JESSICA BELL REPORTS:
This morning, we attended Weyerhaeuser’s shareholder meeting at the company’s headquarters just south of Seattle. The crowd consisted of over 500 mostly white men and women.
Those expressing concerns included four folks from RAN, Lynne Barker from the Healthy Building Network, the Teamsters, the Carpenters, Calvert Group, the world’s largest socially responsible investment institution, New Ground Social Investment and Grassy Narrows’ member, Bonnie Swain.
Outside, local grassroots activists set up banners at Weyerhaeuser’s corporate headquarters on their expansive lawn, including one that aptly stated “Weyerhaeuser – bad investment”. Activists also dressed up in white hazardous materials suits and pretended to find Weyerhaeuser “products of mass destruction.”
Inside, the meeting started off with Steve Rogel – who’s quite a rigid, hulking kind of fellow with a monotone voice – talking for half an hour about how wonderful and green Weyerhaeuser is.
In order to mitigate genuine and legitimate environmental concerns, Weyerhaeuser played a 10 minute video promoting the 32 houses that they’ve built with Habitat for Humanity, and announced that they were integrating and re-branding some of the products that they sell to the housing industry under the category “iLevel” and using the color green in their marketing strategy.
It reminded me of Grassy Narrows’ member, Bonnie Swain’s comments whilst we were walking through Weyerhaeuser-owned supposedly “green” Quadrant Homes housing division on Tuesday. Bonnie was angry because they were making nice homes in Seattle with wood stolen from her land, yet Grassy Narrows was suffering from a housing shortage with the government building two few poorly made homes to houses the community. “It feels like I’m walking through my forests now,” she said as we toured the homes. Bonnie Swain took the opportunity to speak to Weyerhaeuser’s shareholders for three minutes during the meeting. She read a powerful and eloquent letter that her sister and fellow mother Chrissy Swain wrote to Weyerhaeuser.
The letter includes statements like: “If a stranger came into your home with an axe to threaten your family and loot your home of whatever he wants, he is committing a crime. To me, the actions of Weyerhaeuser, Quadrant, and other companies taking forests from our land are no different.” Her speech cut through the B.S. that Steve Rogel and his ilk spilled out, making vague promises about vision and sustainability when in reality they are tearing apart communities and threatening a way of life.
Not only did we identify the problem but we also promoted the solution. Stu Dalheim from Calvert Group, presented a shareholder resolution to the board asking the company to determine the feasibility of certifying their lands as sustainable under Forest Stewardship Council certification standards. Similar to the organic label for the food industry, FSC certifies that a forest is managed in a way that meets independent standards that respect indigenous rights – including the right to free, full and prior informed consent of indigenous communities, as well as some protections for endangered forests. If Weyerhaeuser was FSC certified the company would not be allowed to steal wood from indigenous territories.
Lynne Barker, from the Healthy Building Network, talked about how Weyerhaeuser is actively sabotaging any attempts to promote FSC and a legitimate LEED standardized-green building industry of which she is a part.
RAN’s Executive Director, Mike Brune, spoke last, as usual giving a charismatic, succinct and easy-to-understand account of RAN’s efforts to help Weyerhaeuser become the forward thinking and sustainable company that it can and deserves to be. His final quip of “we’ll see you next year” drew a nervous giggle from the audience.
After last year’s fiasco where Steve Rogel consistently gaveled and interrupted shareholders and eliminated the question and answer session of the meeting, this year Steve had clearly been instructed by his handlers to act politely; he sat down on a stool and adopted a grandfather-like “I’m listening” stance during the question and answer session, and said “thank you” to shareholders that were inciting criticism that was anything but friendly.
Despite the fact that the question and answer session was allowed to continue Weyerhaeuser’s “head in the sand” and “belligerent” attitude towards shareholders revealed themselves. When Rogel was asked if Weyerhaeuser was going to stop buying wood from Grassy Narrows he responded by saying “next question.”
And so the campaign continues.