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World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

filtered by category: Forests

  • Date: 10 October 2018

It’s no secret that as the world’s population continues to rise, so does our demand on its resources. Between growing incomes and the need to feed more people, the rate of consumption will continue to far outpace the systems necessary to manage this consumption. Because our waste systems simply can’t keep up, uncollected or leaked waste will continue to wreak havoc on the environment. Litter doesn’t just affect the beauty of our environment – it affects the health of ecosystems, biodiversity, and humans alike.

At World Wildlife Fund (WWF) we work to stop the flow of waste into nature, but we realize that changes are needed earlier in the material management system to eliminate the potential for massive downstream effects even before they become an issue. We need to develop innovative solutions that work to improve the entire system from the earliest stages of product development.

WWF’s Cascading Materials Vision is the foundation for what a holistic material management solution looks like. We’ve recently joined the NextGen Cup Consortium, led by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy and in cooperation with founding partners Starbucks and McDonalds, to help bring part of this vision to life through a multi-year initiative.

Launching this week is the Consortium’s inaugural initiative, the NextGen Cup Challenge, which will seek to transform one of the most recognizable single-use items: the paper cup. The challenge, managed by OpenIDEO, aims to catalyze ideation and action leading to the adoption of a new, sustainable, single-use cup that can be recycled or composted on a global scale. 

The challenge will analyze the cup as part of the larger system it fits into and designers will strive to create a new fiber cup that is one part of a more sustainable global waste management strategy.

While single-use cups are only part of our waste problem, this challenge is the Consortium’s first step in revolutionizing the recovery of materials in the packaging industry.

Why is this challenge necessary?

Most paper cups distributed today are sent to a landfill. Therefore, a critical piece of the challenge is designing a cup that can be recovered at the highest scale globally and across a range of regions that have different infrastructure systems. Ultimately the greenest cup is the one you bring with you, but until this practice becomes a cultural norm, we need to make sure our fast-moving consumer cups have minimal environmental impacts.

We produce over 250 billion paper cups each year. While these cups must always meet health and safety standards and be convenient, lightweight, printable, durable, and functional across a wide range of temperatures, there has never been enough pressure to source and produce these cups in a sustainable way. This challenge is necessary because the current cup is created and used on such a large scale that it has enormous waste management impacts. In addition, we are wasting valuable resources that could be given new life and we are constantly demanding virgin materials to produce more cups.

Technically, traditional paper cups (as well as almost anything), can be recycled if broken down physically or chemically. However, for recycling to actually occur on a meaningful scale, there must be value for the recovered material. The economics of recovery must be such that the value of the re-processed material is still higher than the costs of re-processing. In addition, there needs to be a large enough volume of the specific material to make it profitable. Therefore, the more uniformity in sustainable packaging materials, the easier it will be for a global system to recapture the value of the material.

Why is WWF involved?

Progress towards a global system of material recovery is exceptionally difficult due to the scale of the issue and the number of stakeholders that must be involved to achieve meaningful results. WWF not only recognizes the scale of this problem but also the enormous potential for positive change. As the world population grows, so does demand for goods and packaging and our natural resources suffer. Items such as paper cups are thrown away every day without regard to their potential value in a circular economy. Recovering materials such as single-use fiber cups means taking advantage of an opportunity to do more with less.

WWF serves as an advisory partner on the NextGen Cup Challenge because we look at environmental issues from a broad and comprehensive lens. WWF will provide guidance throughout the competition to ensure that as one environmental issue is being solved, others are not created. WWF’S ability to recognize and evaluate tradeoffs will help inform decisions made by the NextGen Cup Consortium and the team at WWF is already at work helping establish the criteria for a successful and sustainable fiber cup.

Join the challenge! Here’s how:

The NextGen Cup Challenge will officially launch on October 9 when entrepreneurs, designers, and companies are encouraged to submit proposals. Several phases, including reviews and refinement, will occur before the top ideas are announced in February 2019.

Moving Forward

The NextGen Consortium is actively looking to partner with other companies, as they recognize that increased support from other partners will trigger market signals that reverberate throughout the entire value chain. The paper cup is one of those challenging single use items whose re-design for recovery can open the door for wide-scale recovery of other single-use packaging. We know that the global solution to material waste will not be successful through individual attempts at solutions. We must collaborate on a systems approach to maximize our collective potential for success. We believe that, by inviting the full suite of actors to the table, the NextGen Consortium is talking strides towards a promising solution to single-use material waste.

