FSC Certified Winners
The menu at this year’s Canadian Woodlands Forum (CWF) annual luncheon promised two things – Mystery meat and Kathy Abusow, president and CEO of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). I push aside the mystery meat – pork, maybe – and settle in to watch Kathy talk up her brand. Okay, so she’s easy to watch, but she’s also got something to say. I get the idea that SFI finally has its marketing strategy nailed. Kathy admits that they need to get in the faces of the forest industry’s customers, our products’ end users, and the public at large. Best of all, they have a plan to do just that.
She’s 100% right of course. Unfortunately, she’s also 100% late. Sadly for Kathy, and the Canadian forest industry as a whole, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) figured this strategy out in the ’90s, and have been using it to their advantage ever since. And since this is business and not kindergarten, they don’t share nicely with others.
Where were you 10 years ago, Kathy, I’m thinking. We could have used the marketing savvy. Looking around the room, I see I’m not alone. Still, maybe there’s hope…
Or maybe not. Fast forward a few months, and I’m flipping through my latest issue of Masthead, “The magazine about magazines”. It’s the Mags U magazine conference showguide, a well-read issue that confirmed what I already knew about forestry certification, at least in the paper market. There’s FSC, and then there’s…actually, there’s just FSC.
As always, the magazine contained over a half-dozen ads from printers vying for business from Canada’s magazine publishers, including yours truly. Three of these ads were basically selling one thing – FSC certification. Not price, not quality, not speed, not service, and certainly not forest certification in general. Another mentioned FSC certification prominently in its ad. Two of the printers whose ads did not mention FSC certification (and they will next time) mentioned it in their showguide listings elsewhere in the magazine. Better safe than CSA apparently.
As for the magazine you are now holding in your hands, you can sleep easy. My printer tells me it is printed on FSC paper. They might also print on CSA, SFI, ISO or PEFC paper, but who cares? Certainly not my printer, who doesn’t feel that the possibility of other certification schemes is even worth exploring. The market has spoken, and it’s always right. Hats off to the FSC – Its certification system may be average, but its marketing excels.
I’m just the messenger, so don’t get the wrong idea about my own preferences. When it comes to printing, I’m a price, quality, speed, service, and certification shopper, in that order. I know enough about the industry to know that any certified magazine paper my printer buys is coming from a well-managed forest. I don’t take sides on certification. It’s all good, I like competition, and this way we get to use all the letters in the alphabet.
Yet as a paper buyer and member of the forest industry, I am curious about one thing: Where are the rest of the forest certification schemes – CSA, SFI, PEFC and company? Their invisibility in the paper market makes it hard for my twin industries – Canadian publishing and forestry – to support or continue supporting them. None of the competing schemes bothered to exhibit at Mags U, for example, but then it’s only Canada’s main magazine trade show. None advertised in its showguide either. We’re number two, so we…don’t try at all?
Back to Kathy and her plan. Is it indeed too little, too late? She seems determined, and she’s convincing. But when you view certification from the buyers’ side of the market like I do half the time, it’s hard to be optimistic. One thing’s certain. As number two, they better be willing to try harder. A lot harder.
Scott Jamieson, Editor
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