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  • Archive for April, 2017

    Target commits to sustainable packaging goals

    2017 - 04.26

    Retail giant Target has announced five new sustainable packaging goals that aim to help the brand’s customers “take a step toward sustainable living”.

    Leading the announcement, Jen Silberman, Target’s Chief Sustainability Officer, suggested that the firm wanted to increase their commitment to sustainable wood use and other environmental concerns: “As a leader in design, we can use our expertise to create more sustainable packaging options for our guests and help deliver products that are both better-for-you and better for the environment.”

    The five goals include the sourcing of all brand-owned paper-based packaging from sustainably managed forests and the elimination of expanded polystyrene from brand-owned packaging by 2022.

    Additionally, the brand will aim to add the How2Recycle label to all of its brand-owned packaging by 2020, while also supporting The Recycling Partnership’s mission to encourage more than 25 per cent of Americans to recycle by 2020.

    Finally, the goals highlighted the brand’s desire to create greater demand for recycled packaging by creating three new end markets for recycled materials and educating consumers by 2020. This particular goal will be achieved alongside two industry efforts – the Material Recovery Facility of the Future and Beyond 34, with the former focusing on increasing the percentage of packaging that can be recycled and the latter focusing on raising the recycling rate among consumers.

    Silberman added: “With the power of Target’s team and our scale as one of the country’s largest retailers, we hope to be a catalyst for change across the industry — aiming for the day when all packaging will be recyclable and leading the way to a packaging-waste-free world.”

    The announcement comes just weeks after Target released a new forest products policy, in which it pledged to source all of the wood, paper, paper-based and wood-based fibre used in its branded products from recycled materials and credibly certified forests.

    Rainforest conservation ‘may be aimed at the wrong areas’

    2017 - 04.18

    According to new research published in Nature’s open-access journal Scientific Reports, the conservation efforts implemented as part of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) policy framework could be aimed at the wrong areas.

    Currently, forest conservation projects are based on previous research that has indicated that tree diversity may have a positive correlation with carbon storage ability, or that forests with a greater number of tree species could potentially store more carbon that forests with fewer species.

    However, a group of international scientists have discovered that no set carbon storage-tree diversity relationship exists on a large scale, such as in the Amazon rainforest. In fact, the report revealed that tropical rainforests in Africa actually show that carbon storage is high in an area with low tree diversity. Similarly, in South America the researchers found that tree diversity was high while carbon storage was low.

    As a result of the findings, researchers have suggested their results indicate some current conservation campaigns, including those promoted by REDD+, could be aimed at the wrong areas and lead to more stringent deforestation and conservation rules being applied to the less crucial forest areas, and vice versa.

    Commenting on the findings, the authors said: “Methods to select protected areas that consider multiple metrics of conservation value (e.g. above ground biomass carbon and aspects of biodiversity) are available. Our results support the use of such an approach over carbon-dominated prioritisation incentivised under REDD+.

    “Applying this in practice is challenging as it requires knowledge of spatial variation in tree diversity, composition and carbon stocks, highlighting the importance of careful identifications to species level during forest inventories,” they added. “As tropical forests can have any combination of tree diversity and carbon both will require explicit consideration when optimising policies to manage tropical carbon and biodiversity.”

    Brazil Finance Minister: I can see signs of growth

    2017 - 04.12

    The Brazilian economy is about to enter a positive period of growth, the country’s Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles says.

    After the recession of last year, Mr Meirelles said there will be a “change in scenario” for early 2017.

    Brazil is in one of its worst ever recessions but, speaking during a meeting of the Council for Economic and Social Development, Mr Meirelles said measures taken by Brazil’s government mean the economy will grow again during the first quarter of 2017.

    “Brazil today is already a country getting back to normal," he said, adding that the trend is for the economy to improve, especially after the adoption of the reforms proposed by the government such as changes in the pension system and the modernisation of labour laws, and that Brazil is moving towards a new stage of productivity.

    Mr Meirelles said even employment numbers, which are “usually the last to react in a crisis”, have signalled a recovery, with industry generating jobs once again.

    The Minister cited the number of passenger vehicles on roads, the production and scale of corrugated cardboard, grocery sales and motorcycle production as among the indicators of growth.

    There are also other important signs of recovery, he said, including goods imports, consumer confidence and business vehicle licenses.

    “These figures are the result of a series of policies that led the Brazilian economy to face the biggest crisis in its history. Now, we are in the process of leaving this crisis,” he added.

    Fund acquires stake in Laos plantation to boost sustainable timber

    2017 - 04.12

    Tropical Asia Forest Fund (TAFF), managed by Sydney-based New Forests, has completed the acquisition of a majority stake in one of the largest hardwood plantation estates in Laos, with the aim of boosting sustainable timber production.

    The Australian-based fund reportedly purchased 85 per cent of Mekong Timber Plantations based on plans to develop the 54,000-acre site as a high-quality sustainable hardwood plantation to serve regional markets.

    New Forests, a specialist in sustainable land and infrastructure, made its investment through the $170 million TAFF fund, which is the only forestry fund in Southeast Asia for institutional investors.

    The purchase further supports its investment aims of acquiring significant interests in plantation timber companies and investing to transition assets towards higher value end markets, as well as servicing the growing demand for certified, sustainable timber in Asian markets.

    Currently, the TAFF fund’s investments include eucalyptus and acacia plantations, as well as a rubber plantation that will produce both latex and timber products.