To stay informed as the NextGen Cup challenge progresses, check out https://nextgenconsortium.com

  • Date: 13 September 2018
  • Author: Steve Easterbrook, CEO, McDonald's and Carter Roberts, President & CEO, World Wildlife Fund

With each passing day, the world awakens to growing evidence that investing in sustainable business practices, clean energy and climate-smart agriculture isn’t just best for the planet – it’s good for companies and consumers.

This week, the Global Climate Action Summit – the first-ever global summit focused on non-federal climate leadership – kicks off in San Francisco. The Summit will bring business leaders together with mayors, governors and others from across the globe to share knowledge and chart a new path for climate ambition.

For businesses, this means committing to ambitious climate targets and crafting concrete plans to meet them. Earlier this year McDonald’s became the first global restaurant company to adopt a science-based climate target, which aims to prevent an estimated 150 million metric tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere by 2030. Science based targets help companies identify how much and how quickly they need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to align with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping the increase in average global temperatures below 2° Celsius (3.56° Fahrenheit). More than 125 companies have already adopted them, and more than 335 have committed to do so. But many more have yet to sign on.

The world’s largest companies can help lead the way. By becoming early adopters, they can help shift entire industries toward more sustainable practices and drive results on a scale that matters. 

McDonalds letter

As printed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 13 2018

Of course, setting targets is one thing. Meeting them is another. Strategies to meet climate targets will vary from sector to sector, but two in particular present exciting opportunities: shifting to renewable energy sources and adopting smarter land-use policies.

Large companies can leverage their collective buying power to directly purchase renewable energy to power their operations. Or, if they purchase electricity through a local utility, they can demand that their utility offer more renewable energy options. For example, there are over 20 special utility renewable energy options across 15 states, with large companies playing a big role in helping develop many of them. By driving a transformation of the electricity system, companies can help promote and scale renewable energy sources, all while reaping considerable savings and growing jobs.

How companies and their suppliers use land presents an effective and relatively untapped solution to climate change. From global food production and consumption, to forest management and infrastructure development, these practices produce 12 billion tons of emissions globally each year – greater than the emissions from cars, planes, trains, trucks and ships combined. But a new approach to land use that focuses on long term sustainability and growth instead of immediate, short-term returns can achieve 30 percent of the emissions reductions needed to fulfill the Paris Agreement. For example, companies can promote climate-friendly agricultural practices like cover crops and no-till farming. And they can help address supply chain impacts on deforestation.

Hundreds of companies like McDonald’s – along with the cities, states, regions and countries where they operate – have already begun to implement these solutions, and many others. More than 3,000 of these climate leaders have committed to helping America, and beyond, fulfill its pledges under the Paris Agreement as part of the We Are Still In coalition. Collectively, we represent half of American citizens and about half of the country’s total economic output.

The Global Climate Action Summit provides business leaders and others with the opportunity to learn from one another and commit to more aggressive goals. We urge business leaders around the world to join the move toward science-based climate targets, and to embrace renewable energy and land use solutions that will help them meet those targets. Together, we can strengthen our environment and foster a safe, sustainable planet for future generations. 

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This was originally published as an open letter in the San Francisco Chronicle.

  • Date: 10 September 2018
  • Author: Martha Stevenson and Linda Walker of WWF's Forest Team

Walmart’s Project Gigaton is a supplier-focused initiative to prevent one gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions across their global supply chain over 15 years (2015-2030). Project Gigaton aims to inspire suppliers to reduce emissions across their own operations and supply chains.

There are six pillars of Project Gigaton through which suppliers can reduce emissions: energy, agriculture, forests, packaging, waste, and product use. World Wildlife Fund works with Walmart on several of these pillars to help suppliers reach their targets. In this blog, Martha Stevenson, Director of Forest Strategy and Research, and Linda Walker, Director of Responsible Forestry and Trade, share why the forests pillar is so important to Project Gigaton.

What’s the connection between forests, corporate supply chains, and GHG emissions? 

Forests can be both a source and a sink of GHG emissions in a company’s supply chain.

Globally, land use change contributes 12 percent of emissions.  Much of that comes from deforestation, driven largely by forest clearing and subsequent burning to expand agricultural production, particularly in tropical regions to produce commodities like beef, soy, palm oil and pulp.

