Canopy works with the forest industry’s biggest customers and their suppliers to develop business solutions that protect the world’s Ancient and Endangered Forests. The not-for-profit is a founding member of the Environmental Paper Network. EPN reached out to Lee-Ann Unger – Senior Corporate Campaigner at Canopy.

EPN: Hi Lee-Ann, would you explain how you got involved in ENGO work? 
Lee-Ann Unger: I’ve been already engaged in forest conservation work for nearly 22 years and I started in British Columbia (BC), Canada. My first project was with the Forest at Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. This is one of the most significant remaining areas of temperate rainforest globally. And now I still have the pleasure to work and live here and be engaged in saving the world’s forests. 

And what can you tell us about the history of Canopy? 
Nicole Rycroft founded Canopy in 1999 because she identified the need for an organization to be active in the marketplace in order to transform the supply chains of corporations. Canopy started to work with the paper industry and it grew from there into other branches. What really put Canopy on the map was the greening of the Harry Potter books series. Due to Canopy’s engagement, Harry Potter was printed on 100% post consumer recycled paper. And that was difficult at that time because there were not many alternative papers on the market but It showed the competition what was possible. Today there are hundreds of alternative papers on the market. From there we grew into other branches. Like our CanopyStyle campaign that aims to transform the industry for cellulosic fiber to reduce the impact the fashion sector has on the world’s forests. 

Does Canopy have a geographical focus?  
Our work is global in scope, both with the brands and producers we engage and in our forest conservation efforts. Protecting the world’s remaining Ancient and Endangered Forests is key to biodiversity and to tackling the climate crises. Our aim is to contribute to the protection of 30% of the world’s forests by 2030. 

Isn’t it a certain danger for ENGOs like Canopy that working in the marketplace can be misused for greenwashing by corporate players? 
We are fully aware of this and this is why Canopy does not enter into any kind of financial relationship with the companies. We stay completely independent and our funding comes from foundations and other philanthropic sources. This is fundamental for our model. Due to our work, major global brands are sending strong signals to the markets that forests matter and that there are alternatives such as next generation solutions including agricultural residues as raw material sources. 

Are there limits of growth for the global paper industry? 
Definitely. This is why we have a number of steps that we apply when working with a company.  Once a company commits to join for instance our Pack4Good Initiative we encourage them to look at reducing their fibre use overall through innovative packaging design. We are also working with markets to implement alternatives to fibre from forests such as recycled and next generation solutions  and as is possible, to drop disposable products. And there are already a number of remarkable alternatives in practice. 

What are the biggest challenges for the paper industry to become truly sustainable? 
There are a number of things: The first one is reduction. We have to reduce the amount of packaging used and, over time, get rid of single use altogether. I know that this is an ambitious target but at Canopy we think that this is key. The other pieces we have to prioritize are our work on alternatives. We have to make sure that recycled and post consumer recycled inputs are growing significantly and that we scale up next generation solutions such as fibre agricultural residue.

What is the value for being an EPN Member for your organization? 
There is a tremendous benefit for coming together and to work jointly for global solutions. And all the NGOs in EPN have an important role to play. We have to bring together the whole diversity and knowledge of the NGO community in order to save the world’s endangered forests. It is not a one size fit all or cookie-cutter approach. The diversity in EPN makes our movement even stronger. 

Thanks so much 🙂 

Learn more about the Next Generation Solutions and Canopy’s work on their website