According to a report issued by the Congressional Budget Office, deforestation activity accounts for 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Companies such as Unilever have adopted zero-deforestation policies; while private sector initiatives are critical to broader zero-deforestation efforts, a more comprehensive approach involving multiple entities from the private and public sectors is necessary. To achieve sustainability success on a global level, brands must join forces and implement a multi-stakeholder approach to end deforestation and advance global climate change initiatives.
A recent survey by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) found that only 17 percent of consumers prioritize sustainability and deforestation-free attributes when it comes to purchasing paper products. However, the research also shows that 40 percent of consumers consider whether a product is made from recycled materials when making purchasing decisions.
Consumers may be well versed in the importance of recycling, but corporations, NGOs and other actors need to do a better job of educating the public on the range of factors that impact sustainability as a whole. Many brands are making significant progress on adopting zero-deforestation efforts. To supplement this, more collaborative efforts should be undertaken, and companies should communicate why they are adopting zero-deforestation policies, so consumers can better understand its significance and, ultimately, demand it.
Below are three examples of organizations and initiatives that have combined financial resources, global sustainability standards and commitments to tackle deforestation activities internationally.
1. The Belantara Foundation
Effecting Change from the Inside Out
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Established in 2014, the Belantara Foundation is an organization seeking to manage and support funding for wide-ranging forestry management and conservation initiatives. The Foundation is working to influence and initiate a commitment of financial and non-financial resources from the corporate world, supported by all levels of government and civil society. Its focus is to ensure a careful balance among economic development, the livelihoods of people in local communities and environmental conservation. This involves overseeing natural forest restoration, protecting endangered animals, leading studies to strengthen sustainable landscape management, as well as engaging in community empowerment and local economic development.
The Foundation demonstrates how collaboration can advance the financial viability of forest protection and restoration internationally – with the belief that it’s not just the responsibility of producing countries, but of society globally.
2. The Sustainability Consortium
To promote environmental stewardship on a global scale, a group of like-minded organizations formed The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), an organization of diverse global participants working collectively to build a scientific foundation that drives innovation to improve consumer product sustainability. TSC develops transparent methodologies, tools, and strategies to drive a new generation of products and supply networks that address environmental, social and economic imperatives.
One of the organization’s primary goals is to encourage other companies to adopt rigorous sustainability standards that, in tandem with global regulatory measures, will help protect and preserve the environment by driving innovation and improving consumer product sustainability. TSC is particularly adept at bringing together private-sector entities to foster sustainability initiatives while keeping in mind broader business objectives centered on growth and reputation management.
3. The New York Declaration on Forests
In 2014, at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York, APP joined 30 of the world’s biggest brands, dozens of governments, and more than 50 influential civil society and indigenous organizations in signing the New York Declaration on Forests. Together, they aligned on a global objective to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strive to end it by 2030.
The agreement is historic not only for the scale of its ambition, but because it marks a shift in emphasis where governments, companies, civil society and, crucially, the private sector, agree on a common commitment to tackle deforestation.
Next Steps to End Deforestation
Pursuing a multi-stakeholder approach to end deforestation is undoubtedly complex and difficult. However, it’s well worth the undertaking. The viability of forestry businesses must carefully balance growth and innovation with sustainable practices and transparency. The private sector alone cannot shoulder the total cost of forest conservation. Engagement platforms must continue to be developed and expanded which involve NGOs, governments, the private sector, community representatives and academics, to enable these interested parties to closely work together to find solutions.