Forest degradation is another source of emissions, which occur largely from illegal or unsustainable forest management practices, including things like “high-grading” (cutting only the highest value trees of a few species) and careless harvesting, which can damage soils and streams. These practices degrade the forests’ ability to provide water filtration, wildlife habitat and carbon storage.  

Forests also sequester carbon emissions – meaning they suck carbon back out of the atmosphere as they grow and store it in the trees. In fact, trees are one of the best large scale “technologies” that can do this in the world today. Project Gigaton includes opportunities for companies to support forest restoration and harness tree regrowth for climate benefits. Healthy forests not only absorb carbon and help slow climate change, but they also provide for the livelihoods of the 1.6 billion people who depend on them every day.

If a supplier has already set an emissions reduction goal what is the value of joining Project Gigaton?

We are entering a phase of collaboration in the forest, food and land sector that is essential to moving the needle on land sector emissions reductions. There are hundreds of companies who have goals to avoid deforestation and forest degradation and who are working in and across their supply chains to achieve those goals – but they are hitting barriers. By joining Project Gigaton, suppliers will obtain support in accomplishing their land sector avoided deforestation and climate goals. The corporate sector can be incredibly powerful in making change – particularly when working together with governments, local interest groups and local producers in forested landscapes. For companies who have not yet been active in climate conversations but have been watching and wanting to get involved, joining Project Gigaton is an opportunity to dive in and test out some new approaches in projects like restoration initiatives.

What support do companies get from Project Gigaton?

When companies join Project Gigaton, they are provided access to resources that can help companies advance their goals – from linking up with certified products to finding new verification and validation tools. Companies are also able to tap into collective efforts we’re calling landscape and jurisdictional approaches – where they can work together in a landscape to help advance goals to stop deforestation or support restoration projects together with governments and local groups. Within Project Gigaton there are built-in supports and pre-vetted opportunities, so companies don’t have to go out and start those relationships on their own.

If a supplier is considering joining and making a commitment under the energy pillar, should they also be considering the other pillars? What’s the value in signing up across the platform?

What pillars a company joins through Project Gigaton really depends on what type of company it is and where emissions occur in the supply chain. For example, for a food, forest or land-intensive supply chain, companies should look at the agricultural, forest, and waste pillars. But most importantly, companies sign up in the places that are meaningful for them and get the tools and resources they need to succeed.

Who's an example of a supplier that is really leading the way on forests?

Companies who publish strong sourcing policies and goals, report transparently on progress, engage collaboratively with suppliers on solutions and seek opportunities to protect or restore forested landscapes outside of near-term supply chain needs, are leading the way.  Kimberly-Clark, who manufactures brands like Kleenex and Cottonelle, is an excellent example, including through an innovative campaign to engage consumers about responsible forestry and its support for long-term protection of working forests in the Southeastern US.

You can join Project Gigaton by submitting your own emissions target, or by submitting goals that fall in one or more of the six pillars. Links to join can be found at: www.walmartsustainabilityhub.com/project-gigaton

  • Date: 27 April 2018
  • Author: Tess Lindsey Woodford, Redding, California

The kids are coming this weekend and I need to get out shopping.  Its been a tough week and, honestly, the last thing I want to do is shop.  In fact, I have taken to buying more online lately, not just for convenience sake, but also because of the wider selection of products I can choose from.  And these days, convenience seems to be everything, right? 

But the little voice inside my head always nudges me to shop local first and patronize the independent merchants whenever possible.  See, I’m like most consumers, I want the best price, to choose the best product from the largest selection, and still appease that part of my conscience that tells me to do the right thing.  I’ve always held the opinion that, while many things are out of my control, what I purchase, how I purchase, what I bring into my home, and put into my body, are made up of the choices that I make.   I want those choices to align with my value system for good health and what’s important to me.  And what’s important to me?   My children, grandchildren and their future here on Mother Earth. My family’s future is enough to keep me up at night. And it’s important enough to me to make me stop and shop more wisely and take the time to investigate the products I am looking to purchase. 

Social media sees to it that we are inundated with a lot of different claims, and sometimes it’s difficult to maneuver through the claims and know what’s factual.  We all know that saying it, or reading it, doesn’t necessarily make it so.  So, I do my research and work to make responsible choices and lead by example.  I take my own bottle with me instead of adding another plastic container to the landfills.  I recycle. I try to buy second-hand.  I shop supermarkets that offer organic options.  But there's one label that has made my decision making easier, the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) label . My research has told me that FSC’s existence is to assure me that these products and manufacturers are adhering to the standards that are important to me.  Whether its paper goods, lumber products, furniture or household goods, I don’t have to second guess and that appeases the little nudging voice inside my head.

