Talca (Fri., 3/13/09) – Forestry by Chance
by Tom Bernitt -- March 14th, 2009
Ruminations on our last briefing of the trip.
Today we had the opportunity to visit another Chilean timber company called Mininco (a division of the forest products giant CMPC) in the city of Talca. Talca is approximately 300 kilometers south of Santiago. Like the Arauco story we heard four days ago, we were told that Mininco is an environmentally conscious and sustainable resource intensive company. Their facts were impressive: they had or were obtaining four certifications to vouch for their dedication to their focused stewardship of the land. ISO 14001, Chile’s version of OSHA and environmental certifications, and FSC. These are not easy to obtain and certainly add to their credibility. Additionally, they subscribe to a timber version of corporate social responsibility. Mininco touted its support of local employment for indigenous peoples, its respect for local culture, and its involvement with communities.
But as we found earlier in the week, this is an epiphany of recent origin for timber companies. Environmental groups and NGOs have not always viewed them with favor–their slash and burn philosophy has not always meshed with good environmental stewardship. Mininco, like Arauco, now espouse a green party line. Questions, however, abound. Is it sincere effort or merely greenwashing? Does it truly make a difference? Who has instigated this change of heart and why? Corporate management? Government? NGOs? Customers?
And does it matter? The fact is that the change, at least the mechanics, has been implemented. Action follows accepted procedure. Thus, the reasons for the change become irrelevant other than to determine origins. What is important is how even timber management, once the bad boys of corporate irresponsibility, can now set a responsible course of stewardship and responsibility.