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World Wildlife Fund On Balance

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Better Forests. Better Business.

  • Date: 24 October 2014
  • Author: Linda Walker, Director, Global Forest & Trade Network-North America
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I was optimistic—but cautiously so—when we launched our Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) North America program in 2006. Would companies be interested in technical assistance from World Wildlife Fund to assess where there might be risks in their wood and paper supply chains that relate to social and environmental impacts? Could we work together to create robust sourcing policies to mitigate those risks and transparently show their stakeholders the progress being made? Could we collaborate on ways to help the companies increase their sourcing of forest products that are certified to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard, which we believe includes the most rigorous requirements for ensuring environmental and social responsibility?

What I have learned is that, for some very influential US companies, the answer is a resounding yes. The stepwise approach to responsible sourcing can benefit forests and companies alike.

“Collaboration with the private sector on responsible forest product sourcing is critical, given the tremendous influence companies, particularly those in the US, can have in the marketplace.”

Linda Walker
Director, Global Forest & Trade Network-North America

Domtar, for example, worked with WWF to reach a major milestone last month: selling its five millionth ton of FSC-certified uncoated fine paper. Another participant in WWF’s GFTN-North America program—Procter & Gamble—is on track to meet its goal of 40 percent FSC-certified fiber in its tissue and towel products by 2015. Kimberly-Clark has increased its use of FSC fiber by 111 percent since 2009. Read more about the successes of US companies participating in GFTN-North America.

The power of collaborating. Not going out on a limb, alone, to save forests, but doing it together.
Together, GFTN participants manage 19.5 million hectares of FSC-certified forests, representing 10.5 percent of the global total FSC-certified area. GFTN has successfully advocated for market-based legislation tackling illegal logging, like the Lacey Act in the US and the Timber Regulation in the European Union. They have also worked to strengthen the FSC system globally, ensuring uptake in key producing and consuming countries.

These are the ideals that FSC-US honored last night when it presented WWF with an achievement award for its GFTN program. Launched in 1991, GFTN includes 195 companies, 10 of which are based in the US and part of GFTN-North America. The 195 companies represent 18 percent of the global annual trade in forest products. WWF’s forestry and trade experts work with companies to develop responsible sourcing policies, identify and mitigate sourcing risks, share best practices, and much more.

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Amy Smith, WWF manager of wood sector engagement, accepting the achievement award on behalf of GFTN-North America. Photo courtesy FSC-US.

Collaboration with the private sector on responsible forest product sourcing is critical, given the tremendous influence companies, particularly those in the US, can have in the marketplace. The US and Canada together are the world’s largest producers and consumers of wood and paper products. Additionally, the US is one of the top importers of wood from countries considered high risk for illegal logging. The future of the world’s forests, therefore, depends greatly on the actions of Americans and especially those of American companies. The GFTN participating companies are using their purchasing power to support responsible forest management and trade globally, as well as to eliminate the demand for unsustainable and illegal wood.

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