Dear Mr Chandler,
You are saying: “Integrity is paramount. We are Responsible Investors who put principles before profits. Our moral and reputational capital underwrites our long term success. Our broader moral purpose is to accelerate prosperity for all by fostering flourishing businesses and vibrant economies through supporting entrepreneurship and good corporate governance for the benefit of customers, shareholders and the community.”
Sounds good, Mr Chandler! The speculations have now become fact and you are getting involved in Gunns Ltd in Tasmania (and thus in their only stated business goal, which is to build a gigantic pulp mill in a northern Tasmanian valley that abounds with small businesses, depending on the landscape and/or the agricultural intactness for organic production etc) then here is a chance for your business to implement its praise-worthy corporate ethics.
But first, here are some cornerstone facts about the pulp mill in the briefest possible form:
- There is no reasonable market prospect for pulp coming from a far corner of the world,
- the amount of water the mill would require is not available in Tasmania without causing collateral damage to other water users
- Existing eucalypt plantations in Tasmania will not provide sufficient fiber for the planned mill,
- Transforming bio-diverse old growth forests into plantations by clear felling them and burning vast amounts of “unsuitable” wood with napalm fire accelerants, followed by plantations that are heavily dependent on poisoning large numbers of native animals, fertilizer and pesticides is an anachronism comparable to whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- This forestry method also damages watersheds, the amount and quality of drinking water, downstream availability of water for agricultural purposes and leads to massive siltation of existing watercourses.
- The extensive spread of monoculture fiber plantations has already resulted in the disappearance of entire rural communities,
- The concentration of Gunns on a pulp mill has led the company to abandon most other activities and caused job losses in the thousands. Even if the pulp mill ever got up it will not replace the lost jobs,
- There is widespread and consistent popular opposition to this pulp mill in the population of the valley and the whole of Tasmania,
- Gunns is faced with a number of court cases coming up shortly (insider trading by former chairman Gay, challenge of the “substantial commencement” before the expiry of the building permit for the mill by the Tasmanian government),
- All this is based on a planning process, which can only be described as corrupt (Gunns conspiring with the Tasmanian Government to re-write the planning law within 48 hours in order to circumvent the original planning procedures).
Mr Chandler, there is a way out of all this. It’s called the triple bottom line forest management system. The concept is as simple as it is effective and proven. Ecology, Economy, Society - all with equal weight and in no particular order.
In the case of Tasmania it is a matter of
- Preserving entirely or only selectively logging (that is genuinely selective, not a semantic contortion on paper only) old growth forests.
- Restauration of damaged forest and plantations.
- Re-education and skilling up of relevant sections of the Tasmanian society.
Now you can lay your hands on Gunns and its land you should be able to turn around a significant section of the Tasmanian forestry management concept to reflect your company guidelines.
This in turn would significantly contribute to an improvement of the social dynamics and the economic outlook of Tasmania as a whole.
You will need to call in expertise from people with know-how that is not the one, which currently clings to the out-dated, destructive and economically unsuccessful forestry practices in Tasmania.
Sound silvicultural knowledge needs to be integrated into a business plan from the outset.
You are dealing with a living organism that is the forest. If this organism is treated with respect it will provide a reliable economic, social and ecological bottom line in perpetuity.
If you chose to go ethical and triple bottom line, you cannot expect much help from the Tasmanian or Australian Governments at this stage. But you would be in a position to provide the guidance your business ethics seem to advocate if you delved into this matter with open eyes and mind and sought the assistance of the professionals who have the relevant experience.
Should you be successful it is more than likely that the entire legal, managerial, ethical and political quagmire surrounding Forestry Tasmania” (the Tas Govt forest enterprise/regulator) could be resolved from an unexpected quarter. Forestry Tasmania as well as private forest owners and timber businesses would probably follow suit and you could claim to have made the urgently needed difference in the entire forest management landscape of Tasmania.
The proposed pulp mill is not the way to go.
Will you be a real white knight or just another robber baron of which we have seen many coming and going?
I wish you luck with your adventure in Tasmania, now that it is clear that you are moving into this region.
I take the liberty of publishing this letter on the online magazine “Tasmanian Times”. We need to do this here to help reduce the invisible moves by stakeholders who engage in manipulative dealings away from the public eye to the disadvantage of the entire Tasmanian population.