Behind the Buttons: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Hot Button Report 

Each year since 2017, we release CanopyStyle’s flagship Hot Button Report. The report supports the public and brands looking to reduce their climate and biodiversity footprints in discerning which viscose and lyocell producers present low risk of their viscose originating from the world’s Ancient and Endangered Forests  – represented with a green shirt – and which suppliers present high risk – those with any level of red in their shirt. Over 530 brands now have policy commitments to eliminate all Ancient and Endangered Forest fibre from their man-made cellulosic fibre (MMCF) textiles and look to Hot Button Report to inform their sourcing decisions.   

The Hot Button Report reflects each year producers’ performance in different areas related to MMCF sustainability, including sourcing, forest conservation, and adoption of low-carbon, forest-free Next Gen fibres. Hot Button Report is designed to incentivize continuous improvement, year over year. It is also designed to allow for fair and equitable recognition of progress across producers with different business structures, sourcing and production realities. 

Canopy’s goal is to help all viscose producers attain a green shirt, by earning up to a perfect score of 40 “buttons” according to 25 objective criteria.

While the public sees the final Hot Button Report and shirt evaluation in an easy-to-interpret guide, a lot of work goes into its analysis and production – both by Canopy, as well as the producers themselves, with Canopy’s analyse of documents sent by the producers and a lot of discussions between them.  

Here is a behind the scene look at Hot Button, and the different tools used to help inform the final presentation of the evaluations:   

The CanopyStyle Audit  

A primary, but not sole, source of information feeding into the Hot Button Report are the results of the CanopyStyle Audits. These voluntary audits were specifically created for MMCF producers to help them understand and identify their risk of sourcing raw cellulosic materials from Ancient and Endangered Forests. 

A detailed CanopyStyle Audit Guidelines and Verification Framework provides a third-party assessment of a producer’s risk of sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests. This is a risk-based verification audit (as opposed to a certification audit that results in an on-product label or chain-of-custody). The verification audit is conducted by an independent third-party auditing firm and is a tool to identify risk in the supply chain, and to assist producers to make subsequent improvements to their sourcing practices.  

The CanopyStyle Audits are designed to help producers identify areas of strength, challenges that need to be addressed, as well as opportunities for improvement. More than 20 viscose producers have undertaken a CanopyStyle Audit to date. That number continues to grow with producers undertaking subsequent audits to reassess their performance over time.  

Assessing Supply Chain Risk  

In order to support producers in assessing risk in their supply chains, Canopy has developed two essential tools: Forest Mapper and the Dissolving Pulp Mill Classification Tool.  These tools are an integrated part of the CanopyStyle Audit system, and their use is also assessed independently in the Hot Button. Here’s why they matter. 

ForestMapper, released in 2018, is a first point of information to identify possible risk of sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests. It is a high-level tool, based on multiple layers of publicly available, peer-reviewed scientific data. It incorporates global data sets, as well as national and regional data sets for some countries. Included in this map are critical ecological components, including:  

  • Intact forest landscapes and primary forests; 
  • Forests with high species richness, and concentrations of regionally significant, rare and endangered species; 
  • Forests that are important to maintain landscape connectivity;
  • Forests of particularly high carbon value. 

The methodology for ForestMapper was developed by the former Executive Director of Global Forest Watch and defined by leading scientists and organizations, including the World Resources Institute and Greenpeace International. 

The Dissolving Pulp Mill Classification Tool was developed by Canopy in 2019 in response to producers requesting additional guidance to assess their supply chains. The tool supports producers to determine the level of risk each pulp mill has of sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests, based on its location and best available information on its fibre sourcing (including publicly available information, CanopyStyle Audits, and data shared by partners). It is a dynamic tool, regularly updated to incorporate new information, and is made available to all MMCF producers who are undertaking the CanopyStyle Audit.   

Together, the CanopyStyle Audit, Forest Mapper, and Dissolving Pulp Mill tool are designed to help a producer assess their level of risk of sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests regarding relevant tool’s criterion.  They are key inputs into determining the ratings contained within the Hot Button Report but are not the only ones.     

