World Environment Day 2021: Celebrating Sappi’s role in restoring ecosystems

#GenerationRestoration. That’s the theme for this year’s World Environment Day which also marks the launch of the United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.   

It’s a theme that has particular resonance for Sappi, given that our strong belief that responsible forestry plays a key role in building a bio-based future as we restore, conserve and/or maintain biodiversity and natural forest areas.  

The key here is ‘responsible’. While the deforestation of endangered tropical forests is a significant source of greenhouse gas emission and thereby cause for concern, we can confidently say that our sourcing practices cause zero deforestation. What’s more, forests and forestry play an important role in mitigating climate change and reducing deforestation and forest degradation lowers greenhouse emissions. In addition, sustainable forest management can maintain or enhance forest carbon stocks and sinks, while wood products can store carbon over the long term and can substitute for emissions-intensive materials. All of these are important, because to maintain healthy ecosystems – estimated to hold the key to one third of the climate solution –  we need to stay below a 2°C global temperature rise. 

 As our primary input, woodfibre is a natural resource, we depend on ecosystem services such as healthy soils, clean water, pollination and a stable climate. Against this backdrop, working to increase our positive contribution to maintaining and restoring healthy ecosystems is not only the right thing to do, it makes sound business sense. Accordingly, our sustainable forestry practices promote clean air and water and protect biodiversity, among many other critical benefits.  

These practices and those of our suppliers are validated by independent forest certification audits which take place in the well-managed forests and plantations from which we source woodfibre. We strive to continually increase the share of certified woodfibre supplied to our mills. 

In South Africa, where we are one of the country’s major landowners, we have a particular responsibility to manage biodiversity in accordance with best practice principles. Of our 394,000 hectares of owned and leased land, approximately one third is managed for biodiversity conservation. We have approximately 160 Important Conservation Areas (ICAs) on our land and seven declared nature reserves. In addition, we have established a biodiversity target in terms of which we have established a 2025 target to enhance biodiversity in our conservation areas by 10% per annum. 

While we do not own land in the other regions in which we operate, we also work to restore ecosystems.  At Kirkniemi Mill in Finland, for example, we are involved in a project to build fish passages in order to restore salmon stocks and freshwater pearl mussel populations in the Mustionjoki River.  In North America, Sappi is a member of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®). The Maine SFI® Implementation Committee is deploying trail cameras to survey carnivore species in areas across the state of Maine to assess the variation in occupancy probabilities between different forest stand types and ages, harvest histories, landscape configuration, latitudes, and other anthropogenic influences to investigate how timber harvesting may influence carnivore distributions of conservation interest. Our shared commitment to SFI’s Principles of Sustainability is demonstrated in our procurement operations, sourcing policies, rigorous due diligence system, supplier engagement, investment in research and community outreach, staff training, and countless other activities.  For example, Sappi’s support for the Ruffed Grouse Society helps create healthy forest habitat for the benefit of ruffed grouse, American Woodcock and other forest-dependent wildlife. We also support the University of Minnesota Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative that offers continuing education opportunities to forestry and natural resource professionals in a broad range of fields. 

 As we celebrate World Environment Day, we can be proud of our commitment to maintaining and restoring ecosystems and we can look forward to intensifying this commitment in the next decade – and beyond. 

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