Different responses emerge
Wood markets are becoming increasingly selective and consumers want reassurance that trade is not fostering illegal logging. Many involved in the sector are asking for proof that forest operations and management promote legal trade. As a result, several measures, policies and legislative actions have emerged to directly address illegal logging and restore confidence in the sector.
Consumers are becoming more selective and increasingly demand information to aid their purchasing decisions – and information is more and more accessible. Consumer interest in legal, sustainable and socially responsible products is intensifying. ‘Green’ has become mainstream as shown by the analysis of consumer preferences, The Green Revolution. However, ‘green’ can mean different things to different people and may include anything from minimising environmental impact, climate neutrality to socially responsible management. Consumers are not well-informed about the social and environmental benefits of many products but are increasingly seeking information.
…green shoppers are still on a learning curve. They do not always understand the social and environmental benefits and they need help at the point of purchase. They are continuing to be educated by the media and the product information that is available to them…the rate of green purchase was very sensitive to the use of in-store communication and information .
The market has responded and is providing information to educate consumers about their purchasing decisions. User-friendly, creative guides, websites, instant messaging, scorecards, indices, product brochures and barometers are just a few of the tools offered to consumers to differentiate products across all sectors. For example, the organisation Climate Counts uses simple icons to make it easy for consumers to differentiate companies and products at a glance, rating company commitments to fight global warming in 16 different sectors. They cover everything from airlines, home and office furniture to commercial banking industries:
Business has the power to change the world - and you have the power to change business. Is your favorite company STUCK, STARTING, or STRIDING? The race is on to address climate change. Look for our simple icons to help you support companies that reflect your values.
Companies are learning to share information about their operations, social policies and environmental footprint to avoid being wrongly categorised by outside groups. Some companies see a market advantage in transparency that demonstrates that their product ensures quality and provides social, economic and ecological benefits that cheaper products cannot guarantee.
The South West Handline Fishermen’s Association (SWHFA) in the United Kingdom is one such example. SWHFA promises lower environmental impacts, better quality and sustainability through their traditional handline fishing technique. The SWHFA tags guarantee ‘hook to plate’ traceability, linking the hook to a specific fisherman.
When you buy line caught Bass you can be assured that the fish has been caught using the sustainable traditional fishing method of hook and line. This method has minimal environmental impact and as all fish are caught live it ensures the fish are in top condition before being stored in ice. So if top quality sustainably caught fish is what you’re after then line caught is the best option – insist on it from your fish supplier.
As consumers become better educated about the products they purchase, sustainability, accountability, and social responsibility increase in importance. The Fisherman’s Association relies on their marketing campaign to educate the public to reject products that cannot guarantee sustainability. In the fisheries sector, the number of marine certification systems such as the Marine Stewardship Council, salmon friendly and Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch demonstrate market trends towards assurance of sustainable harvesting practices.
The forest sector is no different. The CEO of Canada’s Forest Products Association, which represents 75% of the Canadian forest industry sees environmental credentials as the key to securing future market opportunities in timber. As in the fisheries example, many expect future forest product markets to prefer products that can demonstrate good sector governance through legality, accountability, sustainability, and social responsibility.
A two-by-four that comes from certified land where there's no illegal logging and the forests are regenerated, and there's no waste, and the greenhouse gases have been taken care of is not the same product as a two-by-four that comes from a place where they have illegal logging and no certification.
Guides, websites and instant alerts help consumers differentiate wood and paper products from sources that damage the environment or negatively impact communities from those that are sustainable, green, or eco-friendly. Conservation groups, timber associations and individual companies are putting information in the public domain to help consumers choose ‘friendly paper products’, timber from legal and sustainable sources, and toilet paper that is the best for the environment.