In 2000, Staples, Inc., the world’s largest office supply retailer and Dogwood Alliance, a conservation organization focused on protecting forests in the Southern US found themselves at odds over the impacts of Staples’ paper purchases on forests in the South – the largest paper producing region of the world and a major source of paper for Staples. In 2002, the conflict was resolved and Dogwood Alliance praised Staples as the first of the office supply retail giants to adopt an environmental paper purchasing policy. This marked the beginning of a market trend towards greater demand for post-consumer recycled paper and paper made from forests certified as meeting the high standards of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – the only certification system in existence today that is supported broadly by forest conservation organizations.
Meeting targets for FSC certified products has been challenging for many companies like Staples who source large volumes of wood from the Southern US where 90% of the forest is in private ownership. Currently, forest landowners do not have access to viable roadmaps or sufficient economic incentives to help them conserve, restore and/or manage working forests to a high environmental standard. Forest-based carbon markets could provide an important financial incentive for private landowners but the current forest carbon “offset” model is criticized as lacking credibility.
In early 2007 Dogwood Alliance and Staples, Inc., now working in partnership, convened a diverse set of stakeholders to discuss the potential for leveraging the emerging carbon market to expand forest conservation and FSC certification on private lands in the South. Through this collaborative effort, the Carbon Canopy was initiated. The Carbon Canopy pulls together a diversity of stakeholders including conservation organizations, landowners, and large paper and wood product manufacturers and consumers committed to working together to stimulate investment in conservation, restoration and management of working forests to a high environmental standard.
The Carbon Canopy’s initial project is focused on building a credible carbon market model for private landowners. To this end, the Carbon Canopy will be launching a pilot project in the Southern US. Through the pilot project the Carbon Canopy will “test” how southern forest landowners might benefit financially from expanding forest conservation and restoration on the ground in a working forest certified to the high standards of FSC certification. The pilot project will be focused on improved forest management practices that expand protection for biodiversity and water quality while also increasing carbon stocks. The initial project will meet the rigorous carbon accounting standards of the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VSC) and the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and the management practices will be certified to FSC standards. Staples, Inc. and Interface, have offered to pay the pilot project landowner(s) for increases in carbon stocks that result from improved forest management practices on the ground.
Through investing in credible forest conservation, management and restoration, the Carbon Canopy intends to not only reduce carbon emissions, but also ensure a healthy forest legacy for future generations, provide a helping hand to the millions of families and individuals who manage forestland in the Southern US and elsewhere and support local and regional economies by creating products that originate from managed forests certified as meeting a high environmental standard.