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Social responsibility of business -- Case studies, Sustainable development


Upon reading the latest report from the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, Harry Demorest found his concerns confirmed – the construction of new homes had fallen yet again across the United States. Over the past month, new home starts had declined over 14% in December; this marked the end of 2007 during which housing starts were down 25% compared to the previous year and hit a low not experienced since 1993. The question was no longer “will there be a recession?” but rather “how long will the recession last?”

The fate of Columbia Forest Products, the company that Harry led for 16 years as Chairman and CEO, is tightly bound to the US housing market. CFP has over a 40% market share in hardwood plywood products, most of which go into new home construction. Further, over the past three years, CFP has embarked on a journey into sustainability. This journey is marked most profoundly by the introduction of PureBond® non-formaldehyde plywood in 2006. A first in the industry, PureBond® provides significant health benefits to CFP employees and customers by removing a known carcinogen from its products. It also has been a catalyst for CFP to pursue a more comprehensive, sustainability-inspired strategy. But in the midst of the dreadful housing market in the US, Harry and the rest of CFP executive team wondered if further pursuit of a sustainability strategy would be detrimental to their company’s competitiveness.


This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit:

Copyright © 2010 by the Author(s). This case was prepared by Scott Marshall, Zachary Anderson, Matthew Flax, Daniel Gambetta, Jacen Greene-Powell and Madeleine Pullman as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate the effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.

Free teaching note available as supplemental file.

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