Published 1 year ago.
About a 7 minute read.
Image: Tima Miroshnichenko
/ This article is sponsored by
Procter & Gamble.
As a purchaser of wood pulp for its Bounty and Charmin brands, Procter & Gamble has an influence on driving responsible forest practices for its suppliers. But P&G needs help driving scale — more companies must make good on
responsible sourcing commitments to meet the needs of the market, as well as a fragile natural world.
When a tree is harvested, it’s divvied up to multiple customers specializing in
various wood products. The bulk of a large tree will likely be utilized for
lumber, while the wood too small for lumber — called pulpwood — is often used
for paper and cardboard products.
It’s essential to garner support from a critical mass of companies in the
forestry space to drive economies of scale for sustainable timber production. As
a major purchaser of wood pulp for its
Procter & Gamble has an influence on driving
responsible forest practices for its suppliers.
But P&G needs some help driving scale.
Sustainable Brands® sat down with P&G’s Director of Scientific
Communications and Certified Forester®, Chris
Reeves, to discuss the
challenges and opportunities of navigating responsible timber harvesting in a
complex forestry landscape, and how more companies must make good on ambitious
responsible sourcing commitments to meet the needs of the market, as well as a
fragile natural world.
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Reeves: Most of the land in the United States is owned by small
but they’re not in the business of forestry. Accessing qualified foresters and
management plans is usually the biggest hurdle out there. Then, throw on top of
that certifications — where someone has to come and audit the management plan
and audit the forest. It’s an added cost that some owners don’t want to pay at a
P&G can ask for timber to be certified; but if we’re only taking a small amount
of wood, like 25 percent, of the harvested timber, it’s very difficult to
convince landowners to jump through the audits and do the paperwork. But we
still have responsibility, even if we’re just a small portion, to make sure the
forest is responsibly managed.
Reeves: We are starting to get direct consumer calls and emails asking
direct and follow-up questions; and we also get questions from our stakeholders,
including investors and non-governmental environmental organizations.
For most of our consumers, they just want to know that issues like regrowing
harvested trees and preventing
are being addressed. But for those with more detailed questions who want to dig
into the weeds, they can go to our environmental, social, and governance
website, where we transparently
every year on our timber sourcing.
Reeves: Get involved. All of the certifications out there have open-comment
periods about what goes into their standards. Simply showing up at meetings and
providing feedback for how standards can be strengthened or made more efficient
is the main method to show support.
Another way is to set lofty ambitions yourself. Set a goal for yourself to work
toward and be realistic that it may take time to meet these goals. Additionally,
just continue to promote the
that are the best out there, with FSC being considered the gold standard.
P&G and others are also starting to make some investments in problem areas. The
Southeastern US is our biggest remaining non-FSC-certified area, so we’re
supporting small landowners there by paying to make it easier for them to get
certified. We’re supporting what we call group certificates — which is a
collection of landowners banding together to drive down the costs of
certification and drive economies of scale. By helping these causes directly,
we’re helping to make certifications more accessible to small landowners.
shows there’s a lot of momentum toward biodiversity being the next frontier. But
when you go into a larger global scale — or, in P&G’s case, you source from all
around the world — it’s very difficult to determine the impact on
in the area being managed. Developing biodiversity methodologies and
in the next year or two will really help out with this as the industry figures
out how to credibly measure biodiversity. It isn’t clear how to account for
overall biodiversity impacts when the climates and wildlife can be so varied in
different parts of the world. Our sourcing includes hot, fast-growing
plantations in Brazil and cold, slow-growing boreal forests in Canada.
Another one I’ll point to is the continued development of remote-sensing and
The costs for these have gone way down in the last couple of years, as well as
the capabilities of machine learning to detect changes in satellite imagery and
remote-sensing data. P&G is doing a lot of pilot testing and satellite
on landscapes to determine impacts and help us identify potential risks. We’ve
been doing this with palm oil for several years; but pulp monitoring is new.
Reeves: It’s not an either/or between plantations and natural forests,
because they both play their parts and support one another. You can have areas
that are identified as monoculture or plantations, or other areas that are more
like a natural forest. Many times, plantations are established on degraded lands
— allowing more space for the more natural forests to be replanted and restored
Before you do any kind of forest development or restoration, you have to do a
larger landscape assessment to determine where’s the best place for plantations
in restoring degraded land and where to restore natural forests to have the
greatest impact on
with limited resources.
Reeves: Have a commitment in place to source only FSC material when it’s
available. Also be open to partnerships — we don’t view this as a competitive
space; because as the cliche goes, the rising tide lifts all boats. We don’t see
it as a bad thing when pulp companies demand more FSC timber, making more FSC
lumber available for building
Companies coming together will help your own commitments, as well as impact
others outside your supply chain.
Reeves: Just be open with your processes and have your own commitments to
avoid and prevent deforestation. If you’re in the forestry industry, there’s no
incentive for you to have deforestation — if the trees are gone, you can’t make
products. So, having a responsible forestry mindset from the beginning ensures
that 1) there is a sustainable harvest that protects and respects animals,
plants and people; and 2) you follow up with restoration and regrowth
We have a resource sourcing policy with all of our measurements and locations.
In it, we define what responsible forestry means to P&G. If something in our
supply chain doesn’t meet or exceed our policy, we launch our forest-grievance
process — which is publicly
It kicks off an investigation to see if the source is in our supply chain; then
we work with our suppliers to find out what the problem is. If it’s confirmed
that something violated our policy, it results in remediation and/or actions
ranging from temporary purchase suspension to volume reduction — or termination,
if the action is egregious.
Published Jan 19, 2023 10am EST / 7am PST / 3pm GMT / 4pm CET
Christian is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.