Barely a week in and April could very well shape up to be ‘Zero-Deforestation Month’ if the multi-sector momentum around addressing the issue continues. So far, we’ve seen a new commitment from Yum! Brands, campaigns directed at deforestation-free palm oil and textile sourcing, and two scorecards that show how the players who have pledged improvements are faring.
Now, a group of major plantation companies and NGOs have launched the first version of a toolkit that will give commodity-producing companies worldwide practical guidance on how to identify tropical forests for conservation and degraded lands for potential plantation development.
The Toolkit has been developed by the HCS Approach Steering Group, whose members include Golden Agri-Resources, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), Wilmar International Limited, Greenpeace, Agropalma, WWF, the Forest Peoples Programme, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Unilever and The Forest Trust (TFT). Established in Singapore in 2014, the Steering Group is working to oversee the governance and standardization of the HCS Approach to achieve a halt to deforestation.
The HCS Approach was developed to help companies implement their commitments to end deforestation in their supply chains. The Toolkit provides guidance for producers on how to identify High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests and integrate them with other land-use planning approaches such as High Conservation Value areas, the protection of peatlands, and respect for the rights of indigenous and traditional communities to their lands.
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With the publication of the toolkit, the HCS Approach Steering Group is also opening a feedback period on the methodology through participation in the HCS Consultative Forum. The Forum will be open to parties with an interest in the approach including plantation companies, manufacturers, retailers, financial institutions as well as industry bodies, academia and civil society groups. Further editions of the HCS Toolkit will include revisions based on stakeholder feedback as well as recommendations from further field trials and new scientific information.
Speaking at the launch of the toolkit, Grant Rosoman, Forest Solutions Coordinator at Greenpeace, said: “The HCS Approach breaks new ground by providing a practical way to achieve no deforestation together with recognition of community land rights. The publication of this Toolkit should enable the widespread adoption of the HCS Approach in key tropical forest regions where oil palm and pulp and paper plantations are being developed.”
“It's absolutely brilliant for me to see this toolkit in all its colour,” said Scott Poynton, CEO of TFT. “I remember our very first discussion about HCS between TFT, GAR and Greenpeace way back in November 2010. Since then, tens of thousands of trees have been measured in lands as diverse as Indonesia, Liberia and Papua New Guinea, satellite data has been pored over, ground checks have followed and forests have been set aside, and we have spoken with communities, NGOs, scientists, other experts and governments. This toolkit distils the knowledge we have developed together to date and sets a great platform to expand the application and expansion of that learning to a more global audience.”
The Toolkit will enable experienced practitioners to undertake their own HCS assessments, integrate them with HCV and FPIC considerations and create an integrated land use plan for a plantation concession in a forested area. It has been tested in pilot palm oil and pulp and paper concessions in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Liberia and is expected to be widely adopted by companies in other countries and products in 2015.
The HCS Approach was first developed by Golden Agri Resources, TFT and Greenpeace in 2011. Since then, it has been adopted by other major producers including APP and Wilmar, which both announced No Deforestation policies in 2013. The approach has since attracted support from global consumer companies including Unilever, Nestlé Oil, Ferrero, Mars, Procter & Gamble and Nestlé, as part of a suite of actions to deliver on their commitments to prevent further deforestation in their supply chains.
Aida Greenbury, Managing Director for Sustainability at APP and a member of the Steering Group, said: “As the industry moves towards zero deforestation, it is vital that we have an agreed method for defining what ‘forest’ is. We hope that the development of the HCS Approach will form the foundation for forest conservation over years to come and we invite government, industry and other stakeholders to follow.”
Meanwhile, Unilever — hot on the heels of the release of the HCS Toolkit and not one but two scorecards commending its progress on halting deforestation — also announced a new packaging supplier policy. It will see more Unilever packaging — from labels to wooden ice cream sticks — sourced sustainably by the end of the year, with a goal to ensure that all materials used that contain wood fiber are traceable from certified and known sources by 2020.
In 2014, the company says its volume of sustainably sourced paper and board used increased to 87 percent, up significantly from 62 percent the previous year. With this week’s announcement, Unilever is now committed to sourcing all of its paper and board packaging sustainably by the end of 2015.
“To meet our ambitious zero deforestation policies and support the move to prosperous and sustainable land use in developing countries, we need to work with all organizations in the value chain, such as our suppliers, NGOs, and governments,” said Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Chief Supply Chain Officer. “The business case for doing this is clear. It helps us secure a sustainable supply of commodities into the future, and it is good news for forests and the people that live and depend on them. Action on forests can tackle emissions — at least 4.5 billion tonnes of CO2 a year — while at the same time increasing food production sustainably and improving livelihoods.”
The move is expected to resonate with consumers; Unilever research across 11 countries has found that three-quarters of consumers would be more likely to purchase a product if they knew it was made from sustainably sourced ingredients, and according to Nielsen, millennials are four times as responsive to sustainability credentials as older generations. Globally, consumer spending on responsible consumption products is $400bn.