61 companies support statement of support for the Cerrado Manifesto

The movement to protect the Cerrado has now grown to over 60 global companies in 3 months. NOT to undermine existing or future soy & cattle production in the region but to promote resilient agricultural development aligned to global Climate and Sustainable Development Goals.

There are ~25 million hectares of already-cleared land in the Cerrado. There are clear benefits from a planning regime that prioritises already-cleared land for conversion while protecting carbon and biodiversity rich native vegetation to maintain economic growth.

We know there are many challenges: logistic, political, technical and more, but without open and constructive engagement these will never be overcome. Can the CerradoManifesto and the SoS be a catalyst for conciliation and conversation?







Why we’ve joined the call to action on the Cerrado

Why we’ve joined the call to action on the Cerrado

Soy is an important raw material for M&S. We sell products like soya milk and use fresh soya beans in our salads and soya lecithin in chocolate. However, like all major retailers, the majority of the soya used in our supply chain is for livestock feed.  As part of Plan A, our eco and ethical programme, we’ve committed to exclude deforestation from our soy supply chain to protect high carbon and species rich ecosystems like the Amazon, the Cerrado and the Gran Chaco, and remain determined to achieve this goal.
We have taken many steps over the last decade to ensure our suppliers only use soy in line with this commitment.  We are long standing members of the Amazon Soy Moratorium Customer Group, that ensures our soy is not linked to deforestation in the region. We have supported the implementation of the Brazilian Forest Code which specifies standards that ensure legal compliance and supplemented that by buying credits that support producers certified to the Roundtable on Responsible Soy – the gold standard.
We have invested in two three-year projects to build the capacity of producers in Paraguay and communities in Peru to protect forests in their respective regions, and we work with the industry through our participation in the Retail Soy Group and Co-Chairmanship of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Soy Working Group, harnessing business voice and energy towards our shared deforestation and sustainable production goals.
We believe Brazil has done much to protect its forests. Yet as recently as a month ago we were being told by WWF and Greenpeace that producers in Brazil were unconvinced of market demand for deforestation-free soy.
It was clear that brands and retailers needed to do more.
Sometimes it’s all about timing.  In the weeks running up to these conversations with WWF and Greenpeace, the landscape changed.
Firstly, a long list of Brazilian civil society organisations released the Cerrado Manifesto that highlighted how critically vulnerable the ecosystem was becoming due to cattle grazing and soy development, and that the Forest Code was not offering enough protection in the region. In many ways Brazil has been a victim of its own success. By protecting the Amazon, it has displaced new soy production to the neighbouring Cerrado.
We were also provided with strong evidence that large areas of land were available for conversion to soy production, land that is perfectly fit for agriculture but not in areas of precious forest or species-rich eco systems. Not only that, it is now possible to map and manage land changes in the Cerrado, something it is much more difficult to do in the area compared to dense tropical forest like the Amazon.
Additionally the Coalition for Forests and Agriculture was formed with a mandate to find solutions to the many obstacles in the way of progress.
The team at the Consumer Goods Forum saw an opportunity to shift the agenda in a more positive direction, to unequivocally state our collective business desire for production that does not destroy native vegetation.
So with help from colleagues in Unilever, Tesco and Ahold-Delhaize, I reached out to major European, International and Brazilian users of soy and cattle to seek support for the Cerrado Manifesto.
The result is that, today, we have published a statement of support – signed by 23 global companies, including M&S, McDonald’s, Nando’s, Unilever, Tesco and Walmart – for the objectives of the Cerrado Manifesto and a commitment to work with local and international stakeholders to halt deforestation and native vegetation loss in Brazil’s Cerrado.
Our clear ask is partnership.  We want to work with the Brazilian government, civil society, and producers to develop sustainable and deforestation-free production, not only in the Cerrado, but in other areas like the Gran Chaco.  We want to show that economic growth and agricultural development need not be incompatible with conservation of the natural landscapes we depend on for climate mitigation, water stability and species protection.  We will work with international investors, climate funds, multi-national institutions to show Brazil and other countries that protecting forests does not make people poorer.
Considerable challenges remain: technical, political, logistical and economic, but unless we work together, with determination and tenacity, on a shared goal of green growth, these will never be overcome.
We look forward to being part of this process and helping our sector towards sustainable growth, and deforestation free soy.

Sustainable Products: Consumer choice or industry’s responsibility?

For most consumers palm oil is an abstract issue – despite it being in 50% of everyday groceries. But what impact does the RSPO trademark really have on consumer sentiment? Fiona Wheatley, Sustainable Development Manager at Marks & Spencer gives a retailer’s perspective. 

