Has there ever been a time in human history when we’ve had more choice? Most definitely not. But there has also never been a time when our choices are so heavily weighted with consequence. We all have a part to play in fighting climate change and our money is a powerful force in that battle. We often look at certifications on products to determine their authenticity, but they are also valuable in helping us to understand the environmental impact of our purchases.
The scale and impact of deforestation is staggering
According to the World Bank, 1.3 million square kilometres of forest were lost between 1990 and 2016. More than half of this was through farming, livestock grazing and mining, but logging operations certainly contributed. It’s a global issue because forests are quite rightly described as ‘the lungs of the earth’ and their permanent destruction has and is having devastating implications for climate change and habitat loss across the whole world. But it’s important to remember that these forests are also home to people and local economies: an estimated 1.6 billion people relying on forests for their livelihoods, food, fuel for cooking and heating, medicine, shelter and clothing.
Preserving the integrity of forests for everyone
Environmental organisations often talk about the preserving the ‘integrity of the forest’, which is shorthand for saying that while there is an acknowledged need for forest-derived products, both locally and internationally, there is a way to work with the ecosystem, rather than against it. High standards of environmental management can hugely mitigate the negative effects of deforestation on ecosystems, putting in place a solid strategy around the way that forests are ‘farmed’, as well as the conditions in which workers operate, local communities are impacted, and biodiversity is maintained. Well-managed forests take into account the following principles:
It is an undertaking of real complexity, but it being delivered effectively in thousands of forests around the world. Through it, and associated certification programmes such as the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) forest-derived products can enter the market in a responsible and sustainable fashion that supports livelihoods – giving businesses and consumers the means to make informed choices and buy ethically.
Being the change you want to see
When forest-derived products enter the market, this clearly cannot and does not happen by itself. There are literally thousands of organisations, charities, institutions and companies that are working every day to oversee that products entering the market are the result of end-to-end high standards in the treatment of the forests, as well as the wood that is harvested and the people who work with it. When you purchase forest-derived items that show the FSC or PEFC logo, it means that you are choosing a sustainably produced product over one that is not. In a competitive world, everyone making the ethical choice can literally mean that non-ethical choices cease to exist. This is something that you have the power to achieve individually or collectively by checking for these (and other important sustainability standards) when you shop, and asking for sustainable options in other settings, like sports clubs, restaurants and more.
For businesses, it’s not only about ensuring that the supply chain of products manufactured and sold are adhering to the highest standards, but what employees consume in the course of working days should also be procured to sustainable standards – that includes everything from printer papers to toilet roll. Every organisation should make an assessment of their procurement policies and make sure that everything that can be done, is done, so everyone feels confident that the forest-derived materials that are in everyday use (and there are a lot of them!) come from forests that are responsibly managed.
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