(By Ethical Team | February 6, 2015 ) Wood pulp and the trees that form it is one of the world’s largest natural resource based industries. And much of it is still sourced from the deforestation of old growth and ancient forests, from Southeast Asia, to South America to the boreal forests of the Northern hemisphere. The supply chain can be split to two major industries, paper and associated products, and rayon, viscose and associated textile products. Both industries compete for the same raw resource, and both industries face increasing challenges and environmental pressures.
The past 18 months have seen commitments from some of the world’s largest users of wood pulp. First Kimberley Clark publicly announced a move to 50% alternative fiber by 2025, and then a consortium of global retail brands, including Swedish H&M, Spanish Zara Inditex, British Marks & Spencer, US Patagonia, and Canadian Lululemon, to put their weight behind advocacy group Canopy’s campaign to ensure improved sourcing policies.
Although these companies all represent the downstream user in the global pulp supply chain, their commitments all have one common objective: to stop the harvesting of old growth forests for their continued financial benefit. Ultimately however, sweeping high level statements can be made and impressive targets set, but until there is a viable alternative resource to supply these industries, such commitments simply cannot come to fruition. Furthermore, given the vertical disintegration of these industries over the past two decades, how can these production giants shift their purchasing practices enough to put sufficient pressure far enough down the supply chain to actually cause a paradigm shift.
The entry of EcoPlanet Bamboo Group, a US based bamboo plantation and technology solution company, with an impressive track record for its young status, into the pulping arena, suggests that theoretical alternative fiber solutions might be becoming a reality. EcoPlanet Bamboo became the first fiber company to join Canopy’s campaign, signing the group’s Ancient Forest Friendly policy, and committing to provide a deforestation free alternative fiber for both the paper and textile industries. Shortly afterwards, the company became the first upstream supplier to join the new Germany based Partnership on Sustainable Textiles.
EcoPlanet Bamboo Group, the largest sustainably certified commercial bamboo plantation company globally, has recently shown its serious commitment to providing a deforestation free pulp solution, by financially securing, and now planting, bamboo plantations that can provide more than 2 million tons of raw fiber annually to the pulping industry. These plantations are certified under the same international certification standards currently recognized by the pulp industry, which will allow bamboo pulp to be fed directly into the supply chain. EcoPlanet Bamboo also only plants only degraded land, thus does not competing with food security, which also allows the company to restore that land back into a fully functioning ecosystem.
Yet provision of an alternative fiber – in this case bamboo – is not the only step in creating the innovation needed to shift these industries. Technology developments are also required, to reduce the environmental footprint of the pulp industry in general. Going against the tide of vertical disintegration, EcoPlanet Bamboo is investing into leapfrogging technology to ensure that their bamboo fiber maintains its viability as a green alternative, throughout the length of the supply chain.
Only time will tell if bamboo will be the fiber that causes the paradigm shift. But one thing is for sure, the pulp industry has for too long been controlled by a negative persona, and the introduction of a fresh face is a positive step in the right direction.
Related link: http://www.ecoplanetbamboo.com/