The Power of Many: Domtar's Strategy of Long Term Partnerships
By: Meirav Even-Har, Toronto
Interesting things happen when a determined group of people get together. The power of collaboration should not be underestimated. I was reminded of this in a recent conversation with Lewis Fix, VP Sustainable Business & Brand Management at Domtar Corporation. For Domtar, long-term partnerships with environmental groups are part of everyday business.
Domtar is in the business of fiber-based products. That means trees make the key ingredient for manufactured goods. Instead of what has been a historically contentious relationship with environmental groups, the company has sought to strengthen partnerships. Building trust takes time and a whole lot of effort. Lewis Fix provided me with insights into Domtar's collaborative work for over a decade.
Turning point - From Collaboration to Commitments
Domtar's participation in Ontario's Living Legacy Land Use Plan (widely known as Lands for Life) was pivotal for establishing the company's present day collaborative approach. The multi-stakeholder initiative was tasked with creating an outline for a strategic direction for the management of 39 million hectares of Ontario's Crown lands and waters. The initiative, Fix notes, "opened the company to deeper collaborations. The path forward became very clear."
During the Lands for Life planning process, Domtar observed that NGOs were most interested in Forest Stewardship CouncilTM (FSC®) certification as a standard for good forest management. For the company, it made sense to pursue further collaborative work. On the Domtar's choice to certify its forests with FSC, Fix explains: "We realized that increasingly, NGOs are going to influence what companies are doing. There's a heightened awareness around the forestry sector, for various environmental and social reasons. A third-party certification such as FSC was well supported by those around the table and became the right choice. It also defined leadership, and a breaking away from industry to pursue certification."
Linking Sustainable Forests with the Business Case
As a business, Domtar also recognizes the positive implications of FSC certification to its bottom line. Since products are traded globally, certifying with FSC - the only international standard of its kind - lends credibility to both company and its goods. "FSC helps differentiate products. Any bit of differentiation that a company could give its customers - that's a good thing," Fix remarks.
Through Lands for Life, a collaborative long-term relationship developed between WWF Canada and Domtar. WWF has been working with Domtar since 2003, to help strengthen its commitments to pursue FSC certification for all of the forests it owns, operates and manages. The company also committed to help identify significant areas for protection on its lands, as well as increase the amount of FSC certified fiber it procures from suppliers.
The Rainforest Alliance represents another long-term collaboration. The partnership began in 2000 with the FSC certification of Domtar forestlands in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, awarded by the Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood Program.
"Forest certification is complex and is not well understood in the consumer context," Fix says. "NGO logos such as the panda for WWF, or the green frog for Rainforest Alliance are well recognized among consumer groups." Fix remarks that having both logos on the Domtar product line signifies a special milestone for company - a proud achievement.
WATCH! 3BL Media's video Today's Paper Chase: To Print or Not to Print, According to Domtar
This is part II of my conversation with Domtar's Lewis Fix. Read Part I: Seeing the Forest with Trees: Domtar's Drive for Sustainable Paper Lifecycle
To learn more visit Domtar's sustainability website
Image: EarthChoice® paper product, courtesy of Domtar