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Interactive Forestry Tool Aims to Lower Viscose-Sourcing Risks

Canopy wants to bring conservation science to the boardroom.

The Canadian forestry not-for-profit last week launched a free online tool to help pulp- and lumber-sourcing businesses identify—and avoid—ancient and endangered forests across the globe, from the boreal forests in the Great White North to the rainforests of Indonesia. 

ForestMapper is the first interactive map of its kind, according to Canopy, which rallied designers, brands and retailers such as C&A, Eileen Fisher, H&M, Kering, Marks & Spencer and Stella McCartney to eliminate the use of ancient and endangered fibers in their rayon, modal and viscose clothing through its CanopyStyle initiative. (The aforementioned companies helped fund the development of the tool as well.)

Roughly 70 million to 100 million trees are logged annually to produce pulp for rayon, viscose, modal and other cellulosic fibers, Canopy noted. With demand for dissolving pulp projected to increase by 122 percent in the next 40 years, the cellulosic-fiber industry poses an increasing risk to threatened forest ecosystems.

ForestMapper, said Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s founder and director, can serve as a “one-stop shop” for brands seeking to assess and mitigate their supply-chain risks, protect biodiverse ecosystems and further their sustainability goals. 

“Canopy works on the ground with local NGO partners and communities to decrease pressure on ancient and endangered Forests. We bring this reality into boardrooms of some of the largest companies in the world who, in turn, work with us improve the sustainability performance of their viscose, paper and packaging products,” Rycroft told Sourcing Journal. “We developed ForestMapper to bridge that gap—to help brands have a better understanding of what’s actually happening on the ground and where they are sourcing. It enables brands to make better decisions based on science, which helps them reach their sustainability goals, as well as contribute to the global push to stem species decline and climate change.”

Because large forests are massive carbon sinks, halting and even reversing deforestation can provide up to 30 percent of the mitigation action needed to limit climate change’s worst effects, according to Conservation International.

The fashion industry is already benefiting from ForestMapper’s data, which has been used in the CanopyStyle Audits, Rycroft said.

“These independent third-party audits have concluded that 31 percent of the global viscose supply has been verified at ‘low risk’ of being sourced from ancient and endangered forests,” she said. “Brands from all over the world now have this new information to take into consideration when making sourcing choices.”

Rycroft said Canopy will support businesses that uncover risks in their supply chain to conduct “additional diligence” with their suppliers. Meanwhile, producers operating in areas that contain ancient and endangered forests will be encouraged to work with local partners to establish rigorous conservation planning in the region. Such planning, she added, will help identify which areas need to be conserved or restored and which will support sustainable forestry.

“We applaud Canopy’s work in linking forest conservation to supply chains and providing companies with a roadmap to source more responsibly,” Géraldine Vallejo, director of sustainability programs at Kering, said in a statement. “ForestMapper is an important science-based tool to help verify Kering’s supply chains to ensure that we do not have any negative impacts on these important natural systems. The business community needs to make every effort to protect and steward old-growth forests so that they remain functioning systems for long-term resilience against climate change.”

The tool is available at www.canopyplanet.org/tools/forestmapper/.

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