M&S want assurance that the major challenges associated with palm oil production are being robustly addressed. At the moment, the RSPO standard provides this assurance, it is the most credible certification in the market, but it still needs to do more, for example tackling the issues of high carbon stock forest destruction and peatland conversion.  This is because when the standard was developed we didn’t understand the enormous impact deforestation was having on climate change.  M&S is participating in many of the forums tasked with solving these challenges and we are doing everything we can to deliver a better future for palm oil production.  We’re really encouraged by the collective effort we see going into finding ways to protect forests and communities.  It is obvious that the majority of participants see the bigger picture of what can be achieved through bringing a broad range of perspectives to the table and the value of open discussion and debate.

Palm oil has a unique productivity advantage over other vegetable oils with palm oil yield up to ten times more than that of its nearest comparable vegetable oil. That’s quite compelling. If we don’t use palm oil, where are we going to find the equivalent land to plant alternative crops like sunflower, rapeseed or soya?  But we cannot keep losing pristine tropical forests to palm oil.  We can meet growing global demand for palm oil through limiting conversion to lower value land (generally called degraded land) and helping smallholders learn how to get more oil from the same land area.

We must not underestimate the immense role played by smallholders as palm oil producers. Something like two thirds of palm oil production comes from smallholders, and there are relatively few other income-generating opportunities for families and communities in these regions. Our solutions must recognise the need to support these growers at the same time as setting clear boundaries to stop unacceptable practices.

However, alongside those smallholders who see palm oil as a route to a better lifestyle are communities who do not want oil palm plantations on their traditional lands.  We must make sure that communities resistant to seeing their land converted to palm oil plantations are given a voice, and are supported equally in their aspirations. It has to come down to their choice.

There are reasons why M&S has invested so heavily in trying to find solutions to the complex problems associated with palm oil, and that’s because we believe it has genuine benefits from a wider sustainability perspective. We believe that it offers a pathway from poverty for many thousands if not millions of people in key producing countries and regions in a way that very few other crops do.

But given all these advantages, and the great progress M&S has made in achieving over 90% RSPO coverage, why don’t we use the RSPO eco-label to tell customers which products contain sustainable palm oil?

There are very good reasons why we don’t use RSPO (or other eco-labels), even though the product or ingredient may be certified.  For instance, M&S has chosen not to use the RSPO logo in general because for the vast majority of our products, the proportion of palm oil in the product is exceptionally low. It would actually feel like greenwashing to make a sustainability claim for an ingredient that’s not a substantial part of the product.

Palm oil is in such a broad range of products that few consumers are willing to indulge the time it takes to check every product to check its credentials.  And if we extend this to talking about the many different issues M&S manages on behalf of our customers – from water to animal welfare to labour standards and many more, the shopping experience starts to get awful complicated.

If we’re really honest, general feedback is that people want us to prioritise information on issues other than palm oil – the key ones being nutrition, provenance and packaging recycling. These are their top priorities in terms of broader sustainability. That’s not to say that a lot of customers aren’t interested in palm oil. It’s just that they’re not going to attend to it with a level of detail that means they will choose a product containing sustainable palm oil over a product that doesn’t.

Consumers, quite frankly, expect us to make sensible sustainability decisions on their behalf. They expect us to be the experts so they can select every product with a clean conscience.  These are issues that we, as companies, have to fix. That’s why partnerships are so important, with suppliers, governments, campaigners and technical experts.  We have to work to achieve this with all the products we sell, and all the ingredients that we use. But I would never talk about sustainability as a destination. Sustainability is a continual improvement process, and making sure that as we learn more about our impacts – through research and data and expert advice – we respond and get better at minimising our impact on the environment.

My big message to customers: look at the brands you buy and what that brand is doing. It won’t take you long, if you look online, to find out what their commitment to palm oil is and how well they’ve made progress against that commitment. That’s what differentiates those that are trying really hard and those who aren’t.

