The boreal forest in Canada is in trouble. A natural wonder that is huge by any standard, the boreal is home to caribou, lynx, wood bison, moose, wolves, birds from around the globe and so much more. All told, it covers 1.2 billion acres of woodland stretching across most of the country and covering roughly half of its total land area.
But here’s the problem: This beautiful open space is being aggressively logged for tissue products.
Each year, 1 million acres of boreal forest is cut in Canada, much of it turned into pulp that is used for tissue products. This not only threatens the wildlife that call the forest home, it also puts incredible pressure on our changing climate. Logging in the Canadian boreal takes long-stored carbon from the soil, roots, trunks and branches and releases it into the atmosphere. It also eliminates the carbon capturing potential of the tree, and erodes the carbon intake capabilities of the fractured forest around it.
If we can reverse this destructive harvesting, the boreal forest can remove the equivalent of 24 million vehicles’ worth of carbon emissions each year.
What is particularly troubling about this environmental damage is that it’s so thoroughly unnecessary. Tissue products don’t have to come from recently logged forests or even from forests at all. This fact makes an upcoming shareholder vote at the annual meeting of one of the giants in the tissue industry — Procter & Gamble — so important. In the last fiscal year, Procter & Gamble, which makes Charmin, Bounty and Puffs paper products, purchased 1.3 million metric tons of wood pulp, approximately 35 percent of which was sourced from Canada.
At Procter & Gamble’s annual general meeting, which will be held virtually on Oct. 13, its shareholders will vote on a resolution to address the issues of deforestation and forest degradation in the company’s supply chain. The resolution, submitted by Green Century Capital Management, cites potential reputational damage to Procter & Gamble for sourcing from carbon-rich forests.
Charmin toilet paper, Bounty paper towels and Puffs facial tissues are well-known household brands. What is starting to also become known is that for all three of these brands, P&G uses 100 percent virgin forest fiber in its tissues and does not include any recycled or forest-free content. Perplexingly, P&G is lagging behind other brands, which have incorporated recycled and forest-free fibers such as bamboo into their tissue products.
We are currently witnessing the climate crisis’ devastation across the globe. Along with it, a new report from the United Nations shows that our planet’s biodiversity is in freefall, in part due to our failure to conserve our natural world. The boreal forest is crucial to both combatting the climate crisis and preserving our biodiversity; we simply cannot continue to cut down our forests at such incredible rates.
Procter & Gamble has asked shareholders to vote against the environmental resolution.
But, the corporation should not only rethink its position on the resolution but also its approach to sourcing virgin fibers for tissue products. For the love of the Charmin bear, the vast boreal and our climate, Procter & Gamble must do better.
Top photo by River Jordan for NRDC