The Hot Button Process  

Canopy’s Hot Button Report also includes an additional, essential step that specifically recognises improvements adopted by producers.  In the Hot Button context, a button (or half button) is offered for taking action. Buttons may also be lost for having identified risk in a producer’s supply.  Based on the button allocation, a producer will receive a red, green, or rainbow shirt (please see our blog explaining the shirt colours).  

How does it work?  Every year, the Canopy team drafts a Hot Button “Preliminary Profile” for each producer, assessing performance according to 25 objective criteria across seven categories.  Producers can earn up to a perfect score of 40 “buttons”. The preliminary profile identifies actions each producer can take to earn buttons. Producers can earn buttons by publishing their list of pulp suppliers and providing evidence they have traceability systems in place, by increasing their use of FSC-certified fibre or producing Next Gen materials, as well as through supporting forest conservation. Hot Button has evolved and now enables producers to earn buttons if they develop and commercialize forest-free pulp alternatives that take pressure off forests, as well as for incorporating traceability systems into their fibre supply chain tracking. 

In addition to earning buttons, producers can lose buttons for keeping known high risk forest fibre in their supply (sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests).  Importantly, a producer with known risk in its supply will continue to have “red in its shirt” regardless of how many buttons they have gained in other categories. This can lead to producers with multiple colours in their shirt ratings. The multi-colour shirt system allows Canopy to recognize positive actions taken by producers, whilst still signalling to brands that the producer has not yet addressed their risk of sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests.  

In addition to the CanopyStyle Audit and the associated tools, documented information from producers as well as the commitments and actions they have made are critical components in the Hot Button process.  

In the preliminary profiles, Canopy evaluates each producer and assigns scores for criteria that have been met. These profiles, as well as subsequent dialogue, identify the number of additional buttons that can be earned through specified actions being taken. A total maximum score that can be achieved in accordance with the public criteria is also provided at this stage.

Preliminary profiles are shared with each producer individually in late Q2, 3 – 4 months prior to finalisation and publication of Hot Button.  

This is to allow each producer time to take further actions to improve their score and provide evidence of these actions to Canopy. During this time, the Canopy team meets with each producer to present our findings, and review the actions requested. Producers have the opportunity to ask questions, and share new relevant information. This individualized interaction helps to ensure an accurate assessment of the data producers have submitted, and consistent application of criteria. With the support of Canopy staff, producers work on these actions, and submit evidence of completion before the deadline.

Producers that do not respond to Canopy’s invitation to review their profiles typically fall in the red shirt category as they do not earn additional buttons year over year. However, in the absence of engaging with Canopy, they are nonetheless awarded buttons based on information Canopy is aware of. With the final data from producers, the Canopy team then reviews all actions taken, determines final scores, and assigns the corresponding shirt colour(s).   

A System with Impact  

Every year, we see many producers earn buttons by taking action to proactively avoid sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests, increase volumes of FSC-certified wood fibre, step up to support biodiversity protection, and increase their use of Next Gen fibres.  

The Hot Button Report continues to provide an incentive for continual improvement on the central issue of sourcing risk in the MMCF supply chain and also incentivises a greater commitment to conservation. Today, 26 MMCF producers have signed CanopyStyle policies, representing ~93% of global MMCF production, up from 11 producer policies in 2018 representing 70% of global MMCF production at that time. With a CanopyStyle policy, producers commit to eliminate sourcing from the world’s Ancient and Endangered Forests, to exploring and scaling Next Gen alternatives, and to working to conserve forests globally. 53% of global production is now verified at low risk of being sourced from an Ancient and Endangered Forest and there are now six producers with dark green shirts and seven established commercial lines of Next Gen MMCF fibres (low-impact alternatives to forest fibre altogether). This demonstrates a deepening engagement with CanopyStyle and significant steps towards Canopy’s ultimate goal of protecting and restoring vital forests around the world that are currently being impacted by MMCF textile production.

We are grateful for the hard work of participating producers, auditors, and the many others who are committed to a sector that was previously opaque and not well understood. Our team gets a thrill watching producers climb through the ranks year over year, based on real engagement, measurable improvements, and a willingness to take action.