Zero Deforestation as the New Norm: Tackling Climate Change One Sector at a Time

Zero Deforestation as the New Norm: Tackling Climate Change One Sector at a Time

By Erik Wohlgemuth, COO, Future 500

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 1:40pm


Too often, our political system sets today against tomorrow, environment against economy, and prosperity against sustainability.  Yet while government has been utterly gridlocked, forward-looking corporate, NGO, foundation, and SRI leaders are achieving important breakthroughs through the advancement of powerful procurement standards and new transparency tools with potential to transform (regulate) those industries.

It's been just over a year since Future 500, as part of the Transition500 network, began working with Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) to implement its groundbreaking Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) that has been a key domino in the overall movement to advance zero deforestation corporate supply chain models.

When Future 500 embarked on this project, we were energized by the challenge of leveraging our stakeholder engagement expertise to help transform a demonized company like APP as it followed an aggressive roadmap toward industry leadership on sustainability. We were equally excited by the opportunity to help set a new -- and higher -- bar for supply chain transparency and stewardship, not just for forest products industries, but potentially for all extractive industries.

So, we were very pleased to hear earlier this week when APP announced that it will be working with a range of stakeholders, including WWF, to conserve and restore 1 million hectares of forest across vital landscapes in Indonesia.  Conservation and restoration of natural habitat and forestland had been a big sticking point with a number of NGO and corporate critics and this commitment reflects another major step forward in APP's ongoing journey of working with, not against, its critics to set new benchmarks for others to follow. 

As APP continues to hit its milestones, and leading brands, retailers, and suppliers increasingly make commitments to zero deforestation in their own supply chains, as witnessed in MarsGeneral Mills, and Colgate Palmolive most recently, we are seeing welcomed momentum in protecting the world's endangered forests.  Lessons learned in the Zero Deforestation movement, such as in tracking commodity chain of custody to empower downstream consumers, will be leveraged and applied to other key sectors in the months and years to come.

Essentially, we’re now beginning to see the forest through the trees. The zero deforestation supply chain movement is part of a larger story that addresses the importance of on-the-ground efforts to tackle climate change on a global scale, one key sector at a time. With government gridlocked, "regulate by retail" is where visionary stakeholders are focusing their efforts - NGO, foundations, SRIs and leading companies -- to tackle climate change.  As a bridge builder between corporations and NGO, the right and the left, we look forward to playing our part in helping accelerate these critical sector shifts. 

Erik Wohlgemuth is COO at Future 500, a global nonprofit specializing in stakeholder engagement and building bridges between parties at odds – often corporations and NGOs, the political right and left, and others – to advance systemic solutions to environmental problems. 

CATEGORY: Environment