Puma’s forest efforts prove how REDD+ matters to business

What are corporate leaders to do once they realize that their environmental impacts are significant and undercutting the very structure and function of the green infrastructure upon which we all rely? Honestly, business leaders will need to roll up their sleeves and begin to think about aspirational goals and systemic innovation around products, services and business models.

In the interim, while significant innovation is underway, it will be important to signal to investors and other stakeholders, “We’re working on it.” And that is where the (seemingly arcane) domain of forest carbon and REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) comes into the picture.

REDD+ offers one of the few areas of existing in-depth work in which corporate leaders can begin to understand how to measure natural capital and invest in its restoration with on-the-ground approaches. When designed well, REDD+ projects can address local community concerns and interests as well as offer new benefits. Those positives come from maintaining forests and addressing the reality of declining local income from extractive forest use.

Leaders at sportswear company Puma have jumped in with both feet. Following on the inaugural Environmental Profit and Loss Account and first biodegradable and recyclable Sportlifestyle collection — InCycle — the Puma Creative Factory in Rukinga, Kenya, shows how thinking about financial, natural and human capital can be integrated to drive innovative business models that leverage creativity from around the world.

Specifically, the Puma Creative Factory is part of a bigger initiative focused on driving investment into restoring and maintaining forests through a REDD+ project. This project, designed and managed by Wildlife Works, offers not only a way to offset carbon emissions, but also an opportunity to invest in sorely needed local jobs. In addition, by investing in this REDD+ project and others like it, corporate decision-makers have the opportunity to understand one approach to how natural capital can be measured, documented and monitored over time.

What does this mean on-the-ground? The PUMA partnership is further underlined by Kering having acquired a 5 percent stake in Wildlife Works Carbon last year, and this support as well as other initiatives associated with the REDD+ project in Kenya’s Kasigau Corridor have opened up a new set of economic opportunities for the local community. Support for the REDD+ project along with the Puma-sponsored factory is a source of jobs and pride for the community. The training and ongoing income generated through the factory helps families earn a source of income. The takeaway is not just a compelling product and story but also a new way of thinking about business investments in terms of a true triple bottom line.

So why aren’t all companies starting to invest in forest carbon and REDD+ projects?

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Image credit: CC license by Okko Pyykkö/Flickr