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Domtar’s novel approach: smallholder success in North America

Monday, 1 February 2016

Sisters Donna Janssen and Luanne Lewis – Sisters Donna Janssen and Luanne Lewis along with their family (© Domtar)© Domtar
Sisters Donna Janssen and Luanne Lewis

Domtar boasts a long involvement with the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), and in 2000 became the first North American company to offer FSC-certified copy paper.

In recent years Domtar has spearheaded an initiative to improve smallholder certification in North America, with very positive results. The preference Domtar has shown for FSC certification has allowed it to grow over the years with FSC in North America.

“Our customers were demanding more FSC-certified products, and so we sought suppliers who could meet our needs. While it made business sense to obtain FSC certification, we have always looked for ways to make Domtar more environmentally and ethically responsible – our customers believe strongly in sustainability, and so do we,” noted Paige Goff, VP Sustainability and Business Communications.

In 2010 Domtar helped create an association of smallholders that came to be known as the Four States Timberland Owners Association (FSTOA). Domtar decided to create the association to find out if it was possible to increase their supply of FSC-certified fibre. Today, the results are extremely promising, with 82 landowners now holding FSC certification and other landowners are on the way to doing so.

As active members of the FSTOA, Donna Janssen and her family have worked with the surrounding foresters for decades. Now, she considers the team at Domtar to be part of her extended family. Because of their trusting relationship, it was easy to embrace the need for third-party certification. Specifically, when Domtar started working with local foresters to achieve FSC certification, Donna didn’t have to think twice – she quickly made the decision to take the necessary steps to bring her land up to FSC standards. Domtar was able to guide Donna throughout the process and helped her see the value in FSC.

“I see in these trees a future for my nephews – and for their kids,” said Janssen. “It’s a family practice. It’s a value that our family has had for years, and it will continue even long after me.”

Donna Janssen (© Domtar)© Domtar
Donna Janssen

Domtar achieved success via strong incentives and consistent support in achieving certification. The company took responsibility for the paperwork, annual audits, and the cost of certification. They also guaranteed that they would buy the production of the certified smallholders regardless of whether or not they had enough stock.

The results speak for themselves: only five years after its creation, the FSTOA has 95,000 certified acres and more are on the way. Domtar’s approach has helped smallholders obtain certification while they might have struggled otherwise to invest the time necessary to do so.
They have also demonstrated the usefulness and effectiveness of the FSC system to smallholders who might otherwise not have considered obtaining FSC certification.

“When local folks buy Domtar paper and it has the [FSC] certification sticker [label] on it, it feels good to know that my trees contributed to that,” said Janssen. “Both in the marketplace and in consumer hands, it adds real value, which is important for us.”

Campfire (© Domtar)© Domtar
Campfire

But it’s not just a success for Domtar to have developed a network of certified suppliers: the mutual benefit enjoyed by Domtar and its suppliers is the basis of this scheme. Suppliers themselves are more secure economically and benefit from other aspects of FSC certification such as increased market access.

Ultimately, Domtar’s success in bringing smallholders into the FSC system is emblematic of how FSC and Domtar have grown together over the years to become an important part of sustainable forestry.


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Keeping up with all the latest information about forest management and certification can be difficult. That’s why we collect it for you in our newsroom. The newsroom is where you’ll find news from FSC, as well as information about developments in the wider forestry industry. It’s also home to The Root of the Matter, the monthly blog from FSC Director General Kim Carstensen.