Peter Foster: At last, a Canadian corporate hero

July 22, 2015

By: Financial Post

Two weeks ago, Todd Paglia, executive director of U.S.-based radical environmental organization ForestEthics, sent a letter of warning to Richard Garneau, CEO of Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products.

Paglia declared that he was effectively banishing Resolute, a forestry giant with 7,700 employees and 19 pup and paper mills in Canada, the U.S. and Asia, from the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The CBFA was cooked up five years ago by ForestEthics and fellow radical environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) following a campaign of harassment against its corporate signatories’ customers. It aspired to put an area of the Boreal forest twice the size of Germany under joint custody. It was pure shakedown, as we noted in this space at the time.

In a July 10 letter to Garneau, Paglia declared that Resolute had refused to “co-operate” and had achieved “rogue status.” Thus, the company would come under renewed attack. He went on to accuse Resolute of being “litigious” because it had brought suit both against Greenpeace and one of its certifiers under the so-called Forest Stewardship Council, FSC, itself another tool of control by environmental radicals.

Richard Garneau’s response was, to say the least, refreshing. He strongly refuted the notion that ForestEthics was in any position to throw Resolute out of the CBFA. Resolute had been a major supporter of the agreement, while the actions and demands of ForestEthics and its fellows threatened thousands of jobs. Paglia’s letter, alleged Garneau, merely threatened the same old “bully tactics” based on a business model of “extortion.”

Paglia responded last week with a second “Dear Richard” note accusing Garneau of “inaccuracies… too numerous to mention” but admitting that Resolute had in fact contributed to the CBFA. He refuted many points that Garneau had never made, and declared ForestEthics prepared to work on “win-win solutions.” A Resolute spokesman subsequently said that the company “stands behind every word” of its response to Paglia’s initial letter.

Rarely if ever has a corporate executive dared to call an ENGO shakedown what it is. Richard Garneau is thus almost unique among executives. In a corporate world dripping with bogus “business ethics,” Garneau, a quiet and modest man who lives the Boreal, has demonstrated some true moral backbone, refusing to bow to what he sees as lies and intimidation. And while his fellow corporate executives are missing in action, more and more Northern communities. aboriginal groups and unions are beginning to stand up against the anti-brand bullies.

You’d think that the Canadian media – given to celebration of local exceptionality in any way, shape or form – would be keen to report on Garneau. But he is exceptional in an area where the media almost never dares to tread, either because it is part of the radical environmental crusade itself, or because it too is scared.

Some of the world’s biggest media companies – including Hearst Corporation, Time Inc. and The Globe and Mail – have become overseers of the CBFA, even though, as noted, it was signed under duress. Paglia copied his letter to these overseers, the Boreal Business Forum, BBF, so they can hardly claim to be ignorant of what is going on. Meanwhile another BBF monitor is Limited Brands, which, significantly, was ForestEthics’ first major scalp when it launched a campaign against its Victoria’s Secret subsidiary ten years ago. Paglia’s most recent conquest is Post-it conglomerate 3M.

Rarely if ever has a corporate executive dared to call an ENGO shakedown what it is

The CBFA gives the lie to the stock leftist meme of vast corporate “power.” Forestry companies and their customers have appeared almost defenceless against the ENGO onslaught, ostensibly persisting in the delusion that if they keep dancing to ENGO demands they will be granted “social licence.”

One of Garneau’s boldest moves was that lawsuit, launched two years ago, against Greenpeace, a close ally of ForestEthics. Greenpeace, an original signatory of the CBFA, had exited at the end of 2012 claiming frustration with the process, and redoubled its campaign of misinformation against Resolute. Garneau, throwing away the script which required appeasement, sued for “defamation, malicious falsehood and intentional interference with economic relations.”

Greenpeace has been writhing to avoid a trial date ever since, even as it has continued trying to destroy Resolute’s reputation. However, its appeals have been knocked down one by one, bringing it ever closer to proceedings that could expose not merely Greenpeace’s tactics but its collaboration with its parent and other ENGOs.Resolute wants to frame Greenpeace’s activities within the context of its parent’s global campaigns, which, Resolute points out, often involve breaking the law. Meanwhile “interference with economic relations” could carry a hefty price tag. When it launched its suit, Resolute named a figure of $7 million, but it could go higher. Plus costs.

In the context of the lawsuit, one of Paglia’s letter’s most bizarre claims was that do-not-buy campaigns had not impacted corporate operations. But at the end of last year, electronics giant Best Buy, after coming under Greenpeace harassment, had clearly stated that it was diverting orders from Resolute. Indeed, at the time, Paglia had said “Best Buy is just the beginning.”

Although his stance looked very lonely at the beginning, Garneau has at last begun to receive vociferous support from northern communities, aboriginal groups and unions. Even the federal and provincial governments, who have been culpably silent on the CBFA (Jim Prentice, when he was federal environment minister, welcomed it), have started to speak up in defence of the industry, which is in fact one of the most stringently regulated in the world.

By: Financial Post

Your comments.

  1. Frank Knaapen says:

    Well said

  2. Randy Ford says:

    I’m impressed and encouraged by Richard Garneau’s stand.

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