I’m from a small town, and FSC choices aren’t always available to me.  I ask, and if not available, I reach further.   But the more I ask and consistently purchase locally, the more the retailers adhere to consumer demands.  I’m not going to wait for the politicians, I am going to effect change where I live, and for whom I love.  I do what I can and what is within my own reach.  It’s not a noisy and pushy campaign, but rather a quiet and personal selection.  I’m far from perfect.  I don’t drive an electric car, I don’t have solar panels on my house. But each day, I will continue to do my best within my means to make choices and buy products that work in harmony with the Earth.  Because if everyone does, things change.  And that’s a fact.

  • Date: 01 March 2018
  • Author: Raj Kundra, VP of International Finance

Deforestation is responsible for releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all of the world’s cars and trucks on the road today. And what’s behind most of that forest loss? The production of beef, soy, and palm oil.

Of concern to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), these practices force wildlife from their homes, drive soil erosion and water pollution, and disrupt climates locally and globally. They also threaten the stability of our food supply and pose financial, legal, operational, and reputational risks not just to companies but to their banks, as well.

Environmental degradation and climate change exacerbate difficult growing conditions, undermine agricultural productivity, and threaten to destabilize commodity supply chains. And when companies and their investors cannot see illegal or harmful practices within fragmented and opaque supply chains, it can put companies, including their lenders and investors, in legal and financial jeopardy. Less tangible but no less material, it can also damage brands.

While a growing number of banks are committed to protecting natural habitats and promoting environmentally and socially responsible practices among the companies to which they lend, the process is complicated and progress is slow. Fortunately, it may become easier thanks to a new tool from the Global Canopy Program and its partners WWF, Ceres, CDP, and Zoological Society of London.

SCRIPT (Soft Commodity Risk Platform) is a web-based platform that any financial institution can use to identify the business risks associated with financing unsustainable companies; understand and adopt corporate best practices for reducing deforestation associated with soft commodities; and effectively engage companies operating in soft commodity supply chains with step-by step guidance.

SCRIPT hosts two tools: one for benchmarking policy and another to assess portfolio risk. The former, which WWF developed with Global Canopy Program, enables companies to assess the strength and quality of their policy against 150 peer institutions (aggregated and anonymized to protect proprietary data and privacy) and to identify areas of excellence and opportunities for improvement. The custom analysis and subsequent guidance provides information financial institutions can use to quickly improve their policies or to promote areas in which they lead.

The risk tool enables companies to identify and effectively engage clients that are failing to mitigate their exposure to the risks associated with deforestation. With the tool, financial institutions can understand the exposure of their portfolio to deforestation risks, generate risk assessments for portfolios, with customizable criteria, and develop strategies tailored to the institution’s portfolio and issue areas for engaging with portfolio companies.

Financial institutions that make lending and investment decisions based on environmental and social risks and opportunities tend to generate long-term returns that are as good as or better than institutions that do not.

Fortunately, more and more investees and borrowers are taking action. According to the CDP, 87% of companies reporting to them have identified opportunities associated with addressing deforestation, and 73% report a commitment to reduce or remove deforestation from their supply chains. The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 suggests the investment opportunity will roughly total US$200 billion annually for deforestation-free investment and financing by 2020.

For financial institutions, there are more and more reasons to adopt more sustainable lending and investing practices. And with the advent of tools like SCRIPT that make such transitions easier, the excuses for not taking action are fewer and fewer.

  • Date: 16 January 2018
  • Author: Keith Kenny, Vice President, Sustainability, McDonald’s

Across the globe, companies like McDonald’s are playing a leading role in advancing sustainability. As one of the world’s largest restaurant companies, McDonald’s footprint stretches across more than 100 countries, 37,000 restaurants, serving more than 69 million customers a day. We are listening to our customers, stakeholders, and partners, taking action on the sustainability issues that matter most to them. We are uniquely positioned to collaborate with local communities to help tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. Studies show the world generates 1.3 billion tons of solid waste a year with the number expected to rise to 2.2 billion by 2025.  Pressure on the world’s forests and other natural systems will also increase as our global population grows. That’s why we are re-upping our commitment on packaging and waste reduction.

