3M has announced a new pulp and paper sourcing policy that it claims is designed to ensure that all the virgin wood fibre going into 3M’s paper-based products and packaging comes from sources that protect forests and respect human rights. Under the new policy, all paper-based products and packaging suppliers are required to provide information on the original forest sources of the virgin pulp in 3M’s products, and allow those sources to be assessed against 3M’s policy. It also sets standards related to social concerns, including respect for workers’ rights and indigenous peoples’ rights to free, prior and informed consent to operations on their traditional lands. 3M has been under pressure from environmental groups for several years to strengthen its commitment to protect forests and endangered wildlife, and to support rights of forest-impacted communities.
Among the numerous elements of the policy are:
- 3M expects that all pulp, paper and packaging from its suppliers contains wood or plant-based fibre that is legally harvested, sourced, transported and exported from its country of origin. 3M also expects that its pulp, paper and packaging suppliers will work to assure and verify that virgin wood fibre and plant-based fibre provided to 3M is traceable through the supply chain back to the source of harvest.
- Pulp and paper must not be from areas where natural forests with high carbon stock are being converted to other land uses or plantations and must be obtained in a manner that respects the rights and safety of workers, including no forced or child labour, no employment discrimination, and the freedom to associate.
- 3M will use information on responsible forest management, including scientifically-credible ecosystem-based management, good forest planning, minimizing impacts of road building and logging, protection of watershed areas, support for local communities, and responsible chemical usage as a factor for preference in supplier selection.
3M’s new pulp and paper procurement policy is likely to encourage other consumer products manufacturers to move in a similar direction. Historically sustainable procurement policies have served only to reshuffle markets so that more sustainable products go to those companies which demand them while less sustainable, or unsustainable, products go to those which are less discriminating, often in developing countries. However sustainable pulp and paper markets are now beginning to approach a size where suppliers of unsustainable products may be forced by market economics to move to more sustainable sources of supply. There are fewer and fewer markets for unsustainably produced pulp and paper. Those companies that are still marketing products sourced from unsustainable sources or without credible third party verification can expect to feel increased pressure from environmental advocates and from consumers.