Marine litter, everyone’s problem no-one’s responsibility

Marine litter is a problem that few would deny needs attention.  It’s not only unpleasant to see beaches covered in debris, but it’s damaging to land, air and marine species alike.  In the last 20 years beach litter levels have increased by 135% and plastic litter by 180%.  The issues are well documented so there is no need to go into details.  The need for change is indisputable.  The challenge is figuring out what needs to be done and by who, and making it happen. Waste infographic
To start to tackle any problem we must first understand the cause by identifying where good data  exists and where further research needs to be done.  We must separate fact from fiction and focus on solutions that work in practice.
This was the aim of the Marine Litter Action Network (MLAN). MLAN was established to bring together people and organisations from different sectors to tackle the issue of marine litter.  It was recognised that to could not rely on single organisations or approaches.  We could see that more could be achieved by bringing together not only knowledge and expertise, but also energy and enthusiasm.
The Marine Conservation Society provided resource and funding to facilitate this programme and a Steering Group was formed.  A launch event was held in Birmingham in June 2014 and ‘the year to make a difference’ had begun!
But before I describe the achievements of MLAN, I know that readers will want to know what M&S is doing to prevent marine litter.  You might be surprised at the breadth of our approach.
One of our early contributions was to stop offering free carrier bags in our food halls.  Since 2008 M&S has charged for carrier bags with the profits from these bags being reinvested into our Forever Fish Fund.  This money was allocated to the Marine Conservation Society and WWF to invest in a broad range of programmes, from educating schoolchildren about the value of our marine environment, to running marine conservation projects in the UK and abroad, and the project customers will be most familiar with – our annual Big Beach Clean-Up Initiative
Beach clean has engaged thousands of M&S colleagues, customers and members of the public in tackling hands-on the problem of litter.  We’re just beginning to get the results back from this year’s beach clean: 6,300 people participated and (so far) their collections have amounted to 4,000 bags of waste weighing 39,000 kg, and 80,000 items including cans, wrappers, bottles, cassette tapes and a moped!  But although it’s great to end up with cleaner beaches, the really valuable outcome is the opportunity to analyse what is found.  This data helps MCS understand more about litter and how it ends up on our beaches, and that helps tell them where we are succeeding and where more needs to be done.
We’ve looked at what we can do in our own business too.  We’ve made our products and packaging as recyclable as possible through simplifying the number of plastics that are used.  We focussed on reducing our reliance on plastic and now use 25% less plastic packaging and 70% fewer carrier bags than we did in 2008.  And we’ve created new markets for recycling through initiatives like our Somerset recycling project.
But some marine waste comes directly from the fishing industry, old bait boxes, nets, etc. M&S has included guidelines on fishing gear disposal in our vessel guidelines and supported work done by Seafish to promote best practice guidelines through their Responsible Fishing Scheme. Seafish also include responsible waste management in their new entrant fishermen training courses, a major step forward in raising awareness and promoting good husbandry on vessels.
One topic which we’ve learned a lot about recently has been the impact of the microbeads used in cosmetics. M&S committed to removing these from our products by the end of 2015 and we’re delighted to report that six months ahead of schedule we’ve reformulated all our products and M&S Beauty products are no longer made using microplastics.
But despite all these efforts we know more radical change is needed so we’re working with others to explore how to develop a more circular economy – investing in technologies and design to radically reduce our reliance on virgin materials. I don’t have space to go into detail about this here but you can read more about it here. And of course we support initiatives that seek to promote innovative approaches like the Frisbee made from litter gathered on M&S Beach Clean.
So all this brings me back to the Marine Litter Action Network ‘Year to Make a Difference’. The programme brought together a diverse range of focus groups looking at developing technical, behaviour and infrastructure solutions.  For example how to get the public to stop ‘flushing the unflushables’ (like cotton buds and wet wipes) or promoting personal responsibilities for litter and behaviour change on beaches and on land.  Engaging with the commercial and recreational fishing fleets on gear management and getting commercial shipping to do more to prevent spillages (five million pieces of Lego were lost from a single container off Land’s End in 1997).  And of course,  encouraging companies to follow M&S example and remove microplastics from their products!
There is much more to be done to turn the tide on litter.  But by demonstrating the full impact on marine life and communities we will see others joining this movement for change.  I look forward to a future of healthy seas and clean beaches.
World Oceans Day 2015

Deep engagement with certification reduces risks, plants roots for Marks and Spencer

In this new interview with Marks and Spencer, we discover why the major retailer continues to partner with standards and certification programmes to reduce risks, and plant the roots for the company’s own ‘sustainability heritage.’

When Marks and Spencer first became involved with sustainability standards and certification in 2007, the idea was to achieve positive impact on the ground in a range of difficult sustainability issues by specifying certified products or material.  “The benefit of using a multi-stakeholder approach was that M&S could rely on external experts closer to the ground, and certification was a way to communicate our ambition and achievements in a simple way.  It was perhaps what one would call the ‘early mover’ advantage of sourcing certified,” said Fiona Wheatley, Plan A Sustainable Development Manager at M&S.

