The Common Vison

In 2002 the Environmental Paper Network, a coalition of American and Canadian environmental organizations, produced the Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry. The Common Vision has been signed by close to 100 groups, large and small.

It presents goals for transforming the way in which paper is produced and consumed and consists of:

  1. A guidance to best practices for manufacturers, governments, purchasers, and suppliers.
  2. Guidelines for environmentally preferable paper purchasing.
  3. A hierarchy of pulping and bleaching processes.

We want YOU to read the Common Vision and join us in setting a unified, common goal post for changing paper use and consumption in North America.

Summary of the Common Vision


Environmental Paper Summit Creates Common Vision

Mill Watch Special Report – April 2003 In November 2002, over fifty environmental groups from Canada, the USA, Indonesia and the UK came together at the Environmental Paper Summit to re-invigorate the world-wide campaign for environmentally preferable paper The groups represented a wide array of environmental causes from forest protection, to zero waste and recycling, to toxic pollution from mills. They also represented a wide range of strategies and tactics. They all shared a belief that through paper, the many issues represented could all be improved. They created a consensus document, “A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry: Striving for Environmental and Social Sustainability.” The Common Vision has four main tenets that the environmental community asserts are necessary for a more environmentally responsible paper system:

  • Minimize Paper Consumption – eliminate excessive and unnecessary paper use;
  • Convert to Clean Production – eliminate harmful pulp and paper mill discharges to air, land and water, and the use of chlorine and chlorine compounds;
  • Practice Responsible Fibre Sourcing – end the use of fibre that threatens endangered forests, any virgin fibre should come from independent third party-certified forests (currently, only the Forest Stewardship Council certification program comes close), end the clearing of natural forest ecosystems and their conversion into plantations; and,
  • Maximize Recycled Content – maximize post-consumer recycled fibre content in all paper and paper products

The full text of the Common Vision can be downloaded in pdf. The groups held a reception during the March 2003 Paper Week convention in New York City to highlight their new platform. A previous release at the more technically oriented Paper Week in Montreal received very positive feedback from a number of industry observers and the NYC reception generated coverage in the trade press. Building a Stronger Movement The Environmental Paper Summit and Common Vision consensus have allowed environmental organizations to address several important goals, sharing experience and information and combining power. This is a new coalition where small grassroots groups and large international organizations support each other’s individual efforts, and work to make all individual efforts support common goals. The Ripples Are Being Felt In November 2002 Staples Inc. announced a commitment to phase out paper products originating from endangered forests and dramatically increase their sale of recycled paper products. Office Depot and Office Max are being challenged to meet or exceed this policy. Kinko’s recently announced that it, too, was implementing environmental paper policies, including a variety of measures relating to recycled content, responsible fibre sources and chlorine free bleaching. Other indicators of success include an increase in environmentally preferable papers being promoted to paper re-sellers by producers and over two million books in Canada printed on paper free of endangered forest fibre. Magazine publishers, book publishers, catalogue producers, copy chains and individual pulp and paper companies are all receiving pressure, and assistance, from Common Vision member groups. Some examples; Conde Nast, Time Warner, the City of Vancouver, the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Olympics bid, Raincoast Books (Canadian publisher of Harry Potter), and Cascades pulp and paper company. Common Vision activities are coordinated by a Steering Committee that includes the Center for a New American Dream, Co-op America, Conservatree, Dogwood Alliance, Environmental Defense, ForestEthics, Greenpeace, the Markets Initiative, Natural Resources Defense Council, Reach for Unbleached!, and the Recycled Products Purchasing Cooperative/Green Press Initiative. Challenges Remain Despite the newly forged environmental consensus and an apparent receptiveness from parts of the business community and paper industry, the road to an environmentally responsible pulp and paper system will not be problem-free. Not every agreement between an environmental group and a large company will pass muster on every element of the Common Vision. The larger movement will have to work hard both to avoid endorsing a rush to a least common denominator standard and also to ensure that incremental successes do not become divisive within the movement, but rather are celebrated and used to build future improvements. There are still interests inside the pulp and paper industry resistant to any force for change. These interests will need to be won over through cooperation, confrontation, or complete changing of market demand. Restructuring to meet the full set of demands for environmentally preferable paper will affect the work force. Environmental groups must engage with workers to develop transition strategies that make them beneficiaries, not victims, of change. Finally, markets and consumers present obstacles and opportunities. Wasteful paper use is difficult to eliminate. Price and convenience play a major role for individual and institutional paper buyers. It is hard to change buying habits if affordable environmental products are hard to find, and it is hard to get paper producers to invest in making better paper in the absence of obvious demand. Improving all sides of this chicken and egg equation until the whole thing equals a better environment is the tough job the Common Vision Paper Coalition has set for itself. Their efforts appear to offer the best opportunity for success that this movement has seen in some time. MillWatch is sponsored by Reach for Unbleached! Canada to connect people and provide resources for those working on pulp and paper issues. If you have information, experience, or problems you want to share, this forum is meant to spread the word, but it needs your help.

Press Release March 2003