What Happens in Davos…. Can Change the World

Straight out of Davos – A Pulp Thriller for the Decade

Last week’s headlines were dominated by the speeches and developments of the World Economic Forum, where for the first time in its 15-year history, environmental issues were front and centre on the agenda. As the world’s CEOs, diplomats, thought leaders, and young climate defenders descended on Davos, the health of our planet was on everybody’s lips. But as they say, talk is cheap unless backed by action. So as Davos returns to its laid-back ski town ways, and the world’s decision makers return to their boardrooms, we’re left to scan for what concrete things will result from this year’s Summit.

One clear immediate outcome of Davos 2020 is Canopy’s audacious yet pragmatic action plan to hit the 2030 conservation targets that scientists have set. Survival – A Pulp Thriller: A Plan to Save Forests and Climate maps out the Next Generation transition that’s needed to remove 50% of the wood fibre currently used in the pulp, paper, packaging, and viscose-fabric supply chains so we can conserve 30 – 50% of the world’s forests by 2030.

Protection of existing forests and regenerating new forests has been identified by scientists as a third of the climate solution and necessary to maintain habitat for 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Large-scale forest conservation within the next decade is critical for humanity and our continued life of earth. Saving them is a Davos-worthy plan.

With the advent of 2020 and a brand-new decade, it is time for us to replace the 19th century systems and technologies that many companies still rely on to make commodities we use every day. That includes packaging, paper and clothing. Cleaner, lower-carbon footprint technologies and alternative fibres are available now. The forest product industry can shift to the 21st century and the ecological realities of our times.

Survival – A Pulp Thriller outlines how to quickly replace much of the forest fibre currently used to make pizza boxes, t-shirts and junk mail with alternative fibres such as straw, bamboo, waste textiles, and microbial cellulose. Our action plan also shows how smarter product design, greater efficiencies in production processes, utilising cleaner technologies and embarking on ambitious tree-planting initiatives to replace plantations that are currently sited in high carbon and bio-diverse landscapes are part of the solution.

An additional advantage of this plan is that it will address a number of other social priorities. Our projections show that many of these new mills will be located in parts of the world that are seeking opportunities for green economic development. Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Latin America, Brazil and parts of Africa all stand to see a significant shift of clean pulp and paper capacity to their countries and regions. Traditional production regions such as Canada, Europe and the US won’t miss out either, as new green technology can convert abundant agricultural fibres and the waste textiles to paper and viscose textiles. The Next Gen Solution enterprises that are in the pipeline bring with them regional benefits of clean jobs, value-added revenues to local farmers, better air quality, and alleviated pressure on landfills. To the rest of the world, they help bring a stable climate, vibrant animal and plant populations, and fundamentally more sustainable clothing and packaging options.

The price tag for all of this? $69 billion! It is a sizeable investment – but for context, the company that produces Botox sold last year for $63 billion. In my books and many of those who I spoke with last week in Davos, if the world can afford $63 Billion for Botox, it can afford $69 billion to save the planet.

Global investment banks, such as UBS and DWS, think we’re on exactly the right path. This is echoed by some of the world’s leading clothing brands and tissue manufacturers, including H&M and Kimberly-Clark.

If we start now, it’s completely possible to achieve the goal of reducing the use of tree fibre by 50% within the next decade. Even though it’s no small task, we know it is doable. It is possible to build (or retrofit) 200 new agricultural residue pulp mills, 16 waste textile pulp mills and 107 recycled paper mills around the world. For as Victor Hugo once said, “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” This bold plan is one of those ideas.