- Date: 10 December 2021
- Author: Jason Clay, SVP, Markets & Executive Director, WWF Markets Institute
The elephants in the room these days appear to be credible traceability and transparency. Downstream buyers want to know more and more about where and how their food is produced. To date, this has generally been left to food manufacturers and government agencies to ensure, but in the age of social media and infinite cloud-based information that’s changing.
Companies can no longer set up their own verification programs and expect them to be considered credible. ‘Trust but verify’ is increasingly the norm—and for good reason. The more we find out about global supply chains the less comfortable we are. Most companies are relatively good about knowing their direct suppliers, but it’s clear the trust and expectations can’t be extended further upstream. A piece this week on açaí illustrates the point—companies cannot depend on certification programs to credibly verify conditions of isolated producers. And where there is chatter on social media about problems, companies cannot hide behind systems, they need data. Much can be done to fix this issue, some listed below, but it will be interesting to see what exporters actually do.
To be clear, the goal is not de-commodifying the trade of all food products. That would create chaos. The goal is to maintain the efficiency of the commodity trading system but to add additional data about where and how it was produced. Changing the rules about commodities is not uncommon—the color of #2 “yellow” corn was not officially agreed upon until the late 1960s, and GMO-free commodities are traded to the EU where the market requires that information. So, the system is flexible enough to change and robust enough to incorporate new data.
Still, it’s surprising that systems to eliminate slave, bonded, and child labor, as well as deforestation and other habitat and biodiversity loss and GHG impacts, are so prevalent in supply chains, but apparently are not always working. Traders have said that rules of commodity trading should be left to them, but to date, they have been unwilling or at least unable to address these issues. With regard to labor abuses, we have seen governments (e.g., the US and EU) take much tougher positions for anyone who touches a product produced with illegal labor (with the notable exception of illegal farmworkers in the US). We have not seen the same response for key environmental impacts—though countries are in discussions about deforestation. Perhaps the way to address that is for everyone who touches products with embedded GHG emissions to “own” those emissions until they are mitigated. That would speed up change. Think about it.
This post is an excerpt from the WWF Markets Institute's Rethink Food weekly newsletter containing analysis of emerging issues and commentary on recent news stories. Subscribe here.
New Transparent Report Showcases How Corporate Action is Measuring Up to Progress on the Plastic Waste Crisis
- Date: 08 December 2021
- Author: Erin Simon, Head of Plastic Waste and Business
Transparency is a critical piece to any corporate sustainability journey, as it raises the bar for accountability which in turn accelerates action. And for the plastic waste crisis, when corporate transparency is paired with cross-sector collaboration, we break down silos and unlock access to new data that sheds light into where and how companies can make the most impact on plastic pollution.
That’s why in 2019, WWF set out to find a way to expand transparency around plastic waste by launching ReSource: Plastic to ask – how can companies really make a difference on plastic waste? With the release of Transparent 2021, our second annual report from the ReSource program, we’re starting to be able to answer that question and it’s helping us fill in that “how” gap.
- Date: 23 November 2021
- Author: Melissa D. Ho, Senior Vice President, Fresh Water and Food, WWF
“When will leaders lead?” Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados asked on the opening day of COP 26. As this “Super Year” of global events, including the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of Parties (COP), and the Climate COP 26, concludes, I ask myself, did leaders lead?
- Date: 23 November 2021
- Author: Alex Nichols-Vinueza, Program Manager, Food Loss and Waste
For most of us, Thanksgiving is all about the food. And for those looking to have a more environmentally-friendly Thanksgiving this year, the number one thing we can do is take steps to value the food we’re serving. This starts with us recognizing all of the resources that go into producing our Thanksgiving meal (long before we purchase our ingredients at the supermarket), and it ends with us doing our part to make sure none of it goes to waste.
- Date: 17 November 2021
Can plastic made from plants solve the plastic pollution crisis? The answer is no, not exactly; but, plant-based plastic (also known as bio-based plastic or bioplastic) will play a role in charting a path towards circularity.
Plastic production and pollution have been growing for decades, with lasting impacts to ecosystems around the world, with no end in sight unless we change course today. Fortunately, we can, by transforming our broken linear systems into circular ones. This will require a multi-faceted approach, including a combination of strategies focused on plastic reduction, reuse, and recycling. One of the key outcomes we'll need to see is the shift away from fossil-based plastic which has been a key feature of the take-make-waste linear economy fueling the environmental crisis today.
