#006 / 1998


MB zaps ads and research - shares go up $1.20

Supporters of value-created initiatives will soon no longer have to zap the MacMillan Bloedel television ads to avoid their pr-speak. The ads are "winding down" (according to Scott Alexander, Manager of MB Public Affairs) together with 2,700 company jobs in a "restructuring" announced by CEO Tom Stephens on Wednesday, January 21, 1998.

MB undoubtedly produced the ads to say "forget all those nasty images of clearcuts and ruined streams, and look how creative and responsible we can be." The hollowness of this campaign became clear when Stephens said that many of the 100 research jobs which produced the products displayed in the ads would also to be zapped.

MB retreats to traditional wood products.

Apparently, the largest forest company in Canada (10 percent is owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Fund) cannot afford the cost of doing business in today's knowledge-intensive world. While other companies are developing innovative eco-friendly composite wood panels, MB is retreating into supplying traditional building materials and packaging.

Many industry observers have predicted for decades that unsustainable cut-levels would lead to mill closures and job losses. But equally they have emphasized the role of research and design-based initiatives in producing more jobs per unit of increasingly scarce timber.

According to many forest company CEOs and their friends in the mainstream press, the solutions to our dilemma lie in lower taxes, less regulation and more mergers -- concepts as questionable as the motives behind the MB tv ads. Instead, we should be looking to initiatives like the government's recently announced community forest pilot project, an alternative that allows for a well-managed environment and the use of timber for more labour-intensive manufacturing. Television ads for the innovative products created by this new sector would be worth a view and may even escape the wrath of the remote control.

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