May is such a wonderful time of year. The beauty of nature unfolds in such abundance. Sometimes the best reminder to protect our planet happens when we get outside in these warmer months and connect with it. One of the world’s most well known organisations helping people witness, appreciate and protect wildlife is World Wildlife Fund.  They are also a critical part of the EPN ecosystem of member organisations working together to transform the production and consumption of paper.

This month I had the chance to speak with Keila Hand, Senior Program Officer of Paper and Packaging for the Global Forest & Trade Network – North America program (GFTN-NA)  at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). keila_hand_120x150

SB: Thanks for taking the time to share with us Keila. First of all, I’d like to say congratulations on the recent announcement that International Paper has become the newest participant of WWF’s Global Forest  & Network-North America. The GFTN is a brilliant collaboration doing amazing conservation work for our forests—can you briefly describe its work for readers?  

KH: The Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) is a WWF initiative to eliminate illegal logging and promote environmentally and socially responsible forest management. Its goal is to create a new market for responsible forest products. Since 1991, market-driven demands from GFTN participants have increased the economic incentives for responsible forest management. This helps to ensure that millions of acres of forests are independently and credibly certified, a guarantee that the forests are well-managed and those products coming from those forests are legal and sustainable.

International Paper joins a network of more than 200 companies and communities around the globe committed to the responsible forest management and sourcing of forest products that are working with GFTN to achieve Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management certification, evaluate their procurement, and implement appropriate action plans to ensure responsible sourcing and sustainable supply.

As Suzanne Apple, World Wildlife Fund’s vice president of Business and Industry, said, “By joining GFTN and increasing it’s sourcing of credibly certified fibre, International Paper – as the world’s largest paper and packaging company – can use its purchasing power to drive improvements in responsible forestry around the globe. This kind of leadership is critical to conserving the places and species we are working so hard to protect.”

The GFTN’s global-to-local, on-the-ground presence mirrors the global forest industry by maintaining a global network of national or regional GFTN offices, which provide knowledge and technical assistance in over 30 producing and consuming countries throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.

GFTN participants worldwide trade more than 300 million metric tons of forest products, with 89 million metric tons of that volume currently credibly certified. The ten participants of GFTN-North America trade over 140 million metric tons of forest products, sourced from some of the world’s most diverse and valuable places.

SB:  What kinds of new opportunities for our forests and wildlife does International Paper’s participation in GFTN create?

KH: Working  with  IP  represents  a  great  opportunity  for  WWF  to  influence  responsible forestry and  catalyze transformational  change in the pulp and paper sector. Because IP sources from  millions  of  hectares  of  forests  and  plantations  around  the  globe  (North  America,  South America, Europe, Asia), the company is in an important position to influence global forest  management positively.

GFTN considers independent, multi-stakeholder-based forest certification a vital tool in promoting forest conservation, and  it helps  infuse  the  principles  of  responsible  forest  management  and  trade practices throughout the supply chain. The collaboration will leverage IP’s global presence, which overlaps with some of WWF’s highest priority conservation countries, like Brazil, and it’s commitment towards third party certification as an opportunity to transform other players in the pulp and paper supply chain, including suppliers, clients and competitors.

SB: It’s my understanding that you came to WWF after having worked for some time inside the paper industry. How does your experience help you to be a better advocate for WWF’s projects to reduce the environmental impact of the industry?

KH: My experience with the pulp and paper industry provided me with knowledge and background that are invaluable to the work I do today at WWF. In my current role I engage with leading North American companies that participate in the GFTN-NA program, as they develop and implement responsible sourcing commitments for paper, tissue and paper-based packaging. I work with companies to help them understand the forest sources of the fibre used to produce their products, develop and implement responsible sourcing policies, engage with suppliers and avoid risks associated with illegal and unwanted sources, and increase the amount of FSC-certified or recycled fibre in their supply chain. This requires a holistic understanding of the industry and its production processes, sourcing practices, supply-chain, and environmental and forestry stewardship, which I was fortunate to gain while working in the pulp and paper sector in the U.S. and Brazil. 

Since I joined WWF, I have had the chance to interact with industry stakeholders globally through WWF’s GFTN and also through WWF’s New Generation Plantations Project. During this time I have realized that the pulp and paper industry has come a long way regarding improving its environmental and forestry stewardship globally. I have had the chance to engage with companies who are striving to promote responsible pulpwood sourcing, clean pulp and paper production, responsible paper use, and transparency across the pulp and paper sector.

However, I have also witnessed that some actors in the industry are still leaving an unacceptably large ecological footprint on the planet, which taints the reputation of the industry and undermines the efforts made by responsible players. Unfortunately, poor manufacturing practices, unsustainable pulpwood harvesting and the conversion of natural forest for the establishment of pulpwood plantations are still threatening fragile ecosystems and wildlife, creating social problems and contributing to climate change.

After having worked for some time in the paper industry and having been through the nuts and bolts of paper making, and now having the chance to collaborate with responsible producers and buyers, I believe that it is possible to meet the rising demand for wood-based products while conserving the world’s forests. Both producers and consumers have an important role to play in helping to achieve that vision, starting by simply asking: where does the wood to make that product come from?  By buying products that are made with recycled materials or FSC certified fibre we can help to ensure that the paper and paper packaging products we consume come from responsible sources.

SB: I’ve been reading the Living Forests Report, especially Chapter 4 “Forests and Wood Products” and noticed that you were involved in the report’s development. What is one of the most interesting pieces of information or conclusion in the report from your perspective?