Currently, 99% of new plastic is made from fossil fuels, meaning the plastic that we use today starts trashing our planet long before it becomes trash. From the moment they’re made, these conventional plastics are contributing to climate change, degrading habitats, and threatening communities around the world.
But, even the most functional of circular economies will still require some new plastic to meet our most critical needs, like keeping our foods fresh and our medications safe.
The good news is that there is a better path forward. Sustainable inputs – primarily, post-consumer recycled content and responsibly sourced plant-based plastic – will power circular economies. They can supply the material we need, but without relying on fossil fuels to produce new (or virgin) plastic. A strong supply of post-consumer recycled plastic in combination with responsibly sourced plant-based plastic, means we will no longer need to rely on fossil fuels to meet our remaining need for new plastic.
Plastic made from seaweed, sugar beets, or other plants can be an important part of the solution.
However, not all plant-based plastic is good for the environment. In order to serve as a truly sustainable alternative, the material must be thoughtfully designed to build environmental, social, and economic resilience across ecosystems and communities. WWF convenes the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, a multi-stakeholder working group formed by some of the world's leading companies to advance knowledge of bioplastics and their potential social and environmental impacts. The BFA has developed a shared sustainability assessment for plant-based plastics to help actors make thoughtful decisions about biobased plastic sourcing, and drive change at scale.
Responsibly sourced plant-based plastic must also look beyond the benefits at the point of sourcing, to consider what will happen to the plant-based plastic after it has been used. Waste management practices, including collection, recycling, and composting, must be in place to ensure that this type of plastic can be effectively recovered and recirculated through the plastic system, and not end up as waste.
WWF continues to lead the charge to help reimagine how we source, design, and reuse the plastic materials communities most depend upon. Plant-based plastics represent an opportunity to reduce the negative impacts associated with the traditional sourcing of plastic from fossil fuels, and perhaps even contribute to the local economies, ecosystems, and resilience of communities in which they're grown. But plant-based or fossil-based, plastic has no place in nature.
For more information, visit the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance website here or check out WWF's Position on Biobased and Biodegradable Plastic.
- Date: 28 October 2021
- Author: Martha Kauffman, Vice President, WWF’s Northern Great Plains Program
It is impossible to gain a real understanding of a grassland until you’ve spent a great deal of time in one, watching, listening, and returning time and again to observe seasonal changes, or how the rise and fall of moisture influences wildlife and wildflower blooms. The first lesson that we’re often taught is just how deeply complicated these ecosystems are.
- Date: 26 October 2021
- Author: Linda Walker, Senior Director, Corporate Engagement, Forests
Today, HP announced an $80 million expansion of its forest conservation partnership with WWF to help restore, protect, and improve the management of nearly 1 million acres of forest around the world by 2030. With this next step in our decades-long relationship, HP now becomes WWF’s largest U.S. corporate partner.
There is an urgent need for business leaders to set and implement rigorous nature and climate targets and to meet them by investing in high-integrity nature-based solutions that put people and communities at the center. This move from HP raises the bar for what leadership looks like for corporate climate and nature commitments. As part of the company’s sustainability and climate strategy, HP is pledging to address the downstream impacts of its business on nature by taking action for forests at a level that considers all the paper that runs through its printers and print services by 2030, even if it’s not HP branded.
- Date: 26 October 2021
- Author: Anneliese Olson, HP Inc.
Here’s a challenge for you: Reflect on the places where you experienced life’s simplest pleasures. Do you imagine the scenic hike you took to get some steps in for the day? That park you took your kids to every Saturday morning? Or maybe even your own backyard?
It’s impossible for me to imagine being in any of my favorite places without trees, but beyond my personal enjoyment, forests are so important because they are home to three-quarters of the planet’s life on land and provide clean air and water. Forests are simply the best nature-based solution to address the climate crisis, and we must do what we can to protect them.
I’m fortunate to work at a company that understands the true value of forests both to its business and in the fight against climate change and knows the best way to make real impact is through partnership. HP Inc. and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have been working together for over a decade to ensure that we are sourcing our paper products responsibly. Partnerships like this have helped HP reach many environmental milestones. HP brand paper has been deforestation-free since 2016, and in 2020, HP achieved zero deforestation for 99% of HP paper-based product packaging with the remaining 1% assessed to ensure reported fiber usage meets HP’s Sustainable Paper and Wood Policy.[i]
In 2019, HP and WWF joined forces to go beyond our sourcing and broaden our conservation efforts to help safeguard global forest ecosystems. In the past two years, we’ve been collaborating to restore part of Brazil's threatened Atlantic Forest and increase sustainable management of state-owned forest farms in China—with the aim of protecting a combined area of over 200,000 acres.
