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World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

  • Date: 30 January 2018
  • Author: Sandra Vijn

From almond milk to algae-based “shrimp”, alternative proteins are gaining favor among consumers who want to shrink their carbon footprint. Yet while most people aren’t ready to swap their steaks for seaweed, retailers and food service companies can improve their environmental performance by focusing on what animals eat.

Proteins are the building blocks of life and critical for survival, but they take a lot of resources to produce. There’s the land, water, and energy that the animals themselves require, plus the resources it takes to raise their food. About half of the world’s agricultural land is used to grow feed, and more than a fifth of all wild-caught fish is fed to farmed seafood. Unfortunately, this level of production is contributing globally to deforestation, climate change, water consumption, overfishing, and the decline in biodiversity.

To grow more feed crops under a business-as-usual scenario, we would need another 690 million acres of land, a mass larger than six Californias. Fortunately, a growing number of feed companies and those they supply recognize the threat and opportunity that the feed question represents. The feed industry, for example, is developing tools to assess the sustainability of feed crops, and several companies are implementing programs to reduce impacts related to deforestation, fertilizer use and climate change.

However, we need to implement a suite of solutions. Offering tools and a platform to collaborate, the Forum for the Future is bringing together animal, plant, and novel protein industries for the first time. In a new report, The Feed Behind Our Food, it urges retailers and food service companies to engage the companies in their supply chains, including feed producers, to accelerate progress on making feed more sustainable, and provides a step-by-step guide to take action.

Per the report, the threats of inaction are too great to ignore.

  • About 20 percent of the Earth’s vegetative surface suffers from declining productivity, potentially destabilizing the feed crop supply.
  • Prolonged droughts, more severe floods, migrating pests, and other ill effects of climate change will likely make crop supply and prices more volatile.
  • Because there is less and less available land for agriculture, we cannot rely on agricultural expansion to make up for lower productivity.
  • According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 90 percent of global fish stocks are either fully exploited or overfished, rendering them unable to sustainably yield more seafood.

Beyond mitigating damage, however, companies can seize opportunities as well.

  • It is less expensive to shift production and sourcing practices slowly in anticipation of a crisis, than hastily in reaction to one. Companies with first-mover advantage can more methodically map out their strategy, conduct research, pilot new products and practices, diversify approaches and spread out risk, learning and adapting at each step along the way.
  • Because consumers increasingly demand transparency, companies that move on livestock feed can tell their stories first and build trust with their customers.
  • Companies that can source more sustainable feeds, including alternative feeds that are not as reliant on land, water, and depleted fisheries, will have more resilient supply chains in the face of climate change.

Consumer-facing retailers, food service providers, and feed companies together are in an influential position to drive the use of sustainable feeds among processors, traders, and producers. Just as they have been at the forefront of the deforestation-free movement, retailers and food service companies can also work with their supply chains to lead on feed.

So what should retailers and food service companies ask of their suppliers with respect to feed? The Feed in Our Food outlines criteria for sustainable feed production that:

  • Preserves critical habitat, advances soil health, and promotes biodiversity;
  • Minimizes greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Uses crops and crop byproducts that are inedible by people, such as grasses and silages;
  • Minimizes fresh water consumption and limits water pollution;
  • Does not contribute to the depletion of fish stocks;
  • Supports human rights and welfare, from workers to communities;
  • Promotes animal health and nutrition; and
  • Provides sufficient returns for feed producers and livestock farmers so they can sustain responsible practices.

Forum for the Future will develop an assessment tool for these  criteria over the coming months as part of the Protein Challenge 2040 Feed Compass project. We encourage all supply chain stakeholders that touch livestock and feed to get involved. There’s no better time to start than now. As each day passes, the opportunities shrink, and the costs grow.

  • 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.

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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: 13 December 2017
  • Author: Dave McLaughlin

More with less. These three words sum up the planet’s sustainable food challenge.

