Over the last decade, jan/san distributors have grown accustomed to customers requesting green paper products that have a certain percentage of post-consumer fiber, recovered fiber and are processed chlorine free. But as green evolves into sustainability, some end users as of late are making their paper purchases based on products from manufacturers that practice sustainable forestry.

Sustainable forestry is forest management that brings no long-term damage to soil, water or air; does not disrupt any natural biological processes and does not threaten any plant or animal species with extinction during the harvesting of timber.

End User Interest

Over the last couple of years, industry manufacturers have begun a marketing push introducing their sustainable forestry efforts to distributors and end users. So, there is a need for distributors to expand their own knowledge of the topic in order to help customers wanting to go down this route in the near future.

"There are some customers who are interested in purchasing paper from manufacturers that practice sustainable forestry," says Keith Schneringer, marketing manager for WAXIE Sanitary Supply in San Diego. "The majority are colleges and universities or companies with a more advanced environmental ethic."

These are customers who have embraced greening their facilities and have gotten to a point where they now are focusing on sustainable operations. With universities and colleges dealing with high paper consumption, these customers are now looking to offset this usage and its effects on the environment by purchasing paper from suppliers with sustainable forests, says Schneringer.

But because sustainable forestry is still a relatively unknown term for the majority of end users in the jan/san industry, distributors say that overall they have gotten very few requests from customers thus far. In fact, Renae Hesselink, vice president of sustainability for Nichols, in Spring Lake, Mich., says she can count on her hands the number of requests from customers that have requested paper products based solely on forestry certification. She believes this stems from the fact that the majority of customers don't know about or understand what sustainable forestry is.

But, as things continue to evolve with LEED and sustainability, Hesselink says customers are expected to show more interest.

"Customers want to do business with companies that understand sustainability and practice it," she says. "If we are going to truly practice sustainability and follow the triple bottom line concept and reduce consumption, I believe that certified products from sustainable forests will become more important."

End users are also becoming more concerned about product life cycle, and paper products fall into that category. In fact, 64 percent of building service contractors say it is important to use products considered sustainable throughout its life cycle according to a Contracting Profits magazine survey. It's even more important to in-house cleaning departments as 76 percent want to buy these types of products, according to a Housekeeping Solutions survey.

Sustainable Forestry Defined

Sustainable forestry dates back to nearly 200 years ago, when foresters first began taking steps to preserve and protect trees. The goal then, was to harvest trees only when there was enough new growth to replenish them. But given the world's continuing reliance on virgin fiber, in combination with the rate of global population and economic growth, the world's forests are under more pressure than ever, according to industry paper manufacturers. Thus, sustainable forestry in the current day has taken on a whole new meaning.

Today's foresters aim to ensure that the goods and services derived from their forests meet present-day needs while at the same time securing their continued availability and contribution to long-term development. Among other things, sustainable forestry also aims to protect wildlife and sensitive ecosystems in the harvesting of timber.

During the last 20 years, third-party organizations have made efforts to certify foresters who manage sustainable forests.

"Third party certification has emerged as an important tool to measure and communicate the social and environmental performance of forest operators," says Howard Connell, global sustainability leader for Kimberly-Clark Professional, Roswell, Ga. "With forest certification, an independent organization develops standards of good forest management, and independent auditors issue certificates to forest operations that comply with those standards. This certification verifies that forests are well-maintained — as defined by a particular standard — and ensures that certain wood and paper products come from responsibly managed forests."

Sustainable forestry certification allows paper manufacturers to promote their company as sustainable as well as market their products as such. So, when end users are looking for a paper product from a company that has a sustainable managed forest, all they have to do is look for a stamp of approval from a certifying organization on the product's packaging.

Paper manufacturers in the jan/san industry recognize five certification systems as it relates to sustainable forestry certification. Not all manufacturers own their own forests, so these manufacturers carry out their due diligence by requiring forest owners in which they purchase from to comply with at least one of them. Certifying organizations include: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI); the Canadian Standards Association's National Sustainable Forest Management Standards CAN/CSA Z809; Sistema Brasileiro de Certifacacao Florestal; and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes.

In North America, FSC and SFI certifications are held in high regards by paper manufacturers and are most recognizable by end users, according to distributors. These certifications provide a credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products, enabling end users to make purchasing decisions that benefit the environment.

Today's paper manufacturers work very closely with their wood fiber suppliers to encourage sustainable forestry practices, according to Dan Silk, vice president of sustainability for Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific Professional. Through the SFI's Fiber Sourcing Standard, Silk says manufacturers have a way to reach out to land owners in order to help promote sustainable practices. Paper manufacturers are now requiring their timber supplies to be trained in sustainable forestry practices and even mandating these best management practices are implemented during all harvesting activities. If they do not meet the paper manufacturer's standards, they will take their business elsewhere.

With these certifications it ensures paper manufacturers that the harvesting of timber is from sustainable-managed forests. In fact, paper manufacturers like SCA has a global mandate for 100 percent control of raw materials with none coming from controversial sources, says Bjorn Lyngfelt, vice president of communications for SCA Forest Products in Sundsvall, Sweden. Georgia Pacific Professional and Kimberly-Clark also are able to adhere to this model even though they do not own, manage or harvest any commercial forest land.

"We have policies in place to promote sustainable forestry and audit our suppliers to ensure good performance," says Connell. "Sustainable forest management ensures the timber used does not exceed the rate at which the forest can regenerate. By adhering to recognized and reputable forestry and chain-of-custody certification programs, suppliers can demonstrate that their wood fiber products are responsibly sourced."

Because manufacturers are practicing sustainable forestry and getting certification to back their efforts, distributors are ensured that the products that they are selling are in fact sustainable. With more customers heading in the direction of sustainability, distributors say arming themselves with proper knowledge of how sustainable forest products can meet customers' sustainable goals can be a business enhancer in the coming years.

Green Paper Certifications

When it comes to green paper, products are commonly plastered with logos from certifying agencies that deem the product worthy of wearing their badge of approval. A number of certifications outline criteria regarding post-consumer fiber, recovered fiber and processed chlorine free, but there is often confusion with these terms. Check out Sanitary Maintenance's quick reference guide to today's certifying agencies and what each certification really means about the product at www.cleanlink.com/12262sm.