By Morten Brodde, FSC Denmark
In 2015, Apple and WWF announced a collaboration with a clear goal: to improve the management of up to 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of forest in China, which provide fibre for pulp, paper, and wood products.
When the project was announced in 2015, it was described as “an opportunity to position China as a country that uses less land, water and pollution to produce paper, while still meeting the high and growing demand for paper products. This approach to forest management is increasingly common in China but not yet widespread.”
The project is not only a WWF and Apple collaboration, it also involves numerous Chinese stakeholders as key partners. “WWF is not fighting its own battle – we cannot make any progress without some of our key partners. The China State Forest Administration (SFA), who we have built relationship with for some time, is the foundation of the whole project,” explained Pengyu Li, Forest Program Officer, WWF-China, and went on to emphasize other important partners including FSC China, local communities, forest managers, pulp, paper, and wood products manufactures, and consumers.
129,000 ha of forest FSC certified
One of WWF and Apple’s five-year project objectives is to secure FSC certification for up to 120,000 hectares of semi-natural and plantation forests in China that supply pulp and paper manufactures. Pengyu Li revealed that this objective was achieved in the summer of 2017, two years ahead of schedule.
“We supported two companies who have operations across four Chinese provinces, and one of the two companies is actually a really large public listed company in the paper-producing sector and has both regional and national influence,” said Pengyu Li. He also explained that WWF has helped the two companies gain competence in key forest management practices, and identification and monitoring of high conservation values in terms of better forest management.
Consumer campaign and industry alliance
Another objective of the WWF and Apple collaboration is to create long-term market incentives in China’s domestic markets for forest products from responsible sources. This objective has a company-and-consumer focus and there has been progress in both areas: “We have successfully launched the China Sustainable Paper Alliance last year, which engages leading Chinese companies to produce and source forest products that are responsibly sourced with FSC focus. This year we have the annual meeting where concrete and solid action plans will be initiated,” explained Pengyu Li. “We need to have big focus on the consumers. We have run a series of activities around this topic and one significant activity is called Sustainable Consumption Week, an annual event week across the whole of China, where many large retailers promote their sustainable commodities with forest products being a key part of it.”
The consumer activities also included celebrity spokespersons, events, and advertisements.
Do Chinese consumers care about the forests?
During the session, several questions were raised. One attendee asked whether the younger Chinese generations are willing to buy sustainably sourced products and whether they are interested in sustainable consumption.
“There is a new publication from August this year made by WWF and a Chinese retail association that studied the awareness among consumers,” explained Li Chao, Director in FSC China. “The awareness of FSC is 15 per cent – it’s quite high to be honest and the result sounds quite reasonable.”