We must produce more food for more people with more income on less land and with less water while emitting less carbon. This imperative is especially critical in Indonesia and Malaysia, where rainforests are being slashed and burned to make room for palm oil plantations, robbing diverse wildlife of their homes and heating our planet.

Some are tempted to abandon palm oil production altogether, but the world’s most popular vegetable oil is also the world’s most efficient. Oil palm trees can yield several up to ten times more oil per acre than soybeans, canola, and other crops. Improving palm oil production is the key.

We can learn lessons from the work that Procter & Gamble is doing in Malaysia. There, the company, partnering with academia, NGOs and government, is engaging with its suppliers, including thousands of smallholder farmers, to help them produce palm oil without deforestation and the irreparable degradation of natural resources.

One lesson from the P&G experience: Smallholders benefit from education and technical assistance. Owing to a shortage of technical experts who can advise on proper tree care and management, farmers in Malaysia tend to be unfamiliar with common tree diseases and how to prevent or treat them, or with optimal harvest techniques. By providing technical assistance to smallholders on the ground, P&G has raised awareness and helped them better identify and control the spread of diseases such as ganoderma, a fungus that can severely affect plantations. And with guidance from P&G, smallholders were able to increase output by up to 30 percent simply by increasing the frequency of harvests from once every 15 days to once every 10 days.

Another lesson: Demand drives supply. The push for sustainable, deforestation-free palm oil starts with demand. P&G buys nearly 1 percent of the world’s palm oil, and uses up to 6 percent of palm kernel oil derivatives. Even though the company procures the vast majority of its palm oil through a joint venture with Felda Global Ventures, P&G still has the power to influence other producers and suppliers, such as palm oil giants Musim Mas and Wilmar.  P&G has become a very active player and voice in industry-wide discussions on issues such as priority areas for protection and smallholders.

Lesson number three: Strong governance and anti-deforestation policies are critical. While producing more palm oil per acre of land can reduce the need for more land, it nevertheless increases the value of the land, thus creating a perverse incentive to clear more of it. That’s where governance comes in; regulation must protect native habitats from conversion in the face of rising productivity. A best-of-both-worlds approach enables farmers to make more money and meet rising demand on the same land footprint, while protecting against further expansion—hence P&G’s collaboration with the government’s Malaysian Palm Oil Board and its sustainable palm oil certification, which is being implemented.

Sustainability is a long and winding road, especially so when it comes to palm oil. It can be especially difficult when you don’t know what you don’t know. Indeed, P&G benefited from its work in Malaysia just by better understanding all the challenges that keep it—and others—from sourcing 100 percent physical, certified sustainable palm oil. Learning is a critical part of the journey.

By engaging stakeholders at every level—from smallholders to large traders to governments—the industry can move forward together. It will take time and a lot of hard work, but we’re learning important lessons and improving along the way.

Dave McLaughlin is vice president of WWF’s Markets and Food program.

 

  • Date: 15 November 2017
  • Author: Cynthia Cummis, Director Of Private Sector Climate Mitigation, World Resources Institute

Country negotiators are in the spotlight at UN climate negotiations in Bonn. But the private sector will be represented at COP23 as well, particularly from the United States.

Major U.S. corporations are stepping up on climate action because they understand the grave risk this threat poses to their customers and bottom lines. Increasingly, they are taking bold action to do their part to solve the problem. 

To date, 57 U.S.-based companies, including 35 Fortune 500 companies, have committed to science-based targets, which align with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. And despite the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll back climate protections, a new report from America’s Pledge shows how U.S. businesses have affirmed their commitment to reduce emissions and build a clean energy economy, including through the “We Are Still In” declaration with over 1,700 businesses and growing.

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So how do companies translate targets into changes in the real world?

First, they start by looking for ways to improve internal operations. Then they can go even further through efforts to reduce value chain emissions, which are often significantly greater than those from their operations and can have a positive ripple effect across a wide circle of companies around the world.

