The Green war against Resolute (and other dissenters)

Source: The internet/Globe and Mail


A year ago Konrad Yakabuski, from the Globe and Mail, wrote an noteworthy article highlighting the disconnect between environmental groups and their industrial targets.

Whereas Greenpeace views are an accumulation of threats, intimidations, naming and shaming and celebrating the losses to business based on a radical, some argue extremist, narrative, to justify their means, companies such as Resolute fall into two type of categories: The plentiful, defeated surrendering corporates; and the few corporate resisters. Resolute certainly stands out for standing up.

Greenpeace once known for its focus in environmental affairs, has become a political machine no longer focusing on its message of peace and community. Threats, intimidation and actions aimed to damage the economy of the targeted company. U.S. federal court records call Greenpeace scientific claims as “shabby”. Greenpeace defense lawyers added, ‘Greenpeace news are opinions, not hard news’.

Resolute has a point. In the words of the former Executive Director of Greenpeace US, Phil Radford, Greenpeace claimed to be responsible for 75% loss of US market share of the largest paper manufacturer, Asian Pulp and Paper. Radford said,

” Greenpeace is basically a coalition of 28 different organizations, all with a license to use the name. An example of how we coordinate very closely is the Asia Pulp & Paper campaign we ran.”

“How can we make it in Asia Pulp & Paper’s self-interest to cease their ways?” Greenpeace and WWF and Rainforest Action Network targeted the biggest buyers in the world of APP’s products. In the U.S., we cut about over 75 percent of their U.S. market. In Canada, Greenpeace cut a significant portion of their market; also New Zealand and Western Europe.”

Some internet reports suggests 80 percent loss of US market share was the result of the Greenpeace campaign.  The lessons of the coordinated campaign to causing the damage to the Asian target is not lost on Resolute. In 2016, Resolute filed a RICO application in the U.S federal court in Georgia claiming exactly the point Radford made.

Radford, an activist with a long history of activism, also managed the the grassroots mobilization for the Global Warming Divestiture Campaign, which resulted in Ford, General Motors, Texaco, and other companies ending their funding the Global Climate Coalition.

These “divestment campaigns” have their origins in a long history of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporting the Palestinians targeting Israel. In July 2016 the Knesset passed the NGO law engaged in anti-Israel activities.

The Ford Foundation, the foundation of the Ford family is part of the ClimateWorks Foundation and its front the Climate Land Use Alliance (CLUA) contributed 2 million USD for Greenpeace Inc., a US registered entity. If the RICO application is granted the U.S. government will certainly examine the finances in great length.

Whatever the outcome of the U.S. case will be questions are asked if Greenpeace and other action groups are a threat to the economy, and if a rethinking of NGOs policies is needed.

The Indian government did think so. In 2015 India revoked the permit for Greenpeace on the grounds of national security. Experts hold the view the aggressive Greenpeace actions triggered Russia’s reactivation of the defunct 1985-Soviet law in Russia resurrecting restrictions on NGOs. China followed suit in 2016. Canada, New Zealand and other western countries revoked the charity status earlier. All of it in response to aggressive NGO actions.

Long before global environmentalist had even heard of the oil sands, that their Canadian target if predilection was the forest industry. Greenpeace, Forest Ethics, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and others, waged sophisticated PR campaigns to persuade the world, and purchasers of wood and paper products, to boycott Canadian goods made from clear-cut forests.

It suggestive nature of Greenpeace sites is not lost by many. The PR campaign was a roaring success. Celebrities took up the cause and donations to the environmental NGOs came rolling in.

Canada’s biggest forest companies lost millions of dollars worth of business in what seemed a patently unfair attack on forest-management practices that, while far from perfect, remained head and shoulders above those followed in most of world.

It didn’t matter that the environmentalists helped divert business from well-regulated Canadian companies to less conscientious ones in the developing world; the Canadian industry knew it could never win the public-relations war based on facts. And documents filed in the U.S. federal court amplify Resolute’s point, claiming Greenpeace produces “opinions” and not “hard news”.

Its solution was to embrace independent, third-party auditing of forestry practices to silence the critics, establish social licence and prove that Canadian companies operated in a sustainable fashion. Many argue the concept of a ‘social licence’ itself is a narrative pursued by NGOs as part of their Boycott, Sanction and Divestment campaigns.

Such third-party certification schemes came to supplant provincial governments, which wrote and applied environmental laws, as the final arbiters in determining whether a company’s products merited the sustainable seal of approval.

