Do Consumers Hold the Key to Mainstreaming FSC in North America? 

Tuesday morning’s session on consumers and the FSC-market in North America dealt with how FSC can advance in the region from a marketing perspective. And YES, according to FSC US, the consumers do hold the key to mainstreaming the market in North America. 

By Ida Rehnström, FSC Denmark

So why have a specific side meeting on the North American market? 

Well, the US is both the world’s largest producer and importer and the second largest exporter of wood products throughout the world. The second largest is Canada. So for FSC to advance on a global scale this region is crucial.

Chris McLaren, Chief Marketing Officer at FSC US presented the US market situation in terms of purchase and highlighted that “price is more important in this region compared to other regions worldwide.” At the same time “responsibility is somewhat less important here vs. other market drivers”. In other words, it could sound like an uphill battle to push the market for more uptake of FSC. But that was not necessarily the conclusion. Instead, it was stressed that we need to get the market initiatives going to avoid a decrease in certified forest areas in the region, especially in untapped markets like construction and furniture. And the message was that there is plenty of interest to do so from the industry as well as from the consumers.

Good news: Consumers DO prefer FSC

One of the session’s most photographed slides was the result of a consumer preference research study. This showed that consumers that were educated on FSC and what the label means were extremely likely to go for FSC-labelled products. In fact, the study showed that 9 in 10 consumers who are FSC-aware say FSC labelling makes them more likely to buy.

The research also showed that young people are more FSC-aware (40%) and that small amounts of information about FSC can have a strong influence. Therefore, the recommendation from Chris would be to “pair FSC labelling with basic facts about FSC.” This could be done through various media channels but also on FSC-certified products themselves.

Partners are crucial

Summing up the session Corey Brinkema, President of FSC US, stressed that previous marketing and communications activities for FSC in the region may have been way to technical and targeted towards business interest.  This is an important change which is already underway in the form of a campaign concept and video called “one simple action.”

“Now we just need to get that message in front of the consumer” Corey concludes.

A final key message considered how to move forward to “educate” the consumer. To achieve this, partnerships should play a crucial role. The list of opportunities presented included template campaigns for corporate partners as well as “stand up social applause” with eNGO teams.