How Forest Product Companies Can More Effectively Communicate Their Sustainability Practices

How Forest Product Companies Can More Effectively Communicate Their Sustainability Practices

Many organizations that procure wood and sell wood-derived products, including lumber, pellets, pulp, and paper, are selling themselves short. They may be offering a sustainable product—and even have certifications to prove it—but they aren’t strongly conveying this selling point to their market.

Perhaps your sustainability practices or certifications are an afterthought on your website and marketing materials, or maybe you don’t mention them enough—or at all.

Whatever the case may be, you can more effectively communicate your sustainability practices—and take advantage of the growing market for sustainable forest products—by following the below recommendations.

Obtain sustainability certifications

If you’re already sourcing your wood from sustainable forests, you should obtain the certifications that prove it—in particular, the chain-of-custody certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

These certifications are the foundation for participating in the sustainable forest product supply chain. They verify that any wood product you’re supplying is ultimately from a certified source and that any intermediaries between the certified forest source and your acquisition of the material observed chain-of-custody standards (that is, they didn’t mix certified materials with uncertified materials).

Feature your certification prominently on your website

Once you’ve obtained certification, make sure you present this information on your website home page and not buried deep within your site. In addition, in your header navigation, you should include a sustainability page as one of your main website pages. On that page, you can include content detailing your sourcing processes and sustainability practices.

Jasper Lumber Company is an example of a website with clear references to sustainability on their homepage as well as a webpage on sustainability certification in the header navigation.

Tell Stories That Highlight How the Market Uses Your Sustainable Products

Has some of your certified lumber been used in a prominent building? Does your paper get used by a major company?

What stories might you tell about your products that connect them to something with greater emotional resonance?

If you can find and produce such stories as blog posts and/or press releases, you can potentially capture mindshare and gain a competitive advantage.

Storytelling in marketing is often more effective than simply referring to facts and figures. Eliciting an emotional response in your prospects through an engaging story can increase customer loyalty, revenue, and profits.

Examples of these types of stories include this one from Vermont Plank Flooring as well as this one from an architecture firm. Although the latter story is not from a wood mill, paper mill, or other forest product company, it’s the type of story these companies should produce. Both of these stories have specificity, which makes them more memorable than dry recitation of facts and figures.

Embrace Transparency

Perhaps you’re newly certified and still learning about sustainability. Share your company’s journey and what motivated you to offer sustainable products. Your customers will appreciate your authenticity.

Wherever you are along your sustainability journey, share what you’re proud of and even where you’re still looking to improve. Honesty is always a better play than downplaying shortcomings and risking your credibility.

You can learn more about the advantages your organization can obtain from obtaining sustainability certifications from FSC or SFI in our ebook Supplying the Growing Market for Sustainable Forest Products: The Sustainability Certifications That Can Expand Your Market Opportunities.

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