by Rikke Netterstrom
Over the past years, the drive to end deforestation has gained strong momentum. Your child’s Barbie doll is now wrapped in deforestation-free packaging, your favourite donut brands Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts have stepped up commitments and plans to end deforestation and in the bathroom, your Old Spice deodorant and Dove shower gel can be indulged without worrying about threats to the habitats of tigers and orang-utans. Previously sceptical NGOs are now starting to recognise these commitments; in June 2015, the hashtag #Nutellagate trended as Greenpeace publicly corrected a French Minister who had advocated a palm oil boycott, and defended the beloved hazelnut spread on social media. On the commodity producer side, the palm oil industry has taken the lead – with large-scale traders and growers such as Cargill and Wilmar leading the way and many smaller producers following suit. In July, First Resources, a company with a controversial past, became the latest palm oil producer to commit to a zero deforestation policy and others are reportedly finalising policies banning deforestation and development on peat. Beyond palm oil, the pulp and paper industry are also coming on board. Asia Pulp and Paper blazed the trail with their 2012 commitment, and in June 2015 APRIL joined the fray.
This is great news for the campaigners who have worked tirelessly to push towards explicit policies – but now the real work begins and these companies will need to ensure and prove that illegal and irresponsible products do not make their way into their complex supply chains.
One of the methodologies gaining real traction is the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach, originally developed in 2011-2012 in response to a clear need for a practical and cost-effective way forward for implementing No Deforestation commitments. The methodology is a breakthrough that allows prevention of greenhouse gas emissions combined with biodiversity conservation with the aim of conserving ecologically viable areas of natural forest. It is a land-use planning tool that identifies degraded lands on which it is possible to continue the expansion of oil palm, pulp and paper or rubber plantations, subject to legal requirements and free, prior and informed consent from communities. In guiding practitioners through scientifically based methods in stratifying and classifying vegetative cover, the HCS Approach addresses the problems of broad definitions of ‘forest’ and poorly identified conservation areas.
Companies can adopt the approach through the use of the HCS Approach Toolkit, which was designed to provide complete technical guidance for the practical implementation of the HCS methodology. The Toolkit enables experienced practitioners to undertake their own HCS assessments, integrate them with other tools such as High Conservation Value assessments and Free, Prior and Informed Consent principles, and create an integrated land use plan for a plantation concession in a forested area. It is a simple tool that takes practitioners through the steps in identifying HCS forest, from initial stratification of the vegetation using satellite images and field plots to making the final conservation and land use map.
The HCS Approach Toolkit was launched in March of 2015, and has been tested in pilot palm oil and pulp and paper concessions in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Liberia. Various consumer companies including Mars, Nestle, Colgate Palmolive and Unilever, refer to the HCS methodology in their responsible sourcing policies. To ensure the methodology and Toolkit is consistently followed, a set of quality assurance requirements is currently being developed. These requirements will include transparency of reports and maps, independent expert reviews and 3rd party assessments.
Almost as important as the tools to identify and classify forest is the ability to monitor compliance and progress and flag where commitments are not being met. Global Forest Watch (GFW) is an interactive online forest monitoring and alert system designed to provide this information. GFW uses cutting edge technology and science to provide timely and precise information about the status of forest landscapes worldwide, including near-real-time alerts showing suspected locations of recent tree cover loss. GFW is free and simple to use, enabling anyone to create custom maps, analyze forest trends, subscribe to alerts, or download data for their local area or the entire world. Users can also contribute to GFW by sharing data and stories from the ground via GFW’s crowdsourcing tools, blogs, and discussion groups. Special “apps” provide detailed information for companies that wish to reduce the risk of deforestation in their supply chains, users who want to monitor fires across Southeast Asia, and more.
GFW is a growing partnership of organisations contributing data, technology, funding, and expertise. The GFW partnership is convened by the World Resources Institute.