Contributing to Nature goals with sustainable forest management
Gladys Naylor discusses the importance of sustainable forest management in addressing biodiversity loss.
Biodiversity is declining faster than at any other point in human history, and the risk of biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse was identified as one of the top five global threats of the next decade by the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Risks Report. The decline of biodiversity will have far-reaching economic and societal consequences, as it underpins all natural ecosystems and is an essential element of human wellbeing – sustaining Mondi’s packaging and paper business, as well as our economies and societies in which we are located¹. Ecosystems provide essential services that can impact livelihoods, income, local migration and even political conflict². In addition to all this, over half of the world’s GDP is either moderately or highly dependent on nature - $44 trillion of economic value generation³. And yet, nature continues to decline at unprecedented rates.
A global roadmap for biodiversity
Nations are increasingly recognising the importance of conserving biodiversity and accelerating actions, as seen at the 2022 United Nations Biodiversity Conference, otherwise known as COP15. The conference put a spotlight on biodiversity loss, as delegates, including myself, met to address this crisis. The conclusion of COP15 was the Global Biodiversity Framework – a global roadmap for the conservation, protection, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems to 2030. The plan includes the aim to protect 30% of the planet’s land and sea by 2030 and lays out what is expected of businesses in the coming years.
Not only was COP15 an essential reminder of the role governments and businesses must play in conserving our natural ecosystems, but it also highlighted the importance of sustainable business models – like Mondi’s.
Biodiversity & sustainable forestry
Conserving biodiversity is an essential element of sustainable forest management. Forests cover 31% of the world’s total land area⁴ and perform vital ecological, economic and social functions at local, national, and global levels. Forests are also home to the vast majority of terrestrial species in the world. Therefore, the sustainable management of forests to provide renewable resources while protecting biodiversity plays a significant role in maintaining the natural equilibrium of our planet.
There is a common misconception that the forestry sector perpetuates biodiversity loss in forests, but this does not need to be the case. When sustainable forest management is in place, bioeconomy and biodiversity can work hand in hand. Wood is the primary raw material for roughly 80% of Mondi’s products and solutions, and access to sustainable and responsible fibre sources is essential to our business. To ensure that we can continue to make products that are sustainable by design, it is essential to bolster the resilience of our forestry production landscapes, maintaining biodiversity. We do this by implementing best-practice sustainable forestry management in the forests we own and manage, and we promote ecosystem stewardship in the landscapes where we operate.
Partnering for impact
Tackling biodiversity loss is no easy feat, but we believe the most positive change can be generated through effective collaboration, leveraging our critical conservation partnerships. Our activity in South Africa is just one example of this. Mondi’s South African landholdings host significant biodiversity, and around 20-25% of these landholdings are managed for conservation. This involves monitoring and controlling the spread of invasive alien plants, one of the biggest threats to biodiversity in the area, as well as conserving wetlands and grasslands.
We work both directly, and through our partnerships with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Stellenbosch University and WWF South Africa, to support research and to strengthen efforts to safeguard ecosystems in our South African landholdings. Through these partnerships with conservation NGOs and scientific institutions, we implement and promote effective science-based approaches to conserve terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.
We have worked with WWF South Africa for over 30 years starting with our approach to managing important wetlands and evolving into our focus on improving water stewardship in the KwaZulu-Natal province. We also continue to collaborate with Stellenbosch University through the Mondi Ecological Networks Programme to help guide the effective design and management of ecological networks. We have also begun working with the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa to establish the biodiversity footprint of Mondi’s forestry landholdings. Through this process, we will measure and improve our existing work on species and ecosystems across our landholdings.
Our approach to biodiversity is to implement local measures in our owned and managed forests where we can have the most impact and can leverage useful primary data, findings and learnings. This work will also inform our approach in our wood sourcing areas in Europe, where we are engaged with various partnerships through our local and regional wood sourcing organisations to support and further improve sustainable forest management practices.