KH: Thank you. I am glad you have had the chance to read WWF’s Living Forests Report, and I highly recommend it to the readers of this interview. It’s a fascinating publication resulting from ongoing conversation between WWF, policymakers, researchers, and businesses about how to protect, conserve, sustainably use, and govern the world’s forests in the 21st century.

The report aims to create a dialogue on the future role and value of forests in a world where humanity is living within the Earth’s ecological limits and sharing its resources equitably, which is not the case currently. As Jim Leape, WWF International Director-General says in the report “We are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal. We are using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can provide, and unless we change course that number will grow fast – by 2030, even two planets will not be enough”. Chapter Four looks at how we can meet the rising demand for wood-based products while conserving the world’s forests.

The most interesting findings from Chapter Four is that the amount of wood harvested  from forests and plantations each year may need to triple to be able to meet the growth in demand by 2050. In 2010, global reported wood removals amounted to 3.4 billion m3, which is a lot of wood! But, total removals were even higher than that, due to illegal or unreported wood harvesting. To triple that number, we would need to plant 250 million hectares of new tree plantations between 2010 and 2050, and another 242-304 million hectares of natural forest would need to be managed for commercial harvesting during that period – up to 25 per cent more than today.

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SB:  WWF worked with EPN to create a Fact Sheet called, The Big Picture, which describes how different NGO tools for assessing risk and responsibility in the paper supply chain complement each other and communicate a consistent message. Now, you’ve invited 70 leading companies to provide information for WWF’s Environmental Paper Company Index. Why should these companies respond?

KH: Interest in procurement of paper-based products produced in a responsible manner is growing. Concerned consumers, retailers, investors, communities, governments, and other groups increasingly want to know that in buying and consuming these products they are making positive social and environmental contributions. The Environmental Paper Company Index is a WWF tool to promote transparency in the sector. By disclosing their environmental footprint through this tool companies will show environmental leadership while answering questions stakeholders often ask, such as: how do you ensure the fibres you procure come from responsibly managed forest and how clean and efficient is your production.

The shared commitment to transparency demonstrated by the organisations who participate in the Paper Company Environmental Index is particularly appreciated within the context of promoting the comparability and accessibility of information coming from different companies, producing different paper grades.

By improving the information base upon which consumers, companies and governments make decisions the companies participating in the Environmental Paper Company Index will be helping to grow the demand for responsibly produced paper-based goods. Growing demand for responsibly produced paper-based goods can lead to improved forest management on the ground, so it’s good for forest and for business.

SB: What are some ways that you stay inspired and connected to the outdoors and the beautiful places you work to protect?

KH:  Fortunately, my work enables me to travel and spend time in some of the world’s most valuable and threatened forests. I have gotten to see responsible forest management and trade practices in places like the U.S., Brazil, South Africa, Portugal, Russia and China. These visits have helped keep me connected to nature and fostered a deeper appreciation for the impact that responsible forestry practices are having on our world. Also, I try to go back to my hometown whenever possible. I grew up in the Northwest part of Brazil very close to the Amazon forests, where I have spent a lot of time swimming on crystal clear streams, hiking, bird watching, and just simply spending time. I can remember clearly the smell of wet vegetation after a strong rainstorm, and feel the humid sensation that is so particular to tropical forests. Those memories keep on inspiring my work every day.

SB: WWF is a household name, well known for protecting wildlife and their habitats. What is something most people don’t know about WWF?

KH: Yes, you are right Suzanna. WWF is well known for its mission to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth, but the way we work to achieve that mission has adapted over time to include strategies that can maximize our impact.

One of these strategies is to work with major companies and their supply chains to change the way key global commodities are produced, processed, consumed and financed worldwide. By working with these companies, WWF seeks to reduce the negative impact that these commodities and sectors have on the most ecologically important places and species on Earth. For that reason we work with pulp and paper companies committed to promote responsible forest management and clean production.

As market demand for food, fibre and fuel increases in the coming decades, so will the impact on our planet’s natural resources. The effect on biodiversity is, however, not just linked to global demand, but also to where and how companies and their supply chains obtain and process these vital commodities. Today, over-fishing, deforestation, species loss, pollution, water scarcity and climate change are critical environmental challenges linked to the production and consumption of basic commodities that are both renewable (e.g. timber, crops, livestock and fish) and non-renewable (e.g. minerals, oil and gas).

Together with large retailers, manufacturers, traders and investors, commodities can be produced more efficiently and responsibly. In creating demand for such products, significant environmental results can be achieved and markets will become more sustainable. 

WWF focuses its efforts on commodities and sectors that most impact the planet’s critical regions for biodiversity conservation and those that contribute to humanity’s footprint: Forests (timberpulp and paper); Fisheries (whitefishtuna); Aquaculture (salmon, and shrimp); Agriculture (soycottonpalm oilsugarcane, and livestock (beef and dairy); Bio-energy (produced from agriculture and forestry).

SB:  WWF is an important part of the coalition at the EPN. How does WWF utilize EPN and benefit from being a member of EPN?  How does one of the largest conservation groups in the world benefit from collaboration?

KH: We believe that collaboration is key to achieving conservation. Being a member of EPN has allowed us to learn and exchange experiences with an extensive network of highly committed and knowledgeable professionals, aligned with our goal of influencing the industry towards better sourcing and production practices.  As you mentioned before, our organisations offer tools that complement each other, and provide a great array of resources to aid both manufacturers and buyers on their procurement decisions. We look forward to the continued collaboration.

Thanks for getting to know Keila Hand and WWF. Please keep an eye out in June for our next featured member.