Ethical Paper Certification

Nicole Rycroft Canopy

Old-growth forests are more than beautiful. As part of the earth’s “lungs”, they are a natural defense against the ongoing assault of greenhouses gases. Their pristine ecosystem supports a rich array of flora and fauna and provides a livelihood for many indigenous communities. Unfortunately, ancient forests are also an easy target for the industrial logging industry. And an abundant resource for paper producers worldwide.

For Ashoka Fellow, Nicole Rycroft, the destruction of ancient forests was both tragic and avoidable. She saw it as a question of supply and demand. What if paper producers could be incentivized to use sustainable and recycled materials over old-growth trees? And what if consumers could be educated enough to demand this ethically sourced paper?

Through her organization, Canopy, Rycroft created a certification and rating system for products made in a more environmentally conscious manner. Publishing companies across her native Canada, readers, and even authors began demanding paper with Ancient Forest Friendly™ certification. To get this certification, producers had to guarantee that their products were made from 100% recycled or straw paper and whitened without chlorine. Reluctant at first, economies of scale are now on the side of the paper industry, making the adoption of certification guidelines financially viable. Thanks to the commitment of major publishing houses, and the response of producers, the market for ethically sourced paper is now robust. 250 year-old forests everywhere are breathing a big sigh of relief.