Stand.earth's open letter to the Fortune 500 on Resolute Forest Products

Stand.earth's open letter to the Fortune 500 on Resolute Forest Products

Monday April 15, 2019

"As a current or prospective customer of Resolute Forest Products, we are writing to your company about Resolute’s unsustainable forestry practices in the Boreal Forest."

Dear Company,

As a current or prospective customer of Resolute Forest Products, we are writing to your company about Resolute’s unsustainable forestry practices in the Boreal Forest, as well as its efforts to silence its critics through a bully lawsuit. In light of Resolute’s adverse impacts in the Boreal Forest, its protracted anti-free speech actions and its efforts to intimidate and gag its critics, we hope your company will reevaluate your current or potential relationship with the corporation.

In May 2016, Resolute Forest Products sued environmental advocacy organizations Stand.earth and Greenpeace in a classic “SLAPP suit”  — a strategic lawsuit against public participation. This was legally determined to be a SLAPP not once, but twice, by the federal District Court in the Northern District of California. Rather than respond to its critics with changes in forest management practices and moves towards greater sustainability, Resolute attempted twice--and failed--to silence organizations advocating for forest protection. 

The corporation spent millions of dollars investigating and suing Stand.earth and Greenpeace, sending private investigators around the continent to track down former employees, and even after getting beaten badly in the first lawsuit, they continued. Resolute insisted on filing the lawsuit anew by “amending” their complaint after the entire case was dismissed, all in what we believe is a transparent attempt to try to limit the free speech of its critics and intimidate environmental advocates. 

It didn’t work. On January 22, 2019, the District Court in the Northern District of California again ruled against Resolute. This time with prejudice. Resolute’s lawsuit was again legally determined to be a SLAPP, they were ordered to pay attorney’s fees, and they have spent millions more in an attempt to try to sue Stand.earth and Greenpeace out of existence. These actions speak louder than any words could.

The vast majority of claims against Greenpeace were also dismissed with prejudice. After millions of dollars spent and more than 2 ½ years of litigation during which time the court analyzed nearly 300 allegedly defamatory statements, Resolute’s entire case has now been narrowed to a couple statements and we are confident Greenpeace will prevail.

One lesson from these past two years is that Resolute is out of step with the commonly-held values of protecting free speech and common-sense environmental stewardship. What this means is that Resolute will only treat the Boreal forest, the local people and the wildlife that depend upon it fairly if there is a strong message from the marketplace — from companies like yours. 

Resolute’s bully lawsuit is just one of many indications that this rogue company is out-of-step with sustainability and with your company’s own values. Indeed, the list of egregious actions by the corporation includes:

  • The current SLAPP suit is one in a series of lawsuits the company has brought against its critics. In 2013, Resolute brought a defamation case against Greenpeace in Canada for statements critical of the company’s operations and practices in the Boreal forest. This lawsuit is still going on.

  • In 2014, after the Rainforest Alliance—a leading sustainable forestry certifier—produced audits citing Resolute for non-compliance with Forest Stewardship Council standards, the company sued Rainforest Alliance with the stated purpose of suppressing those reports. 

  • Unsustainable logging practices, like those of Resolute, debilitate the Boreal Forest’s vital role in combating climate change. With its old-growth forests and carbon-dense peatlands, the Boreal provides the world’s highest density of carbon stores. However, clear-cutting converts these forests from a carbon sink (that absorb CO2 from the atmosphere) and carbon reservoir (that stores CO2) into to a carbon source, increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere. This undermines efforts to fight climate change.


In reviewing your own environmental policies and the values that your company has adopted and comparing them to Resolute’s record, we are confident the mismatch between your company and Resolute will be obvious. 

We also understand that Resolute’s lawyers from Kasowitz, Benson and Torres, are actively pitching companies, possibly even yours, to file similar lawsuits to silence citizens advocating for forest and climate protection. It appears that Resolute’s lawyers succeeded in persuading Energy Transfer Partners, the proponent of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, to file a copycat lawsuit in federal court in North Dakota against advocates who opposed their pipeline project. 

This legal strategy may be a very good business proposition for the lawyers at Kasowitz, Benson and Torres, but it is an effort that failed in addition to being anathema to the values of our country. Resolute spent millions, engaged in creepy tactics with private investigators, became a free speech pariah, they were ordered to pay the bulk of Stand.earth’s and Greenpeace’s attorneys fees, alienated and lost customers, and distracted their senior staff in unsuccessful and highly controversial litigation. This is what failure looks like and it is a path no one should follow for clear moral, reputational, and financial reasons.

One or more members of the undersigned below would like to talk with you about this as soon as possible. We will follow up this letter with a call in order to set up a meeting and discuss the actions your company may consider taking in support of free speech and environmental sustainability.
                                                
Sincerely,

Todd Paglia, Executive Director, Stand.earth

Lindsey Allen, Executive Director, Rainforest Action Network

Hannah Lownsbrough, Executive Director, Sum of Us

Michelle Chan, VP of Programs, Friends of the Earth

Danna Smith, Executive Director, Dogwood Alliance