FSC: See the forest for the trees

Using recycled paper is good, but certifying that the nonrecycled content in your books — or what is known as the virgin fiber — was harvested from forests that aren’t endangered may be just as important. That’s why many mailers are seeking paper with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

Freeport, ME-based apparel and home goods cataloger L.L. Bean won’t disclose how much FSC-certified content it uses. But in an April 12 press release published by Montreal-based forest products supplier Tembec, Bean said “it anticipates further increases in the already significant amounts of FSC fiber in its catalog over the next year.”

Bean’s manager of environmental and government affairs, Carolyn Beem, says FSC certification is an initiative the company cares enough about to include in its negotiations with suppliers. Bean, which buys paper from a few companies, has specifically requested that one of these mills buy FSC-certified pulp from Tembec.

Hillsboro, OR-based multititle mailer Norm Thompson Outfitters has also taken the FSC plunge, says director of communications and corporate responsibility Derek Smith. “Our Sahalie title uses FSC-certified papers for its offset circulation, about 35% of total circulation.” What’s more, all of the company’s titles use FSC-certified order forms in all catalogs throughout the year. “Our ideal paper content is recycled with FSC-certified virgin. Suppliers who offer this combination are preferred.”

New York-based camera and photo accessories cataloger/retailer B&H Photo-Video-Pro Audio printed on FSC-certified paper for the first time in January, says advertising manager Abraham Berkowitz. But the change came about because B&H’s broker was unable to secure the 40-lb. #3 coated freesheet it typically uses for the body of its 244-page catalog and the 70-lb. #3 coated freesheet it uses for the cover. The FSC-certified sheet used by B&H was the most similar to the paper the company wanted to use.

Although B&H printed both its spring and summer 2005 books on the FSC stock, “we’re not going to use only FSC paper. We’re going to use this paper only if it’s possible, if it’s not too expensive,” says Berkowitz. The cost of the FSC sheet is about $4/hundredweight (cwt)-$5/cwt more than the non-certified paper the company usually uses. But B&H has asked its printer, Ontario-based St. Joseph Communications, to plant three tree seedlings for every ton of paper the cataloger uses.

The price is right (more or less)

Indeed, harvesting FSC-certified pulp fiber is more expensive than farming non-FSC fiber, says Chris McDonell, manager of environmental relations for Tembec. Pulp carrying the FSC label must come from forests audited regularly to make sure the criteria stipulated by FSC certification are being met.

In April, Montreal-based paper manufacturer Domtar introduced a line of 13 FSC-certified grades under the brand name EarthChoice. The prices of the EarthChoice grades are on a par with comparable non-FSC papers, says vice president, sales, publishing, and corporate accounts Doc Maiorino. Adding additional postconsumer content to the paper, however, would typically mean an upcharge of approximately 3%.

For a list of paper suppliers that are FSC certified, as well as the 10 standards used to determine whether a mill meets the organization’s standards, visit the council’s Website, www.fscus.org.

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