Change the Things I Can

To slash emissions from internal operations, companies need to incorporate both energy efficiency and renewable energy into their strategies. Take HP, Inc for example. HP, Inc. set a science-based target to reduce emissions from global operations 25 percent by 2025, compared to 2015 levels. To get there, they’re focusing on improving energy efficiency in their facilities and transportation fleets, and shifting to solar and wind technology.

In their own buildings, they’ve deployed cost-effective advanced energy savings systems. Retrofitting just three of their facilities (in Boise, Idaho; Corvallis, Oregon; and Singapore) cut a cumulative 8.8 million kWh of energy use annually, avoiding carbon emissions on par with the annual usage of 700 American homes. 

They’re also driving toward a more efficient auto fleet, planning to reduce emissions from their auto fleet by 10 percent by 2025, compared to 2015 levels. In Europe, HP has already reduced fleet average GHG emissions by using more energy-efficient vehicles. They even relocated their European transit hub to Greece based on cost and emissions savings.  All of these efforts help HP chip away at achieving its science-based emission reduction target.

HP is also shifting toward less GHG-intensive energy sources, including increased use of on-site and off-site renewable power. Through the RE100 initiative, they set a goal to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity use in their global operations, with an interim target of 40 percent by 2020 -- just two years from now. (Fun fact: 44 of 114 RE100 companies are also part of the Science-Based Targets initiative.)

Nate Hurst, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer, HP, said, “Setting science-based targets helps ensure our business is resilient, ready for climate change and prepared to adapt to the changing regulatory and business environment.”

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Driving Reductions Through the Value Chain

For many companies, a large portion of their overall footprint happens in the value chain, such as the raw materials that go into their products. The Science Based Targets initiative requires companies with large value chain footprints to set ambitious reduction targets for their scope 3 emissions, leading many companies to conduct scope 3 inventories and set scope 3 targets for the first time.

To meet its scope 3 target of one billion tons of emission reductions by 2030, Walmart is asking its global network of more than 3,000 suppliers to participate in the Project Gigaton initiative. Using a supplier sustainability platform and emissions reductions toolkit, Walmart encourages its suppliers to focus their efforts on what their data tells them are the most important areas: energy, agriculture, waste, packaging, deforestation and product use and design.

As Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, the global ripple effect will be huge. Recently, Walmart supplier and Pakistan’s biggest exporter of home textile products, Yunus Textile Mills Limited, became the first Pakistani company to commit to setting a science-based target. Other Walmart suppliers are now considering participating in the initiative.

Kellogg Company is also engaging its suppliers to achieve its goal of reducing absolute value chain emissions 50 percent by 2050, compared to 2015. They’ve designed over 45 programs to help farmers around the world decrease their carbon footprint, and committed to help half a million farmers implement smart agricultural practices focused on emission reduction and resilience. They are also asking their suppliers to respond to CDP’s annual supply chain questionnaire.

“We are collating research and aggregating learning from best practices, and then sharing back with individual farmers so they can benefit from the collective information,” said Amy Braun Senter, Sustainability Director at Kellogg.

Unstoppable Momentum

A growing number of companies see the benefits of increasing the ambition of reduction efforts for their operations and engaging with their value chain to drive significant reductions. The proliferation of science-based target setting among major U.S. companies reflects the unstoppable momentum behind corporate climate action and the strong business case for doing so.

This blog was originally posted by the World Resources Institute. Link here.

  • 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: 26 October 2017

One year ago, Ceres and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced the conclusion of the first phase of the AgWater Challenge. Inspired by the “Feeding Ourselves Thirsty” analysis, the Challenge brought together companies in the food and beverage industry to reduce water risks in their supply chains and their impacts on local watersheds.

Representing over $123 billion in annual net revenue, these seven companies – Diageo, General Mills, Hain Celestial Group, Hormel Foods, Kellogg Company, PepsiCo and DanoneWave (formerly WhiteWave Foods) – leveraged the Challenge to review their programs and policies and share their experiences with each other. In total, they developed 18 new commitments to reduce water impacts associated with agricultural commodities along their supply chains.

