In this case, the British Columbia Timber company (BCT) has been clearcutting forests for timber for more than 50 years. However, they have also been replanting forests after logging for this entire time. Lately, though, the criticisms from environmentalists have reached greater numbers due to social media, so that the public increasingly views the company negatively. This has resulted in the loss of sales. Threats to increase government regulation could be even more costly than the negative public image. In particular, concerns are that clearcutting leads to the loss of endangered species.
VP of Marketing George Hollis and his mentee Sanjay Patel have been assigned to create an image-building program for BCT. The company president, Bob Thomas, has decided upon a land donation strategy, wherein unprofitable land will be donated to the government for wilderness areas. Sanjay has been a member of the Sierra Club for 10 years. Although neither Sanjay nor George are particularly thrilled with the land donation program, they are in charge of publicity and paid institutional ads to build BCT’s image.
The ethical issues, therefore, are for the company to do as little harm to the environment as possible. Although the company has the right to do whatever it wants on land it has bought and paid for, it leaves behind an eyesore until the replanted trees grow up; these do not have the richness and variety of old growth forest; and logging disrupts native animal species. The company has attempted to be just in the past, complying with government regulations and replanting where it logs. However, advanced understanding of the needs of animal species and the disruption of ecosystems has proven the company’s standard practices inadequate for protecting the environment. Therefore, to appear virtuous, BCT needs to revise its standard procedures.
The stakeholders involved are BCT and its employees; the customers of BCT; the government; the general public, particularly those who may live in the vicinity of BCT’s managed forests; and the animals, particularly endangered species. The risks for the company and its employees are if they incur unsustainable costs, they could go out of business. The company therefore has an obligation to ensure that any solution will not risk company profits to the point that they face bankruptcy. The risks to customers are that BCT will need to raise prices, increasing their costs; and/or that their own customers will find out that they use BCT timber in their products, harming their reputation and reducing their business in turn. The government will want to do the right thing as far as their donors and their voters are concerned, so that they will remain in office. They may very well be pushed and pulled from all sides, so would appreciate a win-win solution proposed by BCT. The general public has to see the results of clearcutting when they live in or pass by the area; this is described as a “patchwork” look that improves as the replantings mature. The animals risk loss of habitat, which in some cases contributes to the endangerment of certain species.
For available options, the Sierra Club was consulted (Sierra Club, 2017). The Sierra Club prefers an end to commercial logging, but their primary concerns are the preservation of remaining old-growth forests and rainforests, as well as the effects on watersheds and wetlands. They do note that fire resilience can be enhanced with the removal of crowded trees and undergrowth. They urge selection cutting over clearcutting and replanting with a variety of species, with a cutting cycle that allows time for the area to recover “to preharvest levels”. They want roadless areas to remain so, and biological corridors that link ecosystems so that native plants and animals are not cut off in small isolated areas that would be unsustainable. They also urge the reuse and recycling of wood products and the development of alternative materials, to reduce the amount of logging of “virgin wood”. Therefore, the leaders of the image-building program for BCT can work with the Sierra Club to meet their standards as much as possible within the framework of creating value with their timbering business. They can also propose new initiatives for the company.
The course of action recommended for Sanjay and George is to, first, set up meetings with the Sierra Club, and perhaps have Bob Thomas also attend. They can emphasize that their harvesting, replanting, and reharvesting of the same land is allowing the preservation of old-growth forests and rainforests. They can note that their lands are well managed, without crowding or significant undergrowth, and as such have the fire resilience that has concerned environmental groups about untouched forests. They can ensure that watersheds and wetlands will be protected. They can discuss possibilities for selection cutting and replanting with a larger variety of species of trees, and lengthening the cutting cycle that would allow for better recovery. They can easily agree to retain roadless areas, not needing any more roads than they have used in the past. A significantly beneficial outcome for both the Sierra Club and for Bob Thomas’ proposal to donate land would be to design donated land so that it provides the biological corridors linking ecosystems that the Sierra Club has been seeking. In addition, BCT could start a new timber recycling wing of their business. They could take scraps and wood that is less than top quality, along with picking up furniture items and building supplies for reuse and recycling, and make new products with those. This would provide the company with another source of income, keeping profits high even while they perhaps somewhat cut back on the amount of virgin wood that they harvest.
Once Bob, George and Sanjay have determined the innovations that they can approve that will redesign their company and make it meet the environmental standards of the 21st century, they have legitimate subjects for their advertising campaigns. They will have news of better environmental practices to spread throughout social media, significantly improving their image.
- Sierra Club. (2017). Forest & wilderness management policies. Retrieved from http://www.sierraclub.org/policy/forest-wilderness-management.