The mask has slipped. Resolute Forest Products made a rare public misstep lately when the company advertised for the position of Specialist in Social Media and Public Affairs.
Remarkably, the prospective candidate is explicitly tasked with “managing criticism and dissent”, giving us a rare glimpse into the mindset of a multibillion dollar logging company facing growing controversy and a range of environmental, First Nations and other critics.
Actual job description from Resolute Forest Products’ website (***note: the posting disappeared from Resolute's website shortly after this blog was posted, but was captured in a screen grab):
You see, Resolute has an official position to push. The corporate line markets the company as a “global leader in the manufacturing of sustainable forest products” as per the company’s surprisingly unaware new promotional video. (Note the uncanny similarities with this parody.)
Usually very careful in its message control, Resolute proclaims a commitment to sustainability publically while they destroy Canada’s forests behind the scenes. But this remarkably frank job description gives us a sense of the conversations actually happening inside a logging giant facing stakeholder conflict on a massive scale and staring at a vanishing social license. It ain’t pretty. People actually had to sit down, think about what they wanted to do, and type “managing criticism and dissent.”
I guess that for a company like Resolute, dissenting views are inconvenient. It means Indigenous Canadians standing up for their “rights”, workers and unions upholding “the law”, local communities calling for a “fair share” and environmentalists promoting “science”.
Resolute is not always so subtle in its approach to dissent management of course. The company is suing me and my colleague Richard Brooks for $7,000,000 in a wholly meritless SLAPP lawsuit for pointing out their destructive operations in Canada’s culturally, economically and environmentally critical Boreal Forest. Slapping us with this lawsuit sends a strong message to others whose views differ from Resolute HQ: keep your mouths shut, or there’ll be hell to pay. Just ask Greenpeace.
Unfortunately for the company, dissent management and expensive lawsuits won’t return the unprecedented 8 million hectares of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification the company just lost after systemic shortcomings in social and environmental performance documented by an independent auditor. Huge swathes of Canada’s forests remain plagued by mismanagement.
And although the company’s approach to criticism control is disappointing, it fits into a worrying pattern of powerful interests stifling debate regarding Canada’s environment these days. Whether it’s the Harper government muzzling scientists, or the exclusion of inconvenient voices from National Energy Board (NEB) hearings, Canadians are being silenced in our own country.
This lawsuit has been tough. It hasn’t been easy for my colleagues here at Greenpeace either. But we are more determined than ever to stand up for our wild spaces and the right of Canadians to speak our mind. Because the forest can’t defend itself.
So now I’m hoping you’ll join me, Richard, all the team here and thousands of Canadians who are seizing this moment to say enough is enough: we will have our say, we will be listened to and we will stand for our forests.