One scheme in particular, run by the German-based Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), came to be seen as the gold standard in certification. Achieving the FSC designation is a costly process, but recent US federal court documents show experts think these scheme hold no tangible impact on the performance and health of a forest and seen only as an indication to the commitment by management.

The German fascination of labels and regulatory punishment has its roots in the darkest days of German history. In Persuasions and Prejudices: An informal Compendium of Modern Social Science by Lois Horowitz, the author reminds us the Soviet political sociology of penalization is a constant element in the political campaigns.

So are the definitions of Direct Action campaigns according to a presentation made by Greenpeace, shoulder to shoulder with Revolution Action, militant protests and organised forcible resistance. The message of green and peace is somewhat lost in today’s political narrative.

Source: Greenpeace/ 2014
Source: Greenpeace/ 2014

This was presumably the reasoning behind the decision several years ago by Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products to become one of the largest managers of FSC-certified forests in the world. Its efforts bought the world’s largest newsprint producer a measure of peace – just not for very long.

Unlike confrontation, conciliation runs counter to Greenpeace’s business model. It’s harder to attract attention and money if you’re actually working within the system.

After Greenpeace, in December 2012, pulled out of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement – a multiple-stakeholder entente between environmentalists and industry – the FSC suspended four Resolute certifications in Ontario and Quebec covering almost 10 million hectares of forest.

The actions by Greenpeace and FSC have had serious economic repercussions for Resolute. Electronics retailer Best Buy, for example, said it would stop printing its flyers and newspaper inserts on Resolute paper. Axel Springer, one of Europe’s biggest newspaper and magazine publishers, also pulled its business.

FSC recently reinstated one of Resolute’s certifications covering about two million hectares in Northwestern Ontario. The certifications for about eight million hectares in Quebec and Ontario remain suspended, pending a mediation process FSC launched in Quebec in November 2015. But Resolute argues that provincial governments are “the only appropriate overseers of a mediation process,” since they are ultimately responsible for addressing First Nations concerns and protecting woodland caribou herds.

For Resolute, and many of the FSC members the FSC certification has become a game of endlessly shifting goalposts. While companies in Canada have a legal “duty to consult” First Nations regarding resource development, FSC now proposes the more exacting standard of “free, prior and informed consent.”

The FPIC, besides controversial, is based on the assumption of payments by corporations to the communities to be made to purchase legal services against the company. Peru is the only country having ratified the agreement and within a year attempted to undo the law after it was determined the FPIC was ‘problematic’.

Few countries have incorporated FPIC into their national laws.

FSC denies that in this amounts to a First Nations veto, though that seems to be its effect. Even when granted, consent can be later withdrawn.

Resolute fears that another recently adopted FSC standard governing intact forests, or areas not previously touched by logging, would dramatically restrict its wood supply. With such constantly ratcheting upward, Resolute questions “the viability of FSC certification in the Canadian boreal forest.” The public asks, when will it be enough cutting to the core of the suitability of these schemes holding another political agenda.

Yet its failure to regain its FSC certifications could mean countless millions in lost sales if Greenpeace and other environmental groups pressure more customers to drop Resolute as a supplier.

This all threatens to reignite a war in the woods that FSC certification was designed to end. Bringing business, labour, environmental groups and First Nations together to jointly set forestry standards, as the FSC aims to do, was supposed to mean an end to boycotts and build trust in the process.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Whatever good faith that might have existed between Resolute and Greenpeace is long gone. Resolute is suing Greenpeace for defamation as it publicly (and it turns out, erroneously) accused the company of violating certain terms of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. In 2016 a Federal RICO charge followed making Greenpeace the first global action group facing serious criminal prosecution.

The FSC is now calling on Resolute and Greenpeace to work out their differences in a mediation process it will oversee. It does not look promising. Greenpeace has “been waging a campaign of demonstrable misinformation about the Canadian boreal and have also been specifically targeting Resolute with inaccurate, irresponsible and defamatory allegations,”

Resolute CEO Richard Garneau wrote in a Dec. 18, 2015 letter to FSC International executive director Kim Carstensen. “Rewarding that behaviour at the expense of [other eNGOs] seems not only unfair but unwise and short-sighted.”

Resolute can’t be blamed for doubting whether Greenpeace is really seeking solutions, or at least ones that it is prepared to live by for very long. That, after all, might hurt its fundraising. A claim resurfacing in the court papers.

Based on original publication by  on Twitter: @konradyakabuski

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