Business-to-business assurance

M&S remained committed to certification and even increased their commitments, even while increased sales for certified products rarely set the market alight.  Wheatley explained, “originally there had been an assumption that certification would form a strong component of the marketing of Plan A.  We had since learned that customers find it difficult to give preference to certified products. Their buying experience is too complex, and there are too many factors in their purchasing decisions, with sustainability often being relegated behind other core attributes like price, quality or design.   There is little doubt that customers appreciate the efforts made by M&S to source sustainably, but they expect this for every product we sell.  Nonetheless we have not changed our support of certification and we are now sourcing an even greater amount of certified product and material than in the past.  We use sustainability standards less often in consumer communications, but more as a business-to-business assurance system and to let expert stakeholders like academics, NGOs and responsible investors know that we are delivering on our commitments.  Credible standards and certification give us confidence that our supply chains are being managed in socially and environmentally responsible ways.”

Outsourcing monitoring to the experts

M&S, like other large retailers, deals with a huge range of materials and products.  So the difficulties faced in understanding and improving the production and manufacturing conditions of supply chains can be deep and far-ranging.  M&S is using certification as a tool for managing the full range of issues, particularly in commodity crops where environmental and social sustainability can be complex and where the producer can be many links down the value chain from the M&S supplier.  “The issues for us have not changed: environmental degradation, human rights and climate change – issues which occur in a whole range of materials.  You could close your eyes and it would be hard to think about something that doesn’t impact M&S!” explained Wheatley.  She continued, “It is difficult for a retailer to have expertise on every issue, whether it’s marine ecosystems and depletion of fish stocks, or deforestation, or the economic development of small holders in agriculture, and many many more.”  Instead, M&S has used certification and its experts to manage and monitor the issues at hand.  “The heart of what certification offers to M&S is the ability of our business to develop partnerships on standard-setting, validation and monitoring.  Certification helps us address these problems and its systems give us assurance of compliance to the highest standards.”

Simplifying what is asked of suppliers

While recent discussions in the media about certification have focused on the costs and complexities of audits, there is also another story that points to certification’s potential to provide simplicity.  Wheatley elaborated on this concept: “Certification and standards simplify what we ask of our suppliers.  If all of the retailers came up with their own standard for, say,  sustainable forestry, and then asked suppliers to comply with these, it would create chaos and confusion.  There would be a large amount of fragmentation.  Credible standards and certification schemes provide a reference point for what ‘good’ looks like in a commodity or sector.  So, in a way, and from the supplier perspective, certification saves a lot of money and drives simplification.  It allows us to address and monitor issues in a systematic way.”

Credibility with NGOs 

Credibility has been one of the hallmarks of ISEAL membership for standard-setters and the ISEAL Credibility Principlesoffered the first global agreement on what makes a standards system credible.  But do relationships with certification schemes bring credibility to companies as well?  While in the past, early adopters of certification may have felt that sustainability labels could differentiate their company to consumers, M&S has found a different credibility offering from its relationship with certification.  Wheatley explaine that “credibility comes to M&S from our work with standard-setters but this is more about our credibility with the standard-setting community and with the NGOs that support certification.  A lot of this is because we do more than just specify certified products.  We engage with a range of standard-setters on issues that are relevant for us.  We try to make an active, intellectual contribution to the development of standards and certification systems.”

Standard-setters have benefited from their relationship with M&S as well.  Karin Kreider, Executive Director of ISEAL, explained, “Company partners like M&S help our members understand the business world so we can all improve our offering along the value chain.  M&S comprehends the benefits of certification at a deeper level than many other companies. In the case of the ISEAL Alliance, they help us drive the message to our members that certification needs to be as progressive and dynamic as business, so that we develop innovations at a pace that will meet changing market needs.”

Building the case for the future

M&S is pioneering in its deep engagement with certification. Whether being on an expert panel, or sitting in key roundtables and steering committees, it has found that a proactive approach to certification allows the company to weather obstacles and plan its sustainability story into the future.  Wheatley illuminated this: “We think about the risks to our sourcing strategy and brand reputation in 10, 20 years, and how we can have less risk in the future.  We also want to have a story to tell about the many years we have been doing this.  Therefore, the steps we have taken to engage with and even to build certification systems, and to support improvements on the ground, are all part of developing an M&S heritage.  To other business leaders I would say don’t use certification reactively.  For example, perhaps you use soy and there comes a media campaign on environmental issues in soy.  Unless you have already been involved in understanding and addressing key issues, such as the obstacles to supply or the limitations of the certification scheme, you will not be able to react adequately or quickly enough.”