McDonald's is making it our goal to offer guest recycling in 100% of restaurants by 2025. We understand that recycling infrastructure, regulations and consumer behaviors vary city to city and country to country, but we plan to be part of the solution and help influence powerful change.

McDonalds C9Text-Stakeholders SL 1200x1200

We will also continue our progress towards offering more sustainable packaging. By 2025, 100% of guest packaging will come from renewable, recycled, or certified sources, with a preference for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. This expands upon McDonald’s existing goal that, by 2020, 100% of fiber-based packaging will come from recycled or certified sources where no deforestation occurs.  This new commitment addresses the remaining 20% of McDonald’s current global packaging that is made from non-renewable resources.

At McDonald’s, we’re always looking to improve. We are on a journey to use less packaging, sourced responsibly and designed to be taken care of after use. We will be working at and beyond our restaurants to increase recycling and composting and support cleaner communities. This means collaborating across industries and partnering with McDonald's operators, crew members and customers.

That journey began more than 25 years ago working with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Since then we have continued to work closely with EDF as well as WWF and the Forest Stewardship Council, to constantly improve our packaging.

As of 2017, 50% of McDonald’s guest packaging comes from renewable, recycled or certified sources. We’ve also made significant progress on fiber-based packaging and protecting forests through our 2015 Commitment on Forests focused on eliminating deforestation from our supply chain. As of 2016, 64% of McDonald’s fiber-based packaging comes from certified or recycled sources.

While we’ve made significant progress to reduce restaurant waste, we understand the challenges we face to achieve our goal. That’s why we’re working with leading industry experts, local governments and environmental groups, including WWF, to help us achieve our goals.

Achieving these goals is no easy feat, but we believe that setting ambitious targets drives faster change and we can’t do it alone. We will continue to use our scale for good and keep raising the bar on what it means to be a responsible company committed to people and planet.

  • Date: 14 December 2017
  • Author: Kerry Cesareo, Vice President, Forests,

On the surface, the production of natural rubber is as simple as the incision made in a rubber tree. The cut, made on an angle, is shallow and just inches long. A milky white liquid oozes from where the incision was made and slowly drips into a coconut shell attached to the tree. Once there is enough liquid to fill a large bucket, several straightforward steps are taken to turn the liquid into small sheets of rubber which are used to create hundreds of distinct types of products.

I was fascinated with the somewhat primitive nature of the process when I saw it in action in Myanmar a few weeks ago—as it juxtaposes the complex nature of the global rubber industry, which is growing quickly to keep up with the demand from people in the US and beyond for rubber products.

Natural rubber is used to make the tires that are on the cars or bicycles we use to get to work, planes and buses that take us to vacation destinations, and trucks that bring food to the stores where we shop. It’s what makes a soccer ball a soccer ball. It’s on doctor’s hands, when she wears surgical gloves, and on our feet, when we wear sneakers to go for a run.

And, yes, it comes from trees—something that most people don’t know, and I hadn’t thought about much until recently, despite many years working on forest conservation.

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An employee of the Myanmar Department of Agriculture teaches villagers in the southern Myanmar district of Tanintharyi how to tap rubber trees. © Hkun Lat

Rubber is an industry that will grow, in large part to keep up with the expected doubling of vehicles by 2050 (70 percent of the world’s natural rubber is used to make tires). But ensuring that the industry does so without having a negative impact on nature and people is a challenge. Already, unsustainable and illegal natural rubber production has emerged as a top threat to many forests of Southeast Asia, where climate and soils for growing rubber trees are ideal. Ninety percent of the world’s natural rubber comes from this region. The same forests that are habitat for elephants, tigers and other endangered species are being destroyed to make room for rubber trees.

Natural rubber production also is a grave concern for people in the region, as the industry is plagued by land grabs and poor treatment of its workers. And forests cleared to plant rubber are the source of livelihoods for millions of people.

It is a challenge, though, that a diverse group of actors from the public and private sectors, including World Wildlife Fund (WWF), are now rallying around so solutions can be put in place before it is too late. We have the advantage of learning from our work on palm oil, paper and other commodities. Sustainability standards for those commodities have been developed and producers are working to meet them.

