Business and Sustainability Leaders Speak Out in the Global Fight Against Deforestation

Business and Sustainability Leaders Speak Out in the Global Fight Against Deforestation

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.@RnfrstAlliance @Staples @World_Wildlife and @DomtarCorp discuss collaboration on fight against #deforestation

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 7:25pm

CAMPAIGN: Making a Difference in Smarter Business

CONTENT: Article

An access road in a peatland forest on Indonesia’s Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia’s largest economy grows, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction. 

This week, top business and sustainability leaders gathered for the Innovation Forum, a global event focused on what businesses and governments can do to help combat deforestation worldwide. Here, some of the key attendees discussed their own approaches to battling deforestation and how to work together towards a common goal.

In your eyes, what is the biggest challenge that businesses will face as they try to preserve forest ecosystems in the next decade? 

Paige Goff, vice president, sustainability and business communications, Domtar:

Right now, the focus is on stopping deforestation on a global scale. Beyond that, we’re starting to see a much needed, increased focus on the supply chain and sourcing, and the obstacles that go along with that. However, the biggest challenge we see is landowner education. How do we convince landowners to put time and resources toward sustainable land management?

Richard Donovan, senior vice president and vice president of forestry, Rainforest Alliance:

The challenge of preserving ecosystems is enormous. Two major causes are deforestation for agricultural conversion and natural forest degradation caused by poor management of forests. These twin causes exacerbate social conflicts, which can be violent in some locations. If we can provide sustainable livelihoods for local communities that are built around protecting and managing the forest, then we create a built-in incentive to preserve our forests.

Amy Smith, manager, Wood Sector Engagement, World Wildlife Fund:

The biggest challenge will be trying to keep forests healthy while meeting the world’s need for products that come from forests. Fortunately, this is possible if we use forest resources more efficiently and responsibly. The actions that consumers and businesses can take to get us there include reducing wasteful consumption, increasing wood processing efficiency, establishing new tree plantations on degraded lands and harvesting more natural forests sustainably.

Mark Buckley, vice president of environmental affairs, Staples:

The biggest challenge that Staples and other responsible businesses face is creating ‘radical transparency’ to better understand the life cycle impacts associated within their integrated and non-integrated global supply chains. We need to understand not just the environmental impacts of our purchasing on those critical forests, but also the social and economic impacts on communities and people who are responsibly managing sustainable working forests.

What role should businesses and NGOs play, and how can they work together?

Paige Goff, vice resident, sustainability and business communications, Domtar:

We both have a unique role to play. Businesses have access to customers, who ultimately drive demand. However, it’s our responsibility to communicate clearly to our customers to help them understand exactly what those demands should be. In other words, when you ask for certified paper, what are you really getting? What are you risking if you don’t? NGOs also play a critical role. Through their expertise and research, they help companies like ours raise the bar in sustainability by providing recommendations and roadmaps that look beyond today and address future challenges. We work together to develop the best processes, practices and measurements for forest conservation. It’s truly a symbiotic relationship.

Amy Smith, manager, Wood Sector Engagement, World Wildlife Fund:

In my 18 years of working in conservation, I’ve witnessed a significant shift in the relationship between businesses and NGOs. Engagement between companies and conservation organizations used to be strictly philanthropic. But now the collaboration between corporations and NGOs to improve how products are sourced and processed is part of the solution and is driving positive change. This not only benefits the planet, but it’s the basis for a better business model, one that mitigates supply chain and brand risks and improves production efficiencies.

What can businesses and NGOs do to make customers more aware of forest supply chains?

Paige Goff, vice president, sustainability and business communications, Domtar:

To make people truly care about forest supply chains, businesses and NGOs need to show consumers the faces behind the products. Every ream of paper comes from a unique string of people – from landowners to mill managers to forest auditors, we believe that putting these people forward, and sharing their stories in an engaging way can have an enormous impact. To that end, we recently relaunched our digital transparency tool, The Paper Trail, which allows customers and general users to see where their paper comes from.

Richard Donovan, senior vice president and vice president of forestry, Rainforest Alliance:

Tell the stories about where supply comes from, ranging from small landholders to larger scale operations, and making clear how the different production systems need to change to become sustainable. Each product or commodity has different ‘origin’ dynamics, different conservation, management and livelihood realities that must the basis for designing  solutions. Companies and NGOs should not be afraid to tell the real story on the achievements, challenges faced, stumbles along the way, and how to keep focused on their long-term vision.

Amy Smith, manager, Wood Sector Engagement, World Wildlife Fund:

One of the best things is for businesses to put the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label on their FSC-certified products, and then use marketing tools to raise awareness about the FSC brand amongst consumers. WWF also has paper tools to enhance companies’ transparency efforts. For example, the Check Your Paper Guide rates specific paper brands on their environmental performance (raw materials sourcing, and air and water impacts), while the WWF Paper Company Environmental Index assesses the overall environmental performance of a company, including the company’s transparency in disclosing its environmental footprint.

Mark Buckley, vice president of environmental affairs, Staples:

Businesses and NGOs have the ability to tell a comprehensive story and effectively bring our customers to the forest. Staples is the front face for the customer who uses wood based paper and furniture products, and as such, we have an opportunity to inform, educate and engage customers about responsibly sourcing, using and recycling these products to reduce their overall environmental burden on forests.

Looking toward the future

It’s clear that protecting forests is a complicated issue, and the best approach varies based on the region and the state of the forestland present. Despite the challenges, companies like Domtar are leading the way in working collaboratively to make a difference.

To learn more about Domtar’s approach to long-term, sustainable forest management, read Domtar’s white paper,, “The Future of Our Forests”.


Dan Persica, Sustainability Communications Manager
+1 (803) 802-8067
CATEGORY: Environment