Rediscovering the Value of Forest Certification: Interview with Unisource Worldwide

In advance of the GreenBlue Innovation Summit on Forest Certification on June 12, GreenBlue interviewed a few of the event sponsors to hear their perspectives on why a Summit was needed. While informal, the interviews are intended to provide insights from different supply chain positions on expected outcomes from the event, as well as how this kind of event can help advance the forest products industry.

For the first interview in our series, we sat down with Andrew Gustyn, Director of Sustainability – North America of Unisource Worldwide.

Andrew Gustyn
Andrew Gustyn

Green Blue: Can you tell us a bit about Unisource and how you fit into the forest products industry? Where do you fall in the value chain?
Andrew Gustyn: Unisource is in the business of selling paper, packaging and facility solutions (jan-san products). We represent a large cross section of the paper, packaging and towel and tissue manufacturers from both North America and around the globe. Tree fibers are an input into all of those products.  This means we are a key link in the chain that allows those items to move from the manufacturers to commercial printers, businesses and corporate end users.

Unisource is a sponsor of the GreenBlue Innovation Summit on Forest Certification, thank you for helping us make this event a reality. The summit will bring together stakeholders from across the forest products supply chain to define the value of forest certification to better drive adoption and acceptance of forest certification. Why is this important to Unisource, and why do you think all of the other supply chain participants should attend?
Unisource made an early investment in infrastructure to provide transparency to our customers through the supply chain, via our Chain of Custody certifications. We feel that we have reached a point where an open and frank discussion is necessary with stakeholders both up and down the supply chain in order to understand the challenges and benefits of forestry certification. Given that a very small percentage of the world’s harvested forests fall under any recognized certification scheme, there is a great opportunity for forestry certification growth. I think we have reached a point where many of the stakeholders seem to be having issues in getting a clear picture of the cost/benefit of these programs. As an industry, if we feel that forestry certification is going to grow we need to address some of these issues in an open dialogue.

As an individual, you have been an active participant in the working group on this topic. What are you hoping the takeaway is from this event? What can other Sustainability Directors expect? What does success look like for the GreenBlue Innovation Summit on Forest Certification?
Our hope is that this is just a first step for continued dialogue with all stakeholders. We would like to get a better understanding of our customers’, suppliers’ and certification bodies’ stories. Rather than it being an exercise in negotiation, we would like to see this become an opportunity for collaboration.

For people that have not been involved in the project up to this point, but will be attending the event or are interested in the work being done, is there anything that you would like to tell them about why forest certification is such a pressing topic in the forest products industry?
I made mention of this before, but with just a very small percentage of the world’s forests falling under any of the recognized certification schemes, there is an opportunity for significant growth. Although paper use and production may have declined in North America and Europe, that is not the case in the developing world. As some of these economies grow to maturity, the world’s forests will continue to be put under pressure. Recycling is only part of the solution; responsible forestry can help.

Some people will be traveling a long way to come to this event, do you have any favorite books, apps, or articles you’re reading that you would recommend?
Wow, now that’s a really difficult question. There are so many good resources out there. I know that this may sound a bit like I am sitting on the fence, but what I would suggest to people is to broaden the scope of where you get your information. Read, listen and research as many different sources as possible. The ENGO’s, the industry groups, the independent third party groups like GreenBlue, the merchants, the mills, the foresters, the end users, the certification bodies all have a story to tell. Each has a perspective, if this is important, take the time to learn those perspectives and then formulate an opinion.

Andrew, I want to thank you and Unisource again for helping us put on the upcoming summit. We are looking forward to strong participation and lively discussions, is there anything else that you would like to mention about the summit or project?
We are really looking forward to participating in this event and we are hoping that this is just the beginning of a much longer journey. Stay tuned.

Thanks, and we are looking forward to seeing you in Charlotte.

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