But it didn’t stop there.

As discussed on the SIWI Sofa at World Water Week in August, we spent the last year continuing to work with the AgWater stewards to better understand the challenges and opportunities they experienced along the way.

One takeaway was clear: all AgWater participants realized the need to view water holistically. They agreed that water must be a fundamental integrated piece of a rich sustainability portfolio. And an integrated approach – one that includes not only water but also carbon, soil and social benefits – is more successful over the long-term and creates a much stronger business case with farmers and senior management.

AgWater participants PepsiCo and Diageo offered specific insights on lessons learned for companies starting out on their water stewardship journeys:

LESSON 1: Taking a Holistic Approach to Water Risk

PepsiCo, the global food and beverage company, understands the importance of taking a holistic perspective of water-related risk within its supply chain. When developing their global water strategy agenda, they looked across direct and indirect water use. Their detailed, comprehensive assessment process gave them an understanding of where they faced high water risk and a targeted view of local watersheds. The result was the realization that, in addition to quantitative targets on water use efficiency, wastewater quality, WASH, and watershed replenishment, the heart of the water strategy needed to be a goal to advocate for strong water governance in local watersheds. This goal is the centerpiece of PepsiCo’s program and the launching point for much of what the company seeks to accomplish on water stewardship. 

LESSON 2: Large Scale Assessment Requires Flexible Approach

PepsiCo anchors its agricultural agenda behind the Sustainable Farming Initiative (SFI), a program to assess and support positive economic, social and environmental outcomes on farms where it directly sources agricultural products. Securing a quantitative assessment around the impact of their work when deploying across thousands of farmers proved challenging. To address this issue, they rely upon a combination of two approaches – a qualitative assessment and a theory of change impact assessment. The theory of change assessment will allow PepsiCo to systematically understand the impact of their efforts where opportunities to create positive change exist.

LESSON 3: Building the Business Case Is a Key to Success

Diageo’s water strategy includes a focus on their agricultural supply chain in water stressed markets. One of Diageo’s most important AgWater successes to date was achieving a better understanding of, and convening a coalition around, the value of providing access to clean water and sanitation in its agricultural growing areas in Africa.

LESSON 4: Relationships Come First

Earlier this year, Diageo launched a pilot project in Tanzania to develop a series of modules to help smallholder farmers manage water more effectively. The project was a collaborative effort with Water Witness International and German agency GIZ. It resulted from an Alliance for Water Stewardship assessment of a brewery supply chain there. Diageo confirmed that although smallholder farmers had clear water risks to deal with, they couldn’t approach them with an agenda focused solely around water.

To secure water in the face of growing demand, we need more companies to take meaningful actions like these. While the most recent “Feeding Ourselves Thirsty” report confirmed there has been progress — an average improvement of 10 percent in how companies score — since monitoring began in 2015, there’s still a long way to go. Through collaborative efforts like the AgWater Challenge, we can address corporate supply chain water risk for the benefit of people, planet and profits.

  • 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: 16 October 2017
  • Author: Ron Cotterman, Sealed Air and Judith Hochhauser Schneider, WWF

A key premise of the China Food Security Initiative is that addressing the issues of environmental impact, food security and food waste cannot be separated from effective supply chain management. From farming right down to consumption, each private and public entity including the consumer plays a critical role in enhancing food security and reducing food waste. At stake is not only the conservation of precious environment and natural resources, but also reducing cross-contamination and risk of epidemic outbreak of diseases such as the H7N9 bird flu.

This is why the program’s scope takes into consideration the entire supply chain, from in-depth research to engaging key players across each step of the supply chain. A key deliverable of the program was to develop guidelines and best management practices across China’s poultry supply chain to support the government and industry in building a more efficient model that is also safer and more sustainable.

