Responsible Sourcing and Renewable Materials: An Overlooked Defense Against Climate Change
An insightful look at how sustainable sourcing can help mitigate water and food security and global warming if products and processes actually work in cohesion to stimulate a circular economy.
November 23, 2015
by Elisabeth Comere, director of environment and government affairs, Tetra Pak Inc.
We are dangerously close to exceeding the 2°C tipping point which is predicted to cause catastrophic damages should we let it happen.
In light of this alarming reality, what should we expect leaders to focus on at COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (December 7-8, 2015 at the Stade de France , Paris), to stem the tide?
Energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, addressing deforestation and filling the financial gap for developing countries to better prepare for a changing climate are sure to be discussed.
For the private sector, clean technologies, driving emission reductions across global supply chains and leveraging public-private partnerships will be top of mind.
No better place to foster collaborations than The Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015 (SIF15) – the UN Environment Program’s official event at COP21 which includes 750 business leaders, investors, UN bodies, environment bodies, and city leaders from over 50 countries. Now in its 6th year, the forum has a track record of facilitating collaboration between businesses, governments, and NGOs to accelerate climate change solutions and bring scale to low carbon innovation.
Bold climate action is urgently needed.
The food and beverage industry is wise to take a stand given that food, water and other natural resources are at high risk due to global warming and resource depletion. A clear statement was made when 10 of the largest food and beverage companies pledged their commitment to reducing their climate impact and making the necessary shift towards environmental sustainability within their supply chains.
Many of them have set ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and driving sustainable sourcing across their value chain. Mars, Unilever and Nestlé, for example, have each pledged to achieve 100 percent renewable energy across their operations.
As businesses continue to explore the opportunities and advantages of adopting greener solutions, renewable materials are receiving growing interest across a range of industries primarily due to the concern over finite resources.
The paper, Exploring The Link Between Renewable Materials And Climate Change Mitigation, produced by Conservation International with the support of Tetra Pak, identified important climate benefits associated with use of renewable materials.
Plant-based renewable materials, such as wood fiber and sugarcane, are natural carbon sinks that help build resilient landscapes critical to managing climate change impacts. Not only does the responsible stewardship of these resources help impacted communities stay strong, but they also offer a viable alternative to finite and oftentimes carbon-intensive materials. However, not all renewables are created equally and we must pay particular attention to responsible sourcing to maximize environmental benefits.
At Tetra Pak, we strongly believe renewable materials and responsible sourcing are key to climate balance and addressing resource constraints.
As a major user of paperboard, we need to ensure that wood and wood-based materials are responsibly sourced and come from responsibly managed forests that use ethical and traceable sourcing practices.
When it comes to deforestation agendas at COP21, we are particularly interested in what will evolve from these discussions and if decisions are reached, how may it influence responsible sourcing of paperboard and other bio-based materials now and in the future?
Tetra Pak believes through working closely with local communities, they have the potential to bring about impactful environmental change and it begins with promotion and education programs.
In an effort to support smallholder plantations, in partnership with WWF, Tetra Pak is helping farmers develop the skill set they need to manage forests effectively and responsibly.
For example, our work to promote good practice and raise awareness of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) included a visit to Brazil where we facilitated a tour for Chinese farmers and representatives from the forestry industry to learn about best practices for responsible forestry management firsthand.
An additional tour was held in China focusing on the successful partnership between the China Green Carbon Foundation and the Zhengjiang Anji community of bamboo growers, and included representatives from our suppliers Stora Enso and Suzano.
The intention was to demonstrate to suppliers how responsible sourcing makes a difference with respect to real-world impact and the importance of working with downstream partners that meet high standards for environmental performance.
We are also supporting the WWF in its work to develop a group certification scheme for smallholders, with training workshops already under way in Chile and Bolivia. A Nature Value Assessment tool is being trialed with farmers in Chile and Panama, while a new licensing scheme for individuals carrying out High Conservation Value (HCV) assessments was launched at the end of 2014, and more than 50 new assessors have already gained their license.
Renewable materials and responsible sourcing do not simply contribute to lower GHG emissions but these practices lead to a greener more sustainable economy which restores natural capital and thrives on lower levels of GHG emissions.
The time is now for companies and government to do more, to stand out as climate leaders and set the course for a transformation towards a sustainable low carbon future.
Elisabeth is a regular contributor Triple Pundit, CSRwire, The Environmental Leader and Tetra Pak’s micro site, Doing What’s Good.