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Working together toward net zero deforestation

The Hamilton Spectator
October 13, 2017

So many of the products we buy in grocery chains, or retail clothing stores or over-the-counter at pharmacies, require packaging.

After all, food, clothing and non-prescription personal care products are among the so-called fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) that, together, require sizable resources in the form of boxes, cartons, wrappers, paper labels and the like.

But what does that have to do with Ducks Unlimited Canada? Quite a lot, it turns out.

Significantly, some 400 leading companies in the world – representing combined sales of about CAD$5 trillion and directly employing nearly 10 million people and a further 90 million related jobs estimated along the global value chain – have taken up this sustainability discussion in a serious way.

Through the Paris-based Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), these leading companies are collaborating with NGOs and government officials to reduce retail’s sustainability footprint while making sure these consumer goods remain safe and accessible.

From our perspective, since wetlands are so plentiful in forests, it’s a perfect opportunity for Ducks Unlimited Canada to showcase some of the work undertaken with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) on sustainable forest management research and wetlands stewardship.

In November 2010, CGF’s international board voted to mobilize resources within its membership to help achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. Individual company initiatives and broader partnerships with governments and NGOs would provide the vehicle to get there.

Central to achieving zero net deforestation is the elimination of illegal logging and permanent deforestation, and the flip side of that is the promotion of sustainable forest management that builds sustainable communities, maintains and even enhances biodiversity and habitat, and helps ensure healthy managed forests exist for the long run.

Our own partnership with SFI, a sustainability organization dedicated to future forests, merges our goals of wetland stewardship with SFI’s interest in healthy forests from sustainable forest management on the ground. Our collective vision is that Canada’s vast Boreal forest – home to half of all bird species in the country, a vital source of fresh water, enormous recreational opportunities and unsurpassed beauty as a result of its thousands of lakes, rivers and wetlands – remains for future generations.

The path forward on these important sustainability issues should always follow the signposts of innovation, collaboration and research, as our collective knowledge continually evolves, as the existing standards improve, and as management adapts.

Consider the work we’re undertaking with SFI. More than a certification body, SFI is working with us to develop best practices for planning and building forestry roads that help maintain wetland function, and building wetland training modules for forestry professionals. In short, the partnership helps ensure sustainable forestry can be practiced long into the future.

That’s important because that same partnership allows hundreds of forest communities and thousands of Canadians and their families to pursue sustainable livelihoods. And it puts products from well-managed forests into the hands of consumers who can be assured the forest is managed properly for the long term.

We’re also working in the challenging area of carbon, which is so central to the climate discussion. We’re partnering with the Saskatchewan Research Council, SFI, and SFI certified organizations to help understand how much carbon is stored both above and below ground level in wetlands. This will have important implications on the evolving discipline of carbon accounting.

There’s no question collaboration can be hard, costly work. So we’re pleased the CGF is continuing its important initiative to foster cooperative solutions on zero net deforestation. They will no doubt find many Indigenous communities, NGOs and countless others here who share their goals, just as we and our SFI partners share them.

But while investing in innovation doesn’t come cheap, the knowledge derived through partnerships is incredibly valuable – helping us, for example, to gauge and improve the effectiveness of certification programs in meeting societal needs.

Collectively, we have the scale and expertise to make a difference on zero net deforestation and other global goals. Let’s hope the CGF can help us combine those with the required dollars to ensure our collaborative efforts are truly scalable. In this way, consumers can gain even greater assurance that the goods they purchase come in packaging derived from sustainable forests.

Kevin Smith is National Manager, Boreal Programs, at Ducks Unlimited Canada.

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