A key lesson is to, from the get go, include farmers in the process of creating industry guidelines. This is particularly important in the rubber industry, as 85 percent of natural rubber is produced by approximately six million farmers, most who are operating at a small scale.  They are on the front lines, where the challenges related to farming are most evident, as are the solutions.

While in southern Myanmar—where a significant growth in rubber production is expected—my colleagues and I sat cross legged on a wooden floor as rubber farmers from a small village talked to us for several hours about their desire to protect the environment by planting rubber trees on degraded land instead of on land they clear in forests that have high conservation value, yet how hard it is to do so. They spoke about wanting to diversify their source of income to protect against volatility of rubber price. We listened, then talked collectively about solutions they are putting in place on their own and are eager to implement with help from WWF, the government of Myanmar, rubber industry leaders and others.

Just as important as engaging with small-scale farmers is engaging with leaders at large-scale companies. Companies that make tires are key, as they buy 70 percent of the world’s rubber and, therefore, have the financial power to influence production. Automobile makers also are key; a single company often buys 50 million new tires every year. These companies are critical to transforming the way rubber is produced.

Three of them already are doing so. In 2016, Michelin became the world’s first major rubber user to publish a comprehensive policy to ensure sustainable and responsible management of the natural rubber supply chain. Pirelli followed suit this year. Also this year, General Motors announced its intent to commit to sourcing sustainable natural rubber. Other companies are gearing up to do the same, thinking of creating policies that, among other things, prohibit destroying natural forests and infringing on human rights.

We are encouraged by what we are hearing—from the small villages of Myanmar to the large meeting rooms of corporate headquarters—and are hopeful it will quickly lead to a major transformation of the rubber industry. The role of NGOs and others within civil society in making this happen cannot be understated, as they provide perspective and technical expertise on conservation and social issues to ensure credibility and impact.

Stepping away from business as usual in the rubber sector would have a dramatic, positive effect on the world’s forests and local communities. It’s time to do so.

Photos:

© Hkun Lat

  • Date: 31 October 2017
  • Author: Chad Strickert, Global Commodity Manager, General Motors

How can companies use their scale and influence on the market place to help protect the natural resources—forests, rivers and more—that people rely on to survive?

At General Motors, we spend about two-thirds of our operating expenses on materials – buying parts for vehicles. Those parts come from about 20,000 different suppliers, and we ship those goods to more than 30 countries. If we can even make incremental improvements in our supply chain, we can create impact.

When WWF approached us earlier this year to discuss the state of the global rubber industry, from deforestation to the human and labor rights issues in the plantations, we wanted to help. After all, rubber is a key commodity for us; vehicle use is its dominant source; and production occurs primarily in one part of the world, southeast Asia, which is home to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife and largest forests. To us, this means high impact, high opportunity.

Our mission became clear: use our purchasing power to signal demand for change.

The result was a commitment, made public in May, that the tires we buy will only include sustainable natural rubber, meaning they did not contribute to deforestation and the suppliers sourcing it uphold ethical business and labor practices. Progress will take time, but we see a business case in protecting a key commodity that supports millions of people’s livelihoods in emerging economies.

We teamed up with our four main tire suppliers, who have already been working on various solutions. We knew that if we wanted to go fast, we could do it alone, simply requiring mandates and driving a set of policies that work for us. But a handful of tire manufacturers produce tires for the world’s major automakers. It doesn’t make sense for each car company to have its own set of standards. This is not a competitive area. If we want to drive efficiency and scale, we must work together.

This commitment is about going far and transforming our industry. We are collaborating with other automakers, communities, governments, about 85,000 farmers, and NGOs like WWF and BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) to accelerate the movement. The chain of custody for natural rubber is extremely complex, so it will require all of us offering our individual insights and expertise.

In the past, we would work with our tier 1 suppliers who supply directly to us. Now we are starting to look more holistically at our value chain and use our buying power to mitigate potential risks and even create new opportunities.

Our drivers here are equal parts environment, business and society. We can help create efficiencies and expand capabilities to improve rubber plantations, which will lower cost. We can facilitate greater traceability that ensures ethical business practices.

This initiative will put policies in place that will help curb human rights violations and change the way we manage our natural resources with respect to tires. Developing this commitment is an opportunity for GM and myself to be a part of something special, impacting millions of people all over the world.

It’s an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than I ever dreamed possible.