    Commenting on the fund’s purchase of the plantation, CEO David Brand suggested that the organisation is steadily aiming to expand its investment portfolio across the Southeast Asia region. “The fund has proven that there is an opportunity for institutional investors to contribute to the shift of Asia’s forest sector to long-term, sustainable management,” he said.

    Mr Brand added that he hopes the Laos plantation will be “cash-flow positive” in between two and three years. Additionally, the fund is replanting its plantation in Malaysia with high-quality timber, which is expected to take around 14 years to mature.

    “With a patient and disciplined approach to acquisitions, good forestry investments are available throughout the region. We also believe there is great opportunity to improve silviculture, increase growth rates, and develop markets linked with the growing demand for wood products in Asia.”

    Platform to connect traders of timber products

    2017 - 04.10

    A new platform designed to connect buyers and sellers of legal and certified timber products in a way that is safe, clear and friendly to the environment is now being promoted.

    Known as the BVRIO Responsible Timber Exchange, the platform gives members the opportunity to post requests and offers and receive their replies online, which is predicted to increase market efficiency and reduce illegal timber trading.

    According to the Ghana associate of the BVRIO, Mr James Mckeown Parker, the system will support traders across the sector to verify that timber being purchased is legal, so they can buy in confidence.

    “Since it’s difficult to come down here and do that, our system is going to help them,” he said. “We will hook our system into the Wood Tracking System (WTS) that has already been developed so that with the click of the button you do your assessment there and then you can buy timber legally.”

    According to Mr Parker, the Forestry Commission has previously completed a successful pilot for the domestic market. “Unlike formerly where contractors were issued timber utilisation permits for a concession, they gave them documents along the chain when they harvested but all these are going to be digitised and will go into the WTS,” he said.

    The platform reportedly also includes an in-built risk assessment system designed to help users conduct due diligence of each of the timber consignments they trade in. President of BVRIO, Mr Pedro Moura Costa, suggests that this means it could be beneficial in Brazil, where there’s an estimated 60 per cent illegality. According to Mr Costa, the BVRIO can create the exchange to promote the trade of legal timber and producers complying with the law.

    Stakeholders in forest and agricultural commodities supply chain – particularly those within timber, palm oil and cocoa – and government and civil society representatives from a number of countries affected by illegal timber trading have already met in Ghana to discuss how this platform can be utilised around the world to support sustainable commodity markets.

    Brazil trade surplus reaches record levels

    2017 - 04.05

    Latin America’s biggest economy logged a trade surplus in March of a record $7.1 billion, which marks the highest monthly gain since 1980, when data was first compiled by the Brazilian government. These results are believed to be due, in part, to the weaker currency helping to power agricultural exports, and a two-year recession that is weighing on local demand for foreign goods and imports.

    According to Brazil’s Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade, the March results were 61 per cent greater than they were just 12 months ago, with this high level of exports playing a pivotal role in the performance of the Brazilian economy.

    The news comes despite the recent unveiling of a corruption scheme within Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture, which unmasked corruption between the operators of regional plants and health inspectors, the latter of which were receiving bribes in exchange for fraudulent sanitary permits. This resulted in a number of countries temporarily banning Brazilian meat imports as the investigations took place.

    Following the uncovering of the scandal, meat exports from Brazil dropped from $63 million to only $74,000 per day, or from $15.47 billion in February up to $20.1 billion in March. However, overall meat exports rose by 4.4 per cent in March compared to 12 months ago, when the daily average was $57 million and the overall export total for the month reached $16 billion.

    “This drop shows that importers were initially scared, but the government acted promptly to overcome the image crisis,”, said Herlon Brandão, the Ministry’s director of Statistics and Support to Exports. Imports were also found to have increased by 7.1 per cent, or from $10.9 billion in February to $12.9 billion in March 2017.

    Brazil soybean exports to reach record high

    2017 - 04.04

    The record soybean crop being harvested in Brazil will generate record levels of soybean exports in 2017, according to Hamburg-based oilseeds analysts Oil World.

    The organisation has estimated that Brazil will harvest 108.5 million tonnes of soybeans in early 2017, up from 95.43 million in early 2016. “We estimate Brazilian soybean exports will be boosted to a new high of 61.4 million tonnes in calendar year 2017, up 9.8 million tonnes from last year,” they said in a statement. “The increase in exports could be even higher, considering that the Brazilian soybean crop will rise by at least 13 million tonnes.”

    The forecast is above the 59.8 million tonnes originally predicted by Brazilian vegetable oil industry association Abiove in March, with Rally da Safra, the main expedition to monitor grain harvest, predicting a harvest of 113.3 million tonnes of soybeans this year.

    In fact, the result of the Safra Rally was a record yield of 49.78 bushels per acre, compared with 43 bushels per acre in the previous season. “This is a spectacular soybean harvest,” said André Pessôa, coordinator of the Rally da Safra. “This year, rains occurred earlier and were constant throughout the season, and farmers took advantage of early planting.”

    This earlier soybean harvest reportedly allowed for effective implementation of the second-corn crop, offering a “positive outlook” and increasing the chance of higher productivity of corn.

    This increase in productivity is reflected around South America, with soybean harvests delivered by leading producers Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uraguay also forecast to rise to 180.2 million tonnes in early 2017, up from 165.3 million tonnes last year, according to Oil World.

    According to consultancy AgRural, the soybean harvest has reached 68 per cent of the planted area across South America. In a statement released in March, AgRural said that productivity is surpassing estimates, adding that production estimates will be revised as a result.