“The rising global demand for food, driven by a growing middle class that can afford more meat, is putting pressure on natural resources. With intensified pressure from climate change, limiting food waste is a critical step the food industry and consumers can take to reduce the resources needed to produce food. As China imports feed from other countries, higher poultry demand drives higher demand for feed which impacts agriculture and resource use.”

Judith Hochhauser Schneider
Director for Private Sector Engagement, WWF-US

Utilizing baseline research that included an in-depth study of East China’s poultry supply chain as well as a lifecycle assessment of the environmental impact of different production methods, a Best Practices Management (BMP) Guide was developed under the initiative.  This is a comprehensive checklist of food safety practices and procedures that can help reduce the loss of product due to contamination and spoilage along the poultry supply chain from slaughter to sale at grocery retail stores. It was developed with input from internationally recognized academic experts and industry practitioners in the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and based on a review of current national and subnational standards, and guidelines from around the globe.

Another key objective of the initiative was to assess the environmental impact and the greenhouse gas emissions generated across the food supply chain or lifecycle, and to identify ways to reduce the impact as well as prevent food waste. Consumers should realize that the total cost of food thrown away in the bin is more than just its retail cost. Waste at the retail and consumer end actually translates to higher environmental impact than waste at earlier stages. This is because of the resources such as feed, water and energy that have been used to get the food to that stage. A Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) was therefore conducted to quantify the environmental impact  of different supply chain systems for packaged and unpackaged chicken, from farming to retail. The Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) report showed that nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions are associated with feed alone. It also found that chilled packaged chicken generally showed a lower environmental impact than unpackaged chicken that needs to be frozen, due to lower energy requirements for chilling and longer shelf life. Today, 80 percent of the poultry purchased by Chinese consumers is unpackaged. Overall, the report confirmed that moving to a supply chain in China that incorporates improved farm processes, packaging and cold-chain methods, has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 20 percent.

Other resources developed through the initiative included consumer education materials, infographics and a video.

With the increasing industrialization of the poultry sector in China, which is the second largest in the world, the program has been timely to present opportunities to improve production efficiency and in the process, enhance food safety and quality for the ultimate benefit of consumers.

Just like in China, various developing countries in Asia are facing a transition in moving from small-scale to larger commercial farming and retailing of poultry. Given the vast amount of resources that go into producing a chicken, there exists significant room to increase access to safe, nutritious food while helping to conserve natural resources and preserve vital ecosystems.

“The China Food Security Initiative is a best-case example of how corporations, government, industry and NGOs can work to address key issues that have a global impact on the environment and food security. We see tremendous opportunities to share the learnings and experience from this program with other fast-growth developing countries where meat production forms a significant part of their economies and that are looking to transform their supply chains for the better.”

Ron Cotterman
Vice President, Sustainability, Sealed Air

The China Food Security Initiative is nearing its completion and achievements such as the BMP guide and LCA report will be used to support both public and private sector work to improve food waste processes, food security and food safety across China’s poultry market. The program collaborators are now embarking on industry and consumer engagement efforts to help key stakeholders make informed choices on quality control, safety risk mitigation and waste reduction. Various engagement workshops have been organized to-date with the latest being held in Beijing, China on 28 June 2017 for various government ministries, processors and retailers. In addition to presenting the BMP guide, the workshop also shared best practices from selected countries around the world. Overall feedback from the attendees have been positive and encouraging, with many seeing the BMP Guide as a good first step to improve status quo and accelerate implementation of best practices.

The China Food Security Initiative, aimed at modernizing China’s poultry supply chain, has entered its final year of collaboration among Sealed Air, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA). The program aims to minimize the environmental footprint of poultry and to share best practices for a sustainable supply chain that addresses food safety, packaging, storage, and distribution of poultry products in China. Ron Cotterman from Sealed Air and Judith Hochhauser Schneider from WWF highlight the key milestones achieved over the past 3 years of the project.

  • 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.

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Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain rage of Colombia. © Day's Edge Productions

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.

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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