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Four lessons from a journey to be forest positive

Sponsored: We all depend on healthy forests — and so does our economy. Here are key lessons from a company aiming to counteract deforestation for their products.

Monte Pascoal National Park

Monte Pascoal National Park (Portuguese: Parque Nacional e Histórico do Monte Pascoal) is a national park in the state of Bahia, Brazil. The park is classified as IUCN protected area category II. Image courtesy of Flavio Forner / Conservation International.

This article is sponsored by HP, Inc.

HP recognizes the massive importance of forests to the world's ecosystems and the global multifaceted efforts to address climate change. Global Forest Watch reported that 27.4 million acres of tree cover were lost in 2021 — about the size of  Virginia — making forests a corporate sustainability priority is both essential and urgent.

HP is leading by example with a strategy to be Forest Positive by 2030, which is our ambition to counteract deforestation associated with our products. Recognizing the magnitude of this task, we’re working with several conservation experts to exponentially increase our impact. At the recent GreenBiz VERGE22 event, I had the honor of hosting a panel with four of these leading conservation experts: Sheila Bonini, senior vice president, private sector engagement at World Wildlife Fund (WWF); Anna Rathmann, executive director at the Jane Goodall Institute USA; Bambi Semroc, senior vice president, sustainable lands and waters at Conservation International; and Ben Wilinsky, director of partnerships and innovation at the Arbor Day Foundation.

Since 2016, HP brand paper has been derived from recycled or certified sources, and since 2020 this has also been the case for HP’s paper-based packaging for home and office printers and supplies, PCs and displays. Now we are working to counteract deforestation linked to the fiber of non-HP paper used in our printing products and services.

Becoming Forest Positive is a journey filled with both obstacles and lasting rewards. Here are four key lessons we’ve learned so far:

Lesson 1: Recognize we all have a vested interest in forests

Prioritizing forests is important because we’re all inextricably linked to forests, regardless of industry, product or service.

Forests provide more than just the paper used in stationery, signs, marketing materials, invoices and the like — they’re also major source of food, medicine, wood furnishings, fuel and building materials too. Forests also filter the air we breathe and the water we drink. According to WWF’s recently released Vitality of Forests report, healthy forests serve as our first line of defense against the spread of infectious diseases from wildlife to humans. WWF has stated that nearly one in three outbreaks of new and emerging infectious diseases are linked to deforestation and other land-use change.

And forests are a major source of jobs and economic stability that benefit us all.

"About 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, and about 70 million indigenous people live in and around forest areas and really rely on forests for their essential needs every day," Semroc told our audience at GreenBiz’s VERGE22. "We know that forests can provide about 86 million jobs globally, and we need those jobs to be sustained into the future. The only way to do that is by continuing to invest in forests, communities and forest landscapes."

Lesson 2: See the forest for more than the trees

Jane Goodall, renowned ethologist and conservationist, often tells the story of flying over Gombe National Park, Tanzania, in the 1980s inspired her to holistically protect and restore forests. The aerial view of the site where she did her seminal research on chimpanzees. "She’s so saddened by what she sees," Rathmann tells the VERGE22 audience, "because as she was traversing this broad landscape, that island of green was the National Park, and all around it was deforested. Jane recognized what that means for the chimpanzees that she was studying and the research — those chimpanzees that changed the way that we see ourselves in the world and our relationship to animals."

Like the chimpanzees that Goodall studied, forests are complex living organisms. The benefits of forest restoration, protection and responsible management extend far beyond the forests themselves, to the role they play in carbon capture, as well as in watershed improvements, support of animal and plant biodiversity, and improving sustainability of rural communities’ livelihoods.

Our forest positive work with organizations such as Conservation International also serves to support Indigenous peoples and local communities in their efforts to protect and restore their own lands.

Lesson 3: Take a holistic approach to protecting, managing and restoring forests

Our work with WWF, CI, the Arbor Day Foundation and Jane Goodall Institute seeks to address forest protection, forest management and forest restoration. All three parts are important to understanding the work it takes to counteract deforestation.

One of the most tangible and recognizable actions associated with forests is planting a tree. Organizations such as the Arbor Day Foundation, play an essential role in helping individuals and organizations plant more trees. But as Arbor Day Foundation’s Wilinsky was quick to point out, planting trees has to be "couched within the context of how important it is to protect and manage forests, as well, because it can’t just be one solution over the other. Planting trees is critical to preserving and restoring habitat. But it's only one part of the narrative."

Which brings us to Lesson 4, which arguably could be one of the most important lessons a company can embrace as it starts its journey into the forest.

Lesson 4: Engage strategic partners to accelerate progress

We could not be successful on our journey to Forest Positive without strong partners, such as WWF, Conservation International, the Arbor Day Foundation and the Jane Goodall Institute, that have deep conservation expertise and local, on-the-ground connections. Partnerships such as these help companies scale faster, and bring the meaningful background and science to deliver the greatest impact.

The planet, people and wildlife, and our economy need us to work collectively and en masse to protect, manage and restore our forests.

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