Bringing forests forward – a pathway to corporate action

Posted on October, 24 2023

Forests Forward is a signature WWF programme for corporate action in support of nature, climate and people. It helps companies unlock the power of forests to achieve ambitious sustainability, social impact and business goals.

By Tim Cronin, Forests Forward Global Lead, WWF-Australia.
First published in WWF's Forest Pathways Report 24 October 2023.

Through Forests Forward, WWF works with a consortium of leading global companies with impacts and dependencies on forests – including HP, IKEA, SIG, Costco Wholesale, International Paper and many more – to halt and reverse forest loss.

Why is corporate action on forests so critical?

It’s crunch time. Private sector ambition, action and accountability are imperative for addressing the underlying drivers of forest loss, especially the failure of markets to comprehensively recognize and account for the goods and services provided by forest ecosystems.

While public and private sector commitments to halt and reverse forest loss gather momentum, there remains a gap between talk and action. The Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use, and subsequent Forest and Climate Leaders Partnership, are encouraging examples of steps in the right direction. However, the world now needs practical and scalable solutions for reversing deforestation and promoting sustainable forest management, while supporting communities and economies to thrive. 

Private sector leadership – with inspiring examples that capitalize on the full value of forests to underpin business success – can be game-changing to help stimulate the global action required.

What is the opportunity?

We are seeing more and more regulatory and disclosure requirements, supply chain volatility, consumer expectations and new business opportunities associated with climate change and nature. Consequently, the environmental costs and benefits associated with forests are increasingly factored into the bottom line.

Forests Forward convenes, catalyzes and co-designs private sector partnerships to support the global transition from an economy built on extraction, exploitation and degradation, to one built on conservation, stewardship and regeneration. Forests Forward seeks to accelerate this transition by demonstrating and enhancing the business and economic case for forest conservation, restoration and improved forest management.

How does Forests Forward work?

Forests Forward adopts a structured and systematic approach to unlocking private sector commitment, action and collaboration, with a focus on three broad action areas:
  1. Sustainable forest management;
  2. Responsible sourcing;
  3. Investment into flagship forest landscapes.
First, Forests Forward’s corporate partners commit to removing deforestation and forest degradation from their production and trade. Second, they act to implement ambitious, time-bound targets to deliver these commitments. Third, they collaborate with like-minded peers to overcome shared challenges and transform industry practice. Working hand-in-hand, Forests Forward provides expert advice on target setting, action planning and prioritization; convenes and facilitates collective problem-solving and advocacy; and shines a light on innovative solutions to inspire others to follow. 

Specific activities and initiatives featured within the programme – which leverage the breadth of expertise in the WWF network and integrate with other global initiatives and trends – include deforestation-free production and trade, voluntary forest certification, community forestry, Science-Based Targets for Nature, payments for ecosystem services, nature-based solutions for climate change, blended finance, and joint advocacy for enabling public policies.

Who participates in Forests Forward?

Forests Forward partners with nearly 30 companies that have significant impacts and dependencies on forests, and that are committed to taking a leadership position on accelerating the transition to a net-zero and nature-positive future. They include players ranging from major global corporations such as HP and SIG who are going beyond their own supply-chain commitments to mobilize major private sector finance into landscape-scale programmes, to local agroforestry associations in the Amazon collaborating to restore degraded forest; from iconic global retailers such as IKEA who are raising the bar for traceability and transparency, to tropical forest concessionaires in the Congo Basin who are increasing the value of responsible forestry through accounting for ecosystem services. 

It’s becoming clear that strong corporate leadership on forests can be a driving force to complement, demonstrate and accelerate government commitments on nature.

Where is Forests Forward demonstrating impact? 

Forests Forward works with companies across many sectors with dependencies on many different forests, as well as with forest managers within them. We place a particular emphasis on many of the most valuable, yet vulnerable, forest ecosystems on the planet and mobilize private sector finance towards them. The programme prioritizes action and investment to transform the economics and governance of forests and land use within global frontiers of deforestation and forest degradation.

Examples of significant, integrated landscape approaches where Forests Forward is mobilizing private sector finance at scale include the Atlantic Forest in Latin America and the Congo Basin in West-Central Africa. 

HP: a positive imprint on the tech sector and beyond

Building on more than a decade of collaboration with WWF, HP Inc. aims to be forest positive: to more than address the forest impact of every piece of paper run through HP printers around the world by 2030. The technology company is going beyond its own supply chain by investing in large-scale forest preservation and restoration around the world – raising the bar for high-quality nature-based solutions.

Working with WWF in Brazil, Peru, China and Australia and collaborating with other Forests Forward partners, HP aims to restore, protect and improve the health of more than 400,000 hectares (more than 1 million acres) of ecologically valuable and threatened forests.

HP is also piloting a new methodology, developed by WWF, to comprehensively calculate its forest footprint – and this methodology could be adopted by other companies to provide further benefits for forests.

Agroforestry and sustainable forestry in the Peruvian Amazon

It’s not just about the largest companies: Forests Forward is also showing that the combined efforts of local companies and associations in biodiversity-rich landscapes around the world are vital to demonstrating the practical solutions to stem forest loss and degradation worldwide. 

In Peru, five agroforestry cooperatives plus a wood production company have committed to promoting the responsible management of forest resources and restoring ecosystems degraded by mining and illegal logging – helping to conserve Madre de Dios’s world-renowned biodiversity, while supporting local communities.
Emerging importance: "The environmental costs and benefits associated with forests are increasingly factored into the bottom line."
© Neil Ever Osborne / WWF-US
How Forests Forward works. Bold colours: what companies do. Lighter colours: how WWF supports.
© WWF Forests Forward
Harvested logs from a Forest Stewardship Council certified timber plantation.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF
Maderacre timber processing, Madre de Dios, Peru.
© Marjorie Moreira / WWF-Peru