Deforestation is one of the biggest sustainability challenges of this generation. According to Green Action News, 80% of the earth’s forests have already been destroyed. This enormous issue is largely driven by the production of major commodities – including pulp and paper. In fact, the Environmental Paper Institute state that 42% of trees that get cut down are made into pulp for paper products.

The dangers of deforestation are largely well known. However, here are some hard-hitting facts to put the issue into sharp focus:

  • 300 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in the earth’s forests
  • 15% of all greenhouse gasses are a result of deforestation
  • 70% of all animals live in these forests, and 28,000 species are expected to become extinct by 2040 due to deforestation

As terrifying as the above statistics are, they are perhaps not the most surprising. Many people are aware of these dangers. But here is one fact that most people may not be aware of: deforestation is a leading cause of modern slavery.

Walk Free has estimated that there are an alarming 48.5 million people in modern slavery worldwide. The highest risk areas are less developed countries and industries involving raw materials – this applies to the timber industry, specifically the illegal logging side, where there is little to no regulation. Estimates for illegal logging can reach up to 50% of all logging in some countries – so publisher’s need to examine their supply chain with an eagle eye. With the Modern Slavery Act now on the UK statute book, businesses must be extremely diligent to ensure that no slavery is present at any level of their supply chain.

What can be done?

As a publishing company, there are countless ways to ensure your paper is sourced sustainably. There seems to be hundreds of initiatives, certifications and regulations attempting to ensure the sustainable harvesting of our forests. So much so that it becomes easy to feel lost and confused about the best ways to act. Here are our 5 top tips to guide you through:

1. Using recycled paper

this seems like an obvious choice, still, the benefits are inordinate. Each ton of recycled fibre that replaces a ton of virgin fibre saves 17 – 24 trees.

2. Understand the full impact of your supply chain

the EU timber regulation requires that all companies must come from a legal source; however, the WWF predicts that over half of timber products traded into the EU are not covered by EURT. Therefore, publishing companies should dig deeper to ensure that the timber they buy is sustainably sourced.

3. Sourcing certified products

a simple and easy way to ensure that materials are sustainably sourced. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is one of the most widely recognized certification schemes – why not follow in the footsteps of publishing giant Penguin Random House and aim to have 100% of all paper sourced from FSC certified suppliers by 2020?

4. Become a FSC certified publisher

one step beyond using certified products – getting certified! For this, an FSC chain of custody certification is required, which will enable using the FSC trademark on products.

5. Collaborating with other suppliers

The UN has heralded collaboration within the industry as a key tactic for ensuring sustainability along a company’s supply chain. By collaborating with other suppliers, publishing companies can become more effective by extending their reach, pools resources, reducing duplication and avoiding conflicting messages.

Understanding the impacts of deforestation and setting out a clear strategy is the key to avoiding the risks associated with deforestation. By having the will to embrace effective recycling systems, by judicious auditing of all elements of its supply chain, and by allying itself to well-respected and reliable certification schemes, the publishing industry can ensure it does not exacerbate deforestation and help to reduce the risks that deforestation already poses.

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We get that change is not easy. But we must be brave, challenge old ways, set new habits, embrace new thinking.