By 2100, there will be no rainforests left
You read that right. Current rates of deforestation will destroy all rainforests on earth in less than 100 years. In addition to the worldwide ecological disaster, this will also adversely affect the livelihoods of the 1.6 billion people who rely on forest resources. That’s 25% of the global population that will not be able to feed themselves, or have a roof over their heads. In the last five years alone, the Asia-Pacific region lost the equivalent of 10 million square metres of primary forest every year. Businesses across industries face an existential risk – apart from that depend directly on forest products like paper and timber, the FMCG sector is also vulnerable as they stand to have their supply chains disrupted.
Luckily, businesses are starting to lead by example in using our forests and land responsibly. In 2012, Kimberly-Clark became the first U.S. tissue maker that offered a range of products meeting the Forest Stewardship Council’s requirements of responsible sourcing. They’ve also set a goal to source 90% of all fibre from environmentally preferable sources like FSC-certified fibre and recycled fibre. We had a chance to speak with Randy Jusuf, Managing Director for ASEAN, where he shared with us the importance of balancing forest protection with profit.
“It is very important for us to be profitable.. but we want to do it responsibly”
Businesses stepping in for sustainable forest use
For those of us living in Singapore, the yearly haze crisis has made the subject of palm oil fairly commonplace. Illegal plantations and man-made fires in Indonesia and Malaysia has led to more CO2 being released into the atmosphere per day than the entire U.S. economy. The severity of the situation has led to some much needed change in business as usual.
To ensure responsible palm production, 100% of L’Oréal’s palm oil is certified through RSPO, a non profit organisation that developed a set of environmental and social criteria to minimise the negative impact of palm oil cultivation. L’Oréal has also started to map their entire supply chain since 2014 in order to ensure sustainable sourcing of all of their products.
Being one of the largest users of wood in the retail sector, IKEA has also stepped up to improve their supply chains.
“We won’t be here as a business in 50 years if we don’t take care of the forests”
says, Malcolm Pruys, the Head of Sales at IKEA for Southeast Asia. Apart from working with WWF to combat illegal logging, their IWAY Forestry Standard sets clear requirements for all wood they use – including a ban on wood that has been illegally harvested from sources involved in forest-related social conflicts or High Conservation Value Forests. All suppliers must comply with the standard before they can start deliveries.
Startups reversing the deforestation trend
And it’s not just MNC’s, there are several innovative startups that have sprung up around the world to address the challenges faced by their local forest ecosystems.
To prevent illegal logging, Topher White transforms recycled cell-phones to become solar-powered listening devices that can detect chainsaw activity. His startup Rainforest Connection provides real-time data of illegal logging, and the information is shared to anyone around the world who can alert local communities or the authorities. Their work in Sumatra has helped reduce illegal logging activity.
Afforestt is a startup in India that found a way to turn urban areas to natural forests. By using the ‘Miyawaki technique’, they create natural forests that can grow in backyards and office spaces 10 times faster than traditional forests.
Like Afforestt, Groasis also allows for reforestation in unconventional areas by drastically reducing water use. Employing a biomimicry technology that uses 90% less water than drip irrigation, it saw the reforestation of over 2 billion hectares of wasteland.
Business are working to solve the source of the problem – unsustainable consumption, and startups are stepping in to reverse the trend and bring positive change to forest ecosystems around the world. And not a moment too soon, for it will take this combined effort from all stakeholders to match the scale of the challenge before us.
This article is part of our monthly series of insights to help leaders discover business value through a social and environmental purpose.
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