Seeing the forest for the trees (and relics)

Seeing the forest for the trees (and relics)

Written on 04/24/2020
Jaco de Klerk

JACO DE KLERK discovers that interesting initiatives are plentiful in our planet’s forestry sector, from nature-based solutions for global warming to the preservation of ancient remains



Forestry is defined as the science and craft of creating, managing, using, conserving and repairing forests, woodlands and associated resources for human and environmental benefits. And with global warming on the rise – attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants – it is wonderful to see that companies are joining the efforts to curb these effects.

“Achieving our net-zero ambition requires that we transform how we do business,” explains Laurent Freixe, chief executive officer of Zone Americas at Nestlé. “Together with our suppliers we will restore land, improve the management of our supply chain and, as a result, better manage greenhouse gas emissions. This investment will lead to enhanced biodiversity and the regeneration of ecosystems we depend upon in the Americas.”

Nestlé started to plant trees in Brazil and Mexico during March this year. The company, together with One Tree Planted (OTP) – a non-profit environmental charity with a focus on global reforestation to protect habitat for biodiversity – and OTP’s associated partner, the World Resources Institute, aims to plant at least three million trees by 2021.

Nestlé will select specific planting locations in the Americas where palm, soya, paper, coffee, or coconuts are grown, and where precious ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, peatlands or mangroves can be restored.

“Our goal is not to compensate for the emissions but to truly adopt nature-based solutions that we are deploying as part of our pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2050,” says Magdi Batato, executive vice president and head of operations at Nestlé.

“The planting of trees not only captures carbon but also helps rebuild forests and communities, protects threatened and endangered biodiversity, promotes soil nutrients and conserves water – all of which help increase the resilience of farmers. Reforestation also complements our commitment to halt deforestation in our supply chains. Tackling climate change requires multiple solutions.”

These activities are the initial phase of a broader reforestation initiative, which forms part of Nestlé’s plan to scale up activities in agriculture and deploy nature-based solutions to absorb more carbon. The company will later expand the reforestation activities to Africa, Asia and Oceania, with a focus on sourcing locations vulnerable to the adverse effect of climate change.

Companies aren’t only focusing on trees. Svenska Cellulosa AB (SCA) – a Swedish timber, pulp and paper manufacturer – is attempting to reduce damage caused by forest operations to ancient remains and cultural relics, with wonderful results.

In 2019, 7,2 percent of relics were damaged in total, compared with 10,7 percent in the preceding year.

“When we began to monitor the damage levels in 2015 these were at 40 percent, so this is a tremendous improvement,” says Anna Cabrajic, a nature conservation expert at SCA’s forest management department.

Much of the serious damage occurs in connection with site preparation, and here too SCA has noted a highly positive trend.

“In 2019, 3,2 percent of relics were damaged in conjunction with site preparation, compared with 4,8 percent in the preceding year,” Cabrajic says. “A few years ago, the level of damage was more than 10 percent.

“We can see a clear trend in inspections where the use of conservation stumps significantly reduces the number of damage incidents. Work to ensure the correct placement of conservation stumps around cultural remains prior to site preparation has been a key component in reducing the level of damage.”

The stumps are obtained from trees close to the relics that are cut to stand as 1,3-metre high stumps. “The positioning of the stumps is carefully planned, a ribbon is then tied to the trees, which are then cut and provide a high level of protection to the relics,” Cabrajic explains. “The stumps give a clear indication to equipment operators where the relics are located.”

The company conducted quality follow-ups of 473 known relics in 2019. Of these, 171 were registered as known by the public authorities. SCA’s employees have themselves discovered and shown consideration for 302 relics.

“We have informed the authorities about these newly discovered relics,” Cabrajic adds.

Since 2016, SCA has also held several training courses for planners, machine operators and scarifier operators to teach them to recognise and manage relics in the correct manner.

“I am proud that we have reduced the level of damage by so much,” she notes, “although this does not mean we can sit back and relax. We must continue to work with our positive methods throughout the chain of measures required to achieve consideration for remains and relics. It takes time – from planning to site preparation can take four to five years – and we have not worked through the entire chain everywhere yet.”

Even though much work remains to be done, SCA and Nestlé have made great progress towards the repair and conservation of forests, and some ancient associated resources, to benefit humankind as well as the environment.

It will be interesting to see how these and other initiatives unfold in the future.