Environmental Group Takes Aim at Window Makers

November 12, 2009

ForestEthics, an environmental organization with offices in the U.S. and Canada, placed a full-page ad in USA Today’s Phoenix edition yesterday targeting Jeld-Wen Inc., Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc. and Andersen Corp. All three window companies are in Phoenix this week to exhibit at Greenbuild, the annual green building conference, and the ad criticizes their ties to Sierra Pacific Industries, one of the largest lumber producers in North America. 

ForestEthics' ad, placed in USA Today to target Greenbuild attendees.

The ad also targets the Sustainable Forestry Initiative's forest certification program, saying it greenwashes "destruction-as-usual" logging practices.

The ad, "which depicts a window with a view of SPI clearcuts," is part of ForestEthics' efforts to change SPI’s logging practices by targeting its active and prospective customers. The group claims that SPI, the owner of more than 1.7 million acres in California, is transforming much of its land into clearcuts and sterile tree plantations. "SPI’s brand of damaging logging can release global warming pollution, remove precious plant and animal habitat and encourage silt and sediment into rivers and streams," ForestEthics states.

Talking about the ad in USA Today, Joshua Buswell, ForestEthics' Sierra campaigner, says, “Companies must walk the walk if they are going to be talking the green talk at Greenbuild. There’s nothing green about profiting from SPI’s long legacy of forest destruction.

“These companies are at Greenbuild touting their supposed environmental leadership,” Buswell continues. “But supporting forest destruction while calling yourself green isn’t really green at all: it’s greenwash.”

"Overall, we're disappointed with the tone of ad," says Susan Roeder, manager of corporate affairs at Andersen.  Noting that the company takes environmental responsibility "very seriously," she highlights the fact that the window and door maker has long had a document outlining its wood sourcing requirements. "We're committed to not source from endangered forests. We're committed to sourcing from certified forests. We're FSC-certified," she states, pointing to the company's participation in the Forest Stewardship Council's program, which many environmentalists favor. 

Andersen's lumber sourcing guidelines, she continues, are also an evolving document. "We work together with our suppliers and environmnetal groups.  Everyone brings a useful perspective," Roeder continues.  Because the company has reached out and worked with various parties, she says this type of "inflammatory ad, designed to drum up emotions, is very disappointing." 

Roeder reports the response to the ad from Greenbuild attendees has "heartwarming," and reflects  Andersen's history of being a good environmental steward. "People know our record, not only when it comes to sourcing, but to producing energy efficient products and running our plants," she states, adding that attendees are coming to the company's booth and saying, "We feel really bad that you're being targeted." 

Window & Door has contacted the other window manufacturers for a response to the ad as well.

In September, the Sustainable Forestry Institute responded to ForestEthics' stepped-up efforts to discredit its forest certification program.  “The rapid growth of our program shows that more customers and consumers recognize the value of third-party forest certification, and it means we are making a difference on the ground,” said SFI President and CEO Kathy Abusow. “We are dedicated to finding ways to work together with all credible forest certification standards toward our common goal of expanding certification. That is especially important when you consider that 90 percent of the world’s forests are not certified at all.”

In light of that common goal, ForestEthics’ recent statements and activities “are an affront to the tremendous efforts by foresters, businesses, governments, consumers, SFI and other standards groups,to preserve and protect our forests for future generations,” said Abusow. “We should all be focusing our resources and efforts on supporting responsible forest management and fighting deforestation and illegal logging, not wasting energy on bickering among ourselves.”

The September SFI press release also details the steady gains in credibility of its forest certification program, pointing to recognition from other environmental groups and the United Nations, among its successes.

On its Web site, ForestEthics says its mission is "to protect endangered forests and wild places, wildlife, and human well-being. Climate change, which threatens to undermine all of our conservation efforts, is also one of our campaign focus areas."  The group uses a "blend of market engagement and corporate campaigning," which it reports has enabled it "to secure major environmental commitments from companies such as Limited Brands, Dell and Staples."