Wheatley offered a final word to fellow company leaders about the depth of involvement required: “It’s not only about the products you offer your customers, but also about the products you use in running your business – your packaging, your marketing, your construction.  It’s about end-to-end coverage.  It’s about having this as part of the very DNA of your business.”


Learn more about the business case for certification at our Conference

Hear Fiona Wheatley speak on 21 May at the Global Sustainability Standards Conference in a session on the business case for certification.  Fiona will be joined by fellow speakers from HSBC, Responsible Jewellery Council, and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.  Registration is now open and the evolving speakers and programme can be found here.

About Fiona Wheatley: 

Fiona has worked for Marks and Spencer since 2011.  Fiona believes that only through collaboration can we find solutions to the complex and deep seated challenges affecting society and the environment, and this philosophy underpins her approach in introducing industry leading sustainability policies for seafood, timber, palm oil and soy.  She leads policy development within the Consumer Goods Forum as well as M&S and participates in various Advisory Groups on sustainable commodities.  Fiona co-ordinates the M&S / WWF partnership programmes on cotton, water, fish and sustainable consumption and leads M&S Plan A strategy on natural resources.

About M&S Plan A

Plan A is M&S strategy to help protect he planet – by sourcing responsibly, reducing waste and helping communities.  M&S launched Plan A in January 2007, setting out 100 commitments to achieve in 5 years. They have now introduced Plan A 2020 which consists of 100 new, revised and existing commitments, with the ultimate goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer.

Published on ISEAL website 27/03/2015: http://www.isealalliance.org/online-community/blogs/deep-engagement-with-certification-reduces-risks-plants-roots-for-marks-and-spencer

Fighting for Forests: The Leuser Ecosystem

Fighting for Forests: The Leuser Ecosystem

The Leuser ecosystem in Sumatra covers over 2.5 million hectares and includes alpine, lowland and mountain rainforest and carbon rich peatlands. It contains some of the world’s highest known levels of plant and animal diversity and is home to the largest intact forest left in Sumatra. It is the last place on earth where critically endangered species like Sumatran orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos and sunbears can still be found together in the wild. Sumatra has lost almost 50% of its tropical rainforest in the last 35 years and even designated conservation areas have not been spared from destruction.

But as well as providing a unique home for nature, the Leuser ecosystem also provides essential services to millions of Sumatrans. Their livelihoods and food supply rely on environmental services such as freshwater for irrigation, without which rice production – a staple crop – would collapse. The forests act as a buffer and as forest degradation increases so do flooding, landslides and other natural disasters that have a devastating effect on the long-term welfare of the population. Sumatra provides an excellent habitat for humans, but there has to be better reconciliation of the cost to nature. We have to decouple economic development from vested interests, corruption and illegal logging and clearing to stop the Leuser ecosystem and many other pristine landscapes being lost forever.

In November I visited Indonesia to share M&S sourcing policies for palm oil, paper, and viscose with producers in the region. The aim was to make clear to all stakeholders involved in supplying these materials that M&S customers will not tolerate buying products that contribute to the destruction of carbon rich forests and peatlands, habitat loss and endangering species like the orangutan and rhino.

This doesn’t mean we don’t understand the need for social and economic development in these regions. We do. But we believe that land with lower conservation and carbon values (degraded land) must be prioritised for responsible oil palm and pulpwood development, with the consent of local communities.

Another objective of this visit was to experience the front-line of forest conservation. I spent some time in the Leuser ecosystem with conservation leaders and campaigners, listening to their experiences and challenges. And figuring out what M&S can do to make a positive contribution to their efforts.

Rainforest blog
I met with many inspirational people on my visit. Shayne McGrath is volunteering with local NGOs who are leading the charge to protect the Leuser conservation area from a proposed plan that would reduce it by almost 50%. Shayne and a team of dedicated individuals collect information through field investigations and connects with national and international institutions to strengthen land management processes. Rudi Putra, a native of Aceh, is a biologist whose efforts to combat illegal logging and forest encroachment for palm oil were recently rewarded by the international environmental community; Rudi was last years’ winner of the Island and Island Nations Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition of his work with local communities, police and government officials, to dismantle illegal oil palm plantations inside the Leuser ecosystem.

So what message do Shayne and Rudi have for M&S and our customers? Fascinatingly, they say the major culprit is palm oil BUT banning palm oil is not the answer. Legal, well-managed oil palm plantations can lift people from poverty and provide an incentive for good landscape management and forest conservation & restoration. It is development that does not meet these standards that has to be stopped.

