|Tom Katzenmeyer, Tzeporah Berman are now on the same page. Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun|
VANCOUVER - When Victoria's Secret senior executive Tom Katzenmeyer
saw the full page ad that eco-group ForestEthics ran in the New York
Times two years ago assailing the catalogue retailer as a destroyer of
ancient forests, he knew it was no contest.
The ad depicted a
lingerie-clad model in angel wings, perfectly capturing the brand image
that Victoria's Secret had carefully cultivated. Only this model was
wielding a chainsaw.
The company was using non-recycled paper for
its catalogues from supplier International Paper. International Paper
sourced some of its product from Western Canada forests that provide
habitat for mountain caribou. The absence of any concern over paper
sourcing or content for its 365 million catalogues made Victoria's
Secret a target.
Victoria's Secret had been approached by ForestEthics about its
procurement policies but had ignored them. It renewed a supply contract
and now it was on the losing end of a eco-marketing campaign that was
giving the company's image a very black eye.
"It was very shrewd
on their part. It was an image that, under other circumstances, we
would like to hold out for Victoria's Secret," Katzenmeyer said
Wednesday. He was speaking on a forestry conference panel where he
provided an insider's view of what it's like to be targeted by
environmentalists bent on forcing corporations to green up their
Katzenmeyer is a senior vice-president with Limited
Brands, a U.S. company with $10 billion in sales. Victoria's Secret is
the most lucrative holding in Limited Brands' fashion stable,
contributing $1 billion US in profits, 80 per cent of Limited Brands'
The eco-campaign did not affect Victoria's Secret
revenues but it did harm the company's reputation. That, in the end, is
what mattered, Katzenmeyer said.
"Suppliers knew where we were
headed on this. It was unacceptable to Limited Brands and to Victoria's
Secret that we had been put in this position with paper coming from
Wednesday he stood before 200 people at the
ForestLeadership conference and said Limited Brands not only supports
ForestEthics but is actively working to promote the use of paper from
more sustainably harvested forests. It is no longer using any paper for
its catalogues that comes from mountain caribou habitat, he said.
And later, at a luncheon sponsored by the company and the eco-activists, he sat with former foe Tzeporah Berman.
"We have gone from being in a defensive role to real advocacy," he said of the transformation.
seal the new partnership between the corporation and the eco-warriors,
he announced Limited Brands has committed $1 million US for research
and advocacy to protect endangered forests. The company has also funded
a study in the Alberta foothills that he said details a "rapid decline"
in old-growth forests.
"Our relationship with ForestEthics is a
true partnership, a true collaboration," he said. "We want to
contribute to forest sustainability and we are not turning back from
Before adopting a green approach, Victoria's Secret was
subjected to a campaign that included protests at events, postcards
delivered to the company CEO's neighbours, thousands of e-mails,
protesters at annual general meetings and representatives of
socially-responsible investment firms attempting to put the issue to a
vote of shareholders.
Katzenmeyer would not reveal the source of catalogue paper now but
he said it takes time to make the complete shift. For 2007, the company
has committed to using paper that is either 10-per-cent post-consumer
waste or 10 per cent from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forests.
transformation of Victoria's Secret to advocate is perplexing to the
Canadian forest industry. Jean Pierre Martel, vice-president of
sustainability for the Forest Products Association of Canada, said in
an interview that it sounds like Katzenmeyer is getting all his
information from one source. "We think it is important that they play
with all the stakeholders and not become advocates for one," he said.
said the industry is working with stakeholders and non-profit
associations such as the World Wildlife Fund in efforts to develop
policies and actions on the boreal forest that make sense. He
questioned whether the U.S. company understood that Canadian
forestlands are owned by the public and land-use decisions are arrived
quite differently than in the U.S., where most forestlands are private.