- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Post-it notes maker 3M Co. says it will refuse to buy any materials from suppliers that come from threatened forests as part of an agreement with a longtime environmental critic.

The policy changes announced Thursday would require suppliers of Twin Cities-based 3M to report original sources of materials. It would also make loggers get permission from indigenous groups prior to logging on traditional lands.

Jean Sweeney, a 3M vice president, said the company would help suppliers meet requirements if necessary.

“The hope is that this will have a ripple effect in driving positive change beyond 3M’s fiber supply, leading to widespread market demand for protection of forests and respect for workers’ and indigenous people’s rights,” she said.

California-based ForestEthics had criticized 3M’s paper-sourcing practices. Protests against the company included flying an airplane with a banner over downtown Minneapolis’s Target Field during last year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

ForestEthics and 3M began meeting months ago about potential changes, and ForestEthics officials commended the company’s moves at a joint news conference.

“This is a huge shift for 3M and really drives 3M’s values through their entire supply chain,” ForestEthics executive director Todd Paglia told the Star Tribune. “We have not seen that happen with any company like a 3M before. Ever.”

3M says it doesn’t think the changes will affect product prices. Sweeney said the cost of the changes wouldn’t be high.

“This is a small price to pay to guarantee our consumers that any 3M product they buy is made from responsibly harvested wood,” she said.

Other Minnesota corporations that have changed material-sourcing practices under pressure include General Mills, Cargill and Best Buy. University of Minnesota professor Tim Smith, who studies sustainability practices in the corporate world, said doing the right thing also comes with concerns about brand reputations or finances.

“Why would they want to do it? So they have to spend less money on advertising or management of their PR,” Smith told Minnesota Public Radio News. “Or, they can better avoid the sort of supply chain architecture costs of trying to manage an increasingly volatile source of supply.”

3M also said it would no longer use the Stainability Forestry Initiative certification, which Paglia said has too close of ties with the industry.

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