When I met Rudi and Shayne, they were deeply concerned about the attempts by the Aceh Parliament to massively reduce the protected areas of the Leuser ecosystem. They are working as part of an alliance of local NGOs (Rainforest Action Network Leuser campaign) to convince the President of Indonesia, his cabinet ministers and the Governor of Aceh to reject the proposed spatial plan and we discussed what M&S could do to help. I described M&S palm oil and pulp sourcing policies and our recent commitment to ensure that our viscose fabric only comes from companies that do not source from ancient and endangered forests, including the forests of Leuser, and what we’re doing to bring these policies to life.

Rudi and Shayne agreed that these are essential activities, but asked what can we do beyond our own supply chains? I explained my role on the Board of Governors of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (www.rspo.org), and my efforts to make the standard more ambitious in its protection of carbon rich forests, peatlands and the rights of indigenous and local communities. Again, thumbs up, but can we do more?

M&S has never been short on ambition so we moved on to discuss the Consumer Goods Forum “zero net deforestation by 2020” commitment. The CGF represents $3 trillion of multi-national Consumer Goods and Retail companies so its reach and influence is substantial. M&S has a leading role within the CGF through Mike Barry (M&S Director of Sustainability) co-chairing the Sustainability Steering Group, and I play an active role within various deforestation working groups. We collectively felt this was a key opportunity. Since I returned I’ve been finalising CGF sourcing guidelines for palm oil and starting to create a roadmap to help retail and consumer goods businesses across the world remove deforestation and conflict commodities from their supply chains.

No-one is saying these are easy ambitions. In many regions consumers aren’t as aware as in our own market, which can make it difficult for business to be bold and face into these challenges. But at M&S we’re clear that deforestation is a non-competitive issue. Only through business collaboration will we achieve the market transformation needed to have sufficient impact on the ground, including in places like Leuser. But leadership is needed, and that is what M&S excels at. So we’re facing into this challenge with confidence and enthusiasm, and a huge thank you to Rudi and Shayne and local communities in Aceh who have to this day been custodians of the Leuser ecosystem!

Beyond certification: The next step for sustainable supply chains

Supply chains are complicated and none more so than those of a retailer like M&S with our thousands of food, home, clothing and beauty products. Beyond our product suppliers are many processors, traders, ingredient manufacturers, wholesalers and farmers who we need to support our sustainability ambitions.

Certification has been the traditional approach to managing these complex supply chains and we remain a huge supporter of its strengths: multi-stakeholder governance; transparency; independent verification; and third party chain of custody.

However certification has to improve. ISEAL’s Credibility Principles are helping to drive consistency, efficiency and technology across multiple different standards. But most sustainability standards are not set up to drive scale change in a way that would allow all the world’s output of a commodity or all of a supermarket’s products to be certified.

To achieve this level of scale change we need a new way of working. One that links markets (developed and developing); producers (big and small); policy makers, civil society and campaigners to deliver a whole landscape approach to managing commodity production.

Let me illustrate below through a few practical examples we’re involved with how this might happen.

Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve Project

Small-scale fishermen can be one of the most difficult groups to engage in conservation activities. Decades of being at the sharp end of policies to reduce fishing effort; a perception that legislators favour bigger operators; and a deeply embedded culture of independence (an essential attribute when your life is spent on small vessels in open seas!) have made many resistant to change.

We’ve been supporting a project at Lyme Bay in the South of England that seeks to engage these small scale fishermen in managing the whole marine ecosystem in the area. Led by the Blue Marine Foundation it puts fishermen at the heart of decision making from the beginning. This means they were willing to listen to regulators, marine conservation organisations and academics, and they were willing to be open about their own practices and what needed to change.

They developed and implemented their own Code of Conduct. They adopted vessel monitoring systems to verify where and how they fish. They undertook Responsible Fishing Scheme training and certification. They looked at the market and how to optimise their catch value, and bought ice machines and introduced quality standards. The local enforcement agencies sought feedback from the fishermen on the effectiveness and practicality of their proposals. As a result both the unique reef features of Lyme Bay and the future of the small fishing fleet are more secure.

Amazon Moratorium

In 2006 Greenpeace campaign ‘Eating up the Amazon’ brought to the world’s attention the devastating impact of soy expansion on the Amazon. It showed the connection between the soybean industry and deforestation. Within weeks the main trade associations declared a moratorium on deforestation, pledging not to buy soy produced on lands deforested after June 2006.