  • Date: 25 October 2017
  • Author: Chris McLaren, Chief Marketing Officer, Forest Stewardship Council-US

Consumers increasingly want to buy from brands that are environmentally responsible - and many forward-thinking companies have responded by embracing sustainability. However, there remains a disparity between the extensiveness of brands’ sustainability pursuits and the extent to which they share their journey with consumers.

There is abundant research showing consumer support for sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). For example, consulting firm Roland Berger recently found that 75 percent of consumers take sustainability into account when making purchases, noting that, “for millennials, CSR is the new religion.”

Meanwhile the corporate adoption path is becoming increasingly well-worn. Goals are set, considering corporate culture and values; plans are made and executed internally across sourcing, energy, water and waste, then across the supply chain; progress reports are issued. However, while such reporting is geared toward investors, as well as business and environmental media, it almost never targets customers, and this is increasingly becoming a barrier to progress.

Yes, there are challenges. Touting new sustainable products can inadvertently shine a light on one’s other “less sustainable” offerings. Sustainability may not always be an easily prioritized message. And it can raise consumer expectations, risking a disconnect if supply chains shift.

Rather than an argument for silence, these challenges speak to the need to be strategic about consumer engagement – because today’s consumers have made it clear that they increasingly want to hear how and why brands are making progress. And, as noted in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, if we are to have any hope of fully tackling the challenges facing our planet, brands need to help in changing consumer behavior.  

Consider forest products. We know forests are critical to life on earth: They store carbon, maintain water quality and protect soil from erosion. Forests also contain more biological diversity than any other habitat.

Yet right now, trade in illegal forest products is as much as $100 billion each year, according to Interpol. And much legal forest management around the world – including here in the US – permits forest degradation. Without stronger efforts to inform consumer behavior, purchasing choices will tend toward the status quo - and opportunities for brands to create stronger relationships with customers will go unrealized.

The good news is that some companies are showing the way forward, though more consumer outreach is needed.

In June of this year, Kimberly-Clark – owner of iconic brands such as Kleenex, Scott, Viva and Cottonelle – launched a three-year campaign with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to promote the importance of choosing products from responsibly-managed forests. Known as “Heart Your Planet,” the campaign goal is to “drive more awareness among consumers of the importance of choosing responsibly-sourced tissue products by looking for FSC certification,” according to Jay Gottlieb, president of Family Care for Kimberly-Clark North America.

In another example, McDonald’s has transitioned all of its US stores to FSC-certified and -labeled hot cups, as part of its 2020 goal to source all of its fiber-based packaging from recycled or certified responsibly managed forests where no deforestation occurs. This massive undertaking has put the fast food chain out front in its category.

Giving already-aware consumers a chance to make a difference through purchases is valuable, but the next step – the next sustainability frontier – is to do more to effectively educate consumers, bringing them along on the journey. Research shows that 9 out of 10 consumers who know the FSC story are more likely to purchase an FSC-labeled product – so the key to maximizing impact is to pair the FSC label with content that explains its significance, and ideally, its context in a brand’s overall sustainability story. This is how a virtuous cycle can be created that drives value for customers, companies and our planet.

By changing the long-held paradigm that assumes a tradeoff between financial and environmental performance, we can bring the consumer along in understanding that sustainability is driven by the same sound-business, customer-first mentality that made brands great in the first place. For me, that is today’s greatest opportunity.

  • Date: 10 October 2017
  • Author: Martha Stevenson and Kerry Cesareo

How many—and what quality of— forests are needed to sustain life on Earth?

At WWF, we’ve been talking about this with many of our partners. The discussion is inspired by the great work being done on science-based targets to limit climate change below a two-degree increase and on context-based targets for freshwater basins[1].

What we’ve realized is that we can’t answer the question simply by adding up the demand for the many “services” forests provide to people, such as wood for heating and building homes. And we can’t answer it by totaling up the numerous global and corporate commitments to help stop deforestation and forest degradation.

The answer will come from the forests. Specifically, the ecological signals they send to tell us they are healthy, such as tree canopy cover, carbon sequestering soils and rich biodiversity of plants and animals. From these signals, we can see forests as more than areas of land or as production inputs. And using science-based targets, we can better manage forests, so they continue to be healthy, productive and resilient far into the future. This type of future is what we’re calling a “forest positive” future. It’s going to take more than business-as-usual from all of us—particularly the corporate sector—to achieve.

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Zhonghao Jin from WWF-China at the Wuling forest plantation in the Xinkai district, Yueyang, Hunan, China. © Theodore Kaye / WWF China

In the corporate sector, the term forest positive has been discussed for several years, inspired by the concept of “carbon positive,” meaning that a company sequesters more carbon than it releases from its activities. Because forests are not as easily rolled into one number like carbon equivalents, we offer three starting concepts for discussion about forest positive and examples of meaningful actions corporations can take as they start on this pathway.

Harness Your Direct Influence
Building toward a forest positive future is beyond any single organization, but it does not negate the need for individual companies to address their own operations as well as the impacts of their sourcing choices on forests. In the forest products sector, there are 200 companies around the world that are part of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network. These companies are mainstreaming responsible forest management and trade, using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. In parallel, more than 400 companies sourcing deforestation-driving commodities in the forestry and agricultural sectors have pledged to reduce their impacts on forests through zero deforestation commitments and respecting the rights of forest communities.

Set Targets Informed by Nature
Like science-based targets for climate reduction, a forest positive future will require targets to guide forest stewardship actions that are informed by science and based on the forests’ ecological function. In his latest book, Half Earth, E.O. Wilson theorizes that we need to maintain 50 percent of the planet’s surface for nature, specifically to sustain life on Earth, and 85 percent of existing species to maintain fully functioning ecosystems. Will Steffen et al[1] estimates that the tropical and boreal biomes need to maintain 85 percent of forest area and the temperate biome needs to maintain 50 percent of forest area[2]. More localized estimates in the Amazon predict that the forest will transition to a grassland if deforestation reaches beyond 40 percent of the original forest (it is currently at 20 percent)[3]. In absence of global and regional targets for forests, companies are already taking action by assessing their forest footprint and doing more.

Apple, for example, is forging a path toward a forest positive future through its commitment to quantifying the virgin paper footprint from its packaging and zeroing out that impact. One of the ways it is achieving this is by conserving the acreage of working forests around the world equivalent to its virgin paper footprint. The company announced in April that yearly production from 320,000 acres of forest land in China and 36,000 acres in the Eastern United States is now greater than the amount of virgin fiber used in its product packaging during fiscal year 2016. The land in China was FSC-certified earlier this year, as a result of an Apple-funded project with WWF. The land in the US was protected via an Apple-funded project with The Conservation Fund.

Ikea is advancing its forest positive initiative by promoting forest certification well beyond the company’s need, which is one percent of the global commercial harvest. Barry Callebaut, a cocoa company, also has made a forest positive commitment.

Align Toward Something Bigger
Growing the area of sustainable supply beyond a company’s own needs is the start of contributing to a forest positive future. But we also need to build the socio-political infrastructure that will sustain these actions. And that cannot be done alone. It will require working collectively with governments, corporations, NGOs, local communities and others—all lending their voice and resources toward a forest positive future. A great example of this is in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where the world's leading cocoa and chocolate companies agreed to work together to end deforestation and contribute to the restoration of forests and resilient landscapes.[1] They will engage all the necessary people toward this shared goal.

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An aerial view of eucalyptus forests around Xingdaohu in Shiwan branch near Qinzhou, Guangxi, China. © Theodore Kaye / WWF China

Stopping deforestation or freezing the land footprint of commodity production is a laudable leadership action. But it is only a first step. What else needs to be done? And what will determine whether a landscape is resilient?

This is why we need to embed the forests’ requirements into these actions and develop a shared vision for the future of forests. WWF is committed to engaging with others on these efforts. We will listen to feedback as the forest positive concept grows and it is more sharply defined. And together, we will rise to the challenge of creating a meaningful forest positive future together.

Martha Stevenson is Director of Forest Strategy and Research at WWF-US and Kerry Cesareo is Vice President of Forests at WWF-US.

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[1] See Science Based Targets for Climate (http://sciencebasedtargets.org). Additionally, WWF and others are advancing thinking for Corporate Context-Based Water Targets, that consider local basin conditions and the environmental flow requirements (https://www.ceowatermandate.org/files/context-based-targets.pdf).
[2] W. Steffen et al., Science 347, 1259855 (2015). DOI: 10.1126/science.1259855
[3] The reference for this is pre-industrial conditions
[4] C. Notre, et al., PNAS 113, 39 10759-68. DOI:10.1073pnas.1605516113
[5]http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/cocoa-industry-announces-cooperative-initiative-to-end-deforestation/

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