Brazil’s Atlantic Forest is a biodiversity hot spot, home to iconic wildlife like the jaguar and 7% of Earth’s plant species. But it has lost more than 83% of its original area. Partnering with landowners and local groups, WWF and HP are helping to restore critical areas of the Atlantic Forest. Since 2019, together we have engaged over 50 local institutions and 150 community stakeholders in the Serra do Mar, Mogi Guaçu, and Upper Paraná regions to secure their participation in forest restoration activities.
In China, WWF and HP are working with forest agencies and forest owners to pursue Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certification under the new FSC-China national standard across 220,000 acres. China is one of the largest producers of paper products, yet it relies heavily on imported wood to meet demand, much of which comes from countries with high risk of deforestation. Improving forest management in China can help reduce pressure on threatened and high value forests. The partnership is providing training and technical support to forest managers of 462,000 acres of forestland to help improve forest management practices and enable the long-term success of FSC certification.
Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) this year, we announced a partnership expansion with WWF to counterbalance the amount of paper, regardless of brand, used in HP printers by conserving an equivalent number of forest resources.[ii] This builds on HP’s support of WWF’s development of science-based targets for forests. HP will be the first company to pilot a new methodology developed by WWF as part of its work on science-based targets for forests to more comprehensively estimate the impact on forests from non-HP paper that runs through HP printers globally. And then HP and WWF will protect, restore, and improve the management of a requisite amount of forests. By doing so, HP is helping to ensure nature-based solutions are informed by the best available science and protect the co-benefits forest ecosystems provide for people, plants and animals. As part of this partnership expansion, WWF is also joining HP’s Sustainable Forest Collaborative, a cross-industry collaboration we launched in 2019 to demonstrate scientific and commercially viable approaches to keep working forest ecosystems healthy.
For over a decade, our work with WWF and partners has helped us drive lasting, positive impact for the business and the planet. We’re proud and excited for the next decade of working alongside WWF to make a forest positive future a reality.
[i] In 2020, 99% of HP brand paper and paper-based product packaging were derived from certified or recycled sources. Packaging is defined as the box that comes with the product and all paper-based materials inside the box.
[ii] Fiber by weight will be 1) certified to rigorous third-party standards, 2) recycled, or 3) balanced by forest restoration, protection, and other initiatives through HP’s Forest Positive Framework. Paper does not include fiber-based substrates for HP industrial presses not listed in HP Media Solutions Locator catalogues.
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of WWF.
- Date: 21 October 2021
- Author: Jason Clay, SVP, Markets & Executive Director, WWF Markets Institute
Trade is fundamental to well-functioning economies. It’s also critical for sustainability and for building more resilient food systems that can address the variability of the COVID-19 pandemic in the short term, but also for the chronic and urgent weather shifts from climate change. One might not realize it, but up until recently, food was mainly produced, sold, and consumed locally.
While that’s mainly still the case, since 2000 the amount of food traded grew from 6% to 20-25% in 2019. Trade fills gaps during bad years. And while we’ve clearly seen it can experience disruptions, trade also allows countries to achieve food security even, or especially, when what they do best is not food production. Many countries use food exports as a key part of their economy, like Brazil. China also generates a lot of food globally as does the US, though it’s a much smaller part of the economy.
So how do we monitor and govern food traded across international borders? Short answer, it’s complicated.
- Date: 20 October 2021
- Author: Marcene Mitchell, Senior Vice President, Climate Change, WWF
In just under two weeks, the center of gravity for the climate crisis will be in Glasgow, Scotland at COP 26. The Paris Agreement’s over 190 signatories, along with NGOs, academics, corporations, and journalists will descend upon what was one of the most heavily industrialized cities in Europe, to talk about how to decarbonize the world economy.
One of the lingering questions the world will have is whether the United States is ready to be at the forefront of global leadership on climate. The Build Back Better Act, if Congress can pass it before the COP begins, could demonstrate its commitment, and be the herald that the U.S. is prepared to lead on climate.