The Moratorium is still in place and statistics demonstrate its success. Despite soy prices rising to record highs since 2007, tropical forest clearing for soybeans has declined and deforestation has been reduced substantially. By 2011 only 0.25% of deforested land had been planted with soy since the moratorium began, only 0.04% of the total soy area in Brazil.

To achieve this required collaboration on an unprecedented scale. The government provided remote sensing data so deforestation maps could be overlaid with land ownership maps, showing which farms were causing deforestation. McDonald’s (the world’s biggest beef user) relationship with Cargill (world’s biggest soya producer) combined with the latter’s role as the major buyer in the region created a market environment that incentivised good behaviour. Geographical remoteness was an unusual advantage as it meant that the only route to export markets was via Cargill’s port at Santarem.

Supported by a broad coalition of European buyers, including M&S, the Moratorium set the standard for Brazilian soy imports to the EU. Brazilian oilseed trade associations were instrumental in acting as brokers in the process, and Greenpeace provided both on the ground technical support and a watchful eye to ensure the integrity of the arrangement was robustly maintained.

Water Stewardship in the Lake Naivasha region

Lake Naivasha is a unique natural, social and business environment hosting 70% of Kenya’s cut flower export business, geothermal power generation, tourism, fishing, smallholder agriculture and an expanding population. But the Basin also has poor water data, challenges in public water governance, a growing population and persistently high levels of poverty which together make the sustainable use of water difficult to achieve.

Research told us our suppliers were efficient and responsible water users but that further improvements were needed to protect the wider water basin. A research team worked closely with farm managers, Kenyan institutions and local experts to assess what worked well and what needed strengthening.

Three case studies, the Amazon, Kenya and the South Coast of England. Different challenges, politics and of course geographic scale but they show some common themes. Firstly the only credible long term solution for marketplaces defined by millions of different products and supply chain linkages is robust, jurisdictional landscape based regulation.

Of course business can and should use certification to support this approach but ultimately a strong public approach to regulation not only has a greater democratic mandate but is also more efficient than trying to ‘privately regulate’ millions of different products and raw materials. Put simplistically a business wants to be able to say ‘all our soya comes from Brazil which has a strong approach to preventing deforestation and we don’t need to micro-manage every kg of soya from there and the millions of animals and products it ends up in’.

Secondly all three case studies show what a difference true collaboration can make. Collaboration based on equality, respect and a willingness to listen. Finally each has spawned practical solutions from fishing nets to satellite imaging of deforestation to water conservation.

Yes business needs to scale certification, improve its efficiency and prove better the outcomes it delivers but it must also see the bigger picture that robust global, national and regional governance is the true endpoint morally and financially.

Co-written by Mike Barry and Fiona Wheatley

– See more at: http://olamgroup.com/blog/beyond-certification-next-step-sustainable-supply-chains/#sthash.0N0a5rZv.dpuf

FSC and why roads cause deforestation

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the ‘gold standard’ certification scheme for sustainable forest management.  It’s the only scheme supported by a wide range of campaigning environmental organisations like Greenpeace and WWF, and this year it celebrated its 20th anniversary.

FSC sets a standard for forest management to promote timber produced in a way that is environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.  To make sure that natural forests and plantations are being managed so that future generations can benefit from the wide range of services provided by forests, things like climate change stabilisation and carbon storage; species habitat; plants for medicines; and homes, fuel, food and livelihoods for millions of people.  There’s a lot more in forests than just trees.

I’ve just returned from FSC’s seventh General Assembly. This takes place every 3 years and is a chance for members to get together to share their experiences, celebrate their successes, and make decisions that will determine the future direction of the FSC.

I wanted to be part of this because FSC is incredibly important to Marks & Spencer.  We have made a commitment to only source sustainable wood, and that relies on our suppliers being able to access FSC certified timber in operations all over the world.  We need FSC wood to be available not just in the UK but in Brazil, Turkey, Sweden, China, Slovakia, North America and lots of other countries.  In fact we use 96 different species from 45 different countries.

Marks & Spencer asks suppliers to buy FSC wood not only for the products we sell – our furniture for example, but also for the wood used to build and fit our stores,to make the wood and paper products we use to run our business, in our marketing materials and our packaging. If we can’t get FSC we make sure that the most vulnerable and unique aspects of forests are protected.  Unlike lots of other companies we don’t stop at just checking the wood is legally harvested.  We work with our suppliers to exclude plantations converted from natural forests, to make sure indigenous communities’ rights are considered, and that high conservation value areas are protected.  It’s a tough job but we think it’s worth it.

So what did I learn at the FSC Assembly?

