Canopy is a company that is deeply committed to planet-saving initiatives. They recognize the alarming rate at which trees are being cut down each year, resulting in the depletion of ancient and endangered forests crucial for life on Earth. With a mission to transform unsustainable supply chains and spearhead innovative solutions, Canopy collaborates with over 500 brand partners and the most astute innovators across various industries.
For almost 25 years, Canopy has consistently championed the cause of sustainable consumption and conservation. Their ability to deliver ambitious results and redefine possibility is attributed to their strong partnerships, unwavering tenacity, and solution-focused approach. Canopy works closely with renowned fashion, food and beverage, beauty and care brands, as well as publishers and printers, to bring forest-saving solutions from the sidelines to the mainstream.
Thanks to their relentless efforts, Canopy and their philanthropic and brand partners have successfully secured environmental commitments from more than 500 brands, including transforming the iconic Harry Potter book series to be more environmentally friendly. They have made significant strides in greening the viscose supply chain, ensuring that more than half is now categorized as “green shirts” or sourced from low-risk areas, free from ancient and endangered forests. Moreover, they have fostered sustainable solutions such as mills in the US, China, and Europe that utilize waste streams like agricultural residue and discarded clothing to create packaging and garments essential for modern living.
Canopy is dedicated to driving change that matches the scale of the ecological challenges our world faces. While they take pride in their collective impact, they remain aware that more work lies ahead as they strive to safeguard our natural world.
Nicole Rycroft, the Founder of Canopy, recently took part in a discussion with the TVC Media Team where she emphasized the significance of investing in innovative solutions for the future. During the conversation, she shed light on how brands can benefit from utilizing the Hot Button Report and other available resources to ethically source their products from approved producers.
Originally from Australia and renowned for her work in the environmental sector, Nicole Rycroft is not only the Executive Director of the