Tuesday, 01 October 2002
The Yale Forest Forum -- Marketing Certification

On September 24, the Yale School of Forestry and the Environment held its first Forest Forum of the academic year — the topic, “Marketing Certified Forest Products: Linking Forest Management and Markets." Speakers were Samuel Doak, executive vice president of the Certified Forest Products Council (CFPC), Suzanne Mangino, manager of the American Forest and Paper Association’s Office of Label Use and Licensing, Abraham Guillen, market development manager of the Trees Program of the Rainforest Alliance’s Smartwood Program, and Eric Hansen, associate professor of forest products marketing at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry.

The Yale Forest Forum event was meant to help the public understand how certification works, and how various programs approach the complex issues of linking forest management and forest products marketing. The forum was jointly sponsored by the Yale Forest Forum and the Program on Forest Certification, both programs of Yale’s Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry. It was an outgrowth of research by Dr. Benjamin Cashore and Dr. Michael Washburn, of the Program on Forest Certification, and funded by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Trust.

Among the observations from speakers:

• Developing a brand in the U.S. can be an expensive proposition. Coke’s marketing budget is $1.6 billion dollars a year.

• The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) label took $1.5 million to develop.

• Large retailers will not necessarily build a brand like the FSC. They are much more interested in promoting their own brand. Smaller companies would be more interested in promoting the FSC brand.

But markets for FSC-certified products include consumers like the “true blue greens" who make up 7% of the market, as well as “new green mainstream" consumers who comprise 23% of the market. A pilot test in a retail setting found that when faced with identical wood labeled FSC and unlabeled wood, consumers will choose the FSC label over non-FSC wood if the price is the same.

Consumer education also helps immensely in building markets. The number of consumers in the Netherlands who look for the FSC label when shopping for wood products has risen from 2% to 13% in one year’s time. A survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) also traced the impact of a consumer education campaign, “Save the Forest, Buy FSC Wood," which found that now 44% of Dutch consumers are familiar with the FSC “checkmark-and-tree" logo.

The Forest Certification Program at Yale is an integrated program on forest certification as a tool for sustainable forest management. The program’s directors teach courses, conduct research, and interface with a broad array of constituencies. For more information or