I discovered that roads are the biggest cause of forest destruction. When one road is built other roads follow.  And with roads come trucks, people, pollution, hunting, fire and many other things that can degrade the forest.  And not only is degradation highly contagious, it can undermine the case for protection.  It’s claimed that 95% of deforestation takes place within 50 km of a road.  That’s a strong argument for very careful landscape planning.

The most vulnerable areas are called intact forest landscapes (IFLs) and include some of the great boreal forests of Russia and Canada, as well as tropical forests like the Amazon.  But not all IFLs are on the scale of these great forests and small blocks can also be highly valuable, for example in creating safe corridors for migratory species to move from one area to another.

But of course everything is about balance.  And sometimes making an area economically valuable can create a business case for conservation and allow traditional communities to contribute to land and forest management and continue to co-exist in harmony with nature.  The role of FSC is to balance these different needs and priorities, to guide the individuals and organisations who have to make planning and development decisions, and to support all the parties who manage these forests to do so sustainably. Our role as buyers is to make sure they are rewarded by specifying FSC in our contracts.

I also learned a lot about how plantations are going to be increasingly important in the future and how FSC can help with restoration of degraded areas. But I’m going to save these for a future blog…

Seafood and Marine July 14

I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in retail sustainable seafood sourcing for the last ten years.  Last week I attended two events that brought home how far we have come, yet how much has still to be done.
I was delighted to attend a celebration marking the tenth anniversary of ‘The End of the Line’ by Charles Clover.  This publication described how overfishing was changing the world and what we eat, and was a seminal influence on retailers’ approach toward seafood sourcing.  
Awareness of the crisis of fisheries management had already been growing, but this book was the catalyst that led to a sea change in how retailers implemented fish sourcing standards. The pioneering collaborative approach that delivered the sector wide change and resulted in UK retailers being recognised as global leaders in sustainable fish sourcing.  Marks and Spencer was at the forefront of this, but recognition also has to be given to the rest of the UK grocery multiples. 
However this acceptance of responsibility has yet to be seen globally.  There is a desperate need for companies operating in less demanding markets to step up to the table and figure out their own approach to seafood sustainability.  To recognise the commercial benefits of healthy fish stocks and well managed marine environments.  We hope the M&S model provides inspiration but different regions and markets need to translate sustainability into their own language.  I hope to see that soon as the need for pace is critical. 
The other event was a parliamentary launch of Greenpeace and NUFTA (New Under Ten’s Fishermen’s Association) Coastal Champions’ campaign.  This called for a “fresh and visionary approach to boost dwindling fish stocks, restore home-grown sustainable fishing businesses and breathe new life into our coastal communities”.  The UK under ten meter fleet is primarily made up of small inshore day boats and their extremely limited access to quota often jeopardises their economic viability (77% of the UK fishing fleet have access to just 4% of the overall quota) threatening the survival of coastal communities.
However yet again it was hugely encouraging to see recognition of the huge progress that has been made through collaboration.  UK retailers were singled out for praise, with M&S being specifically highlighted for our Forever Fish campaign and its contribution to marine conservation and fishing communities at home and abroad.  
But there is always more to be done and the coastal champions’ campaign asks that the wide range of values provided by the small scale fishing sector be recognised and rewarded within EU policy.  It asks for recognition of the wide range of benefits provided in terms of low impact fishing and socio-economic contribution.  And to reward these values when redistributing quota, implementing conservation measures, and allocating fishing rights.  This sector faces massive challenge in getting its voice heard in decision making and that needs to be acknowledged with measures put in place to achieve effective representation. If not, we risk losing the under-tens from our coastal waters which will lead to coastal communities facing an uncertain future. 
The fastest way to move this agenda forward is through fishery based projects.  M&S provided funding towards the Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Project, a ground-breaking initiative developed wit the Blue Marine Foundation to achieve a well-managed Marine National Park that will benefit fishermen and conservationists alike.  The learnings from this project will be used to inform best practice fisheries management, so while the direct impact is small, the influence is significant. 
It’s hard to describe my delight at turning up at the Lyme Bay Project Meetings to find fishermen, processors, IFCAs (inshore fishery conservation associations), the MMO (marine management organisation), and marine conservation organisations round the same table working together to solve problems and making commitments and concessions, all with a clear focus on conservation focussed fishing.  That alone is an indication of the project’s success but I look forward to being able to report more specific achievements further down the line.  

To steal a quote from Greenpeace: “a small amount of change will make a big difference to this sector”, I’m optimistic the tide has turned and we will start to see coastal areas where fish, fishermen and communities thrive again.