plans. “As a responsible and customer-focused company, we do care about the environment and promoting its sustainability,” he says. “We continue to explore ways to lesson the environmental footprint related to our catalog.”

Mordi says that during the past few years Lands’ End has reduced the size, basis weight, and distribution of its catalogs. He will not specify how many pages the catalog has been reduced by nor how much less its paper weighs.

L.L. Bean, J.C. Penney, and J. Crew were contacted by Catalog Age, but as of press time none had returned calls.

ForestEthics was founded 10 years ago as the Clayoquot Rainforest Coalition, with the sole focus of saving Clayoquot Sound, a rainforest on Vancouver Island in Canada. In 2001 the association expanded its mission to protect all endangered forests by redirecting industrial markets toward what it considers ecologically sound alternatives.

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