In an interesting turn of events, The Body Shop has been spotted scrubbing grime of a different sort altogether. It has taken up quite an onerous and an equally significant task of cleaning up some of the mistakes that have stolen away the fragrance forests were usually known for.
It has initiated a Bio-Bridges programme with the aim to regenerate 75 million square metres of forest and protect it from exploitation, poaching and unsustainable harvesting. As the company explains: Bio-Bridges regenerate and reconnect corridors between healthy rainforest, linking isolated and endangered animals and plant species, allowing them to again breed and thrive.
It also intends to engage the local communities in the long term protection of the bio bridge habitat by helping to provide a more sustainable way of life from them for the people who live in and around the surrounding areas.
Going deeper into the relevance side of it, the company states that while The Body Shop sources ingredients from all around the world, protecting the bio-diversity of the world helps ensure a long-term, healthy and thriving environment for these ingredients, as well as protecting the planet from the effects of climate change.
In fact, The Bio-Bridges programme is one element of The Body Shop’s ‘Enrich Not Exploit Commitment’, which aims to make The Body Shop the most ethical and truly sustainable global business in the world.
Now that could not have been better timed. If we look at some numbers, the state of forests has been disturbingly dismal for many years. Whether it is the Amazon where around 17 per cent of the forest has been lost in the last 50 years or an overall 46-58 thousand square miles of forest that are lost each year or how Rainforests that once covered 14 per cent of the earth’s land surface; now only encompass a 6 per cent footprint.
Some guesses have already speculated that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years and that’s not too much of a guess when we see how deforestation makes up for about 20 per cent of global emissions of CO2.
The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 iterated the condition well indicating that about 129 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990. This forest review from FAO also showed in 1990 forests made up 31.6 percent of the word’s land areas, or some 4 128 million hectares, but this has changed to 30.6 percent in 2015, or some 3 999 million hectares.
Why all the fuss, one may wonder? Well, for one, according to WWF, forests play a critical role in mitigating climate change because they act as a carbon sink—soaking up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere and contribute to ongoing changes in climate patterns. So when deforestation happens, it undermines this important carbon sink function. Imagine, 15 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions are the result of deforestation! Not to forget, disruption in water cycles and soil erosion that come along too.
Then comes the question of millions of people around the world who depend on forests for hunting, gathering and medicine, forest products such as rubber and rattan, and small-scale agriculture and how their lives get hugely shaken up.
Example, in the Greater Mekong in Southeast Asia, where land tenure systems are weak, and deforestation has contributed to social conflict and migration. Or in Brazil, poor people have been lured from their villages to remote soy plantations where they may be abused and forced, at gunpoint, to work under inhumane conditions, as WWF has pointed.
Forests are useful in fighting rural poverty, ensuring food security and providing people with livelihoods besides being the easy source of clean air and water, the conservation of biodiversity and combating climate change.
Of course, there is the economic argument for those motivated that way. The forest sector was last calculated to contribute about $600 billion annually to global GDP with employment to over 50 million people.
So such corporate initiatives, if executed well assume new proportions. The first project for The Body Shop is in Khe Nuoc Trong forest of North Central Vietnam, home of rare species such as the Red Shanked Douc, Saola (known as the Asian Unicorn and one of the rarest animals on earth), Bengal Slow Loris and Burmese Python.
These species are threatened by hunting for food and medicine and illegally logged with nearby habitats still suffering from the effects of Agent Orange used during the Vietnam war.
Incidentally, if carbon emissions from deforestation were taken into account, Brazil and Indonesia would rank in the top 10 of the world’s worst polluters as per WWF.
The roadmap has been laid out. For a customer, there’s a new chance beneath all those soap bubbles and mist-drops. Through an in-store and on-line campaign, ‘Help Reggie Find Love’, features Reggie, a Red-Shanked Douc from Vietnam, one of the species being given a chance to live safely and repopulate, customers will directly support the project. Every customer transaction will restore and protect one square metre of habitat in the forest. This playful campaign to find Reggie love will help bring this serious issue to life in an engaging and entertaining way, claims the company.
The protected areas of forest will enable wildlife to travel safely across deforested or degraded lands, linking habitats and encouraging them to connect with each other and breed, it adds.
In this first project, The Body Shop is working with World Land Trust and its partner, Vietnam-based Viet Nature Conservation Centre, to protect the area and its wildlife through regular patrolling and utilising camera-traps. Viet Nature also works closely with the local community to encourage sustainable forest resource use and farming and with schools to encourage involvement.
Christopher Davis, Director of Corporate Responsibility and Campaigns, The Body Shop seems confident and optimistic. “We want to focus on actively enriching the world’s bio-diversity. These areas of forest in Vietnam are biological treasure troves that are being destroyed through poaching and illegal logging. Bio-Bridges are an innovative way to create protected corridors of bio-diversity that allows the wider forest to flourish and its inhabitants to breed and thrive. In Vietnam, within five to 10 years we hope to be able to see endangered species multiply.
We’ll be promoting ‘Find Reggie Love’ online and in our stores in 65 countries around the world, helping raise awareness of this serious issue in a different way and allowing our customers to make a direct and positive impact with every purchase.” He elaborates.
The second Bio-Bridge project is slated to begin in late 2016 in the Garo Hills of India. This project will also be delivered in partnership with World Land Trust and their partner Wildlife Trust of India.
As per the company, the new Commitment embraces the bold ethical principles from which The Body Shop was built and is an extensive programme of global activity and measurable targets that touches all areas of the business. It informs that The Body Shop has specific, measurable targets by 2020 that make the business accountable for delivery. In total there are 14 targets within the new Commitment.
Such initiatives can become hugely relevant in light of some recent findings about second-lease of life for forests. A research, published in the journal Science Advances talked of significant carbon that so-called second-growth forests can sequester and the scientists found that over the span of 40 years, Latin American second-growth forests can stash away the equivalent of 21 years’ worth of the region’s human carbon dioxide emissions.
Second-growth forests, or young forests less than 60 years old that have naturally regrown or regenerated after being cut down, in Latin America’s secondary lowland forests alone have been reckoned to store the equivalent of all of the human carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use and industry in Latin America between 1993 and 2014.
Things may actually be getting a tad spiffy. Like, over the past 25 years the rate of net global deforestation has slowed down by more than 50 percent as per FAO and national forest inventories now cover 81 percent of global forest area, which is a substantial increase over the past 10 years.
Also, the net annual rate of forest loss has slipped from 0.18 percent in the early 1990s to 0.08 percent during the period 2010-2015. Planted forests have also increased by over 110 million hectares since 1990.
Hopefully, our forests will start smelling and looking great soon. Good efforts should continue.