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Collaboration
#SB14London:
The Value of Deeper Collaboration to End Deforestation

Another Tuesday afternoon panel brought together a diverse team of industry figures who shared insights surrounding problems of deforestation and the measures that have been taken to halt the process in a region of British Columbia.

The Great Bear Rainforest is the name coined by environmental groups in the mid-1990s to refer to approximately 12,000 sq miles of temperate rainforest in a remote region of Canada, on the British Columbia Coast. The area is particularly noted for its outstanding native forestry of Red Cedar, and also its diverse wildlife, including bears, wolves and whales.

The lush area has obviously proved a significant target for exploitation, especially in the logging industry, and the deforestation had accelerated to such an extent that environmentalists decided to make a stand in early 2000. The initial target for conservation was set at some 70% of the resources. The program has had substantial success towards this target — currently at 50% and growing — although there is always further improvement to be made.

Each panel member had a different story to tell around deforestation in general, and the British Columbia site in particular.

Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Canopy, set the scene by commending Sustainable Brands for providing a forum to raise awareness of the issue. Canopy has one clear objective — to save endangered forests — achieved through a comprehensive program of engagement with roughly 750 of the largest customers of forest products, including the publishing and fashion sectors through partnerships with companies ranging from H&M and Patagonia to the New York Times and Random House. Rycroft offered two pointers towards success:

  1. Drive transformative change through NGO and company partnerships. This has proved valuable in the fashion sector, where Canopy’s Fashion Loved by Forests initiative has reversed a growing threat to ecosystems from the manufacture of fabrics based on forest products (eg rayon and viscose) responsible for some 100 million trees disappearing into the fashion sector supply chain. By reaching out and engaging global companies in constructive partnerships, Rycroft said levels of awareness have been raised significantly and it’s hoped the problem will be stabilized and improved.

  2. Recognise the value proposition, and find a way to deliver — a good example of this policy in action involved the Canadian publishers of the Harry Potter books. By applying pressure on the publisher to adopt FSC raw material credentials, not only did Canopy help raise the sustainability credentials of this entire supply chain, but this small publisher became the favoured supplier of the hugely successful author, J.K. Rowling, whose publications have a global reach. This simple policy change provided clear sustainability benefits while producing a direct commercial benefit.

Christopher Hodgson then explained how the Guardian Media Group embarked on a program of change after evaluating its sustainability credentials, the key to success being the support of senior management. Its work with Canopy included sourcing alternative suppliers of newsprint, as demand for FSC-certified products exceeds the available supply.

Stella McCartney’s Claire Bergkamp then stressed the value of shared expertise through collaborations. Many organisations don’t have the in-house resources to run an effective sustainable sourcing program, and by organizing a working group structure across different brands, it allows greater flexibility and information sharing towards the quest to overhaul and fix the supply chain.

Finally, Christopher Hakes from Offsetters explained the concept of First Nation Communities, and how the local population and infrastructure combined into ‘business units’ to form what they describe as a ‘Conservation Economy.’ This form of ‘ecosystem-based’ management brings improved benefits throughout the partnerships of First Nation Communities, the British Columbian government, carbon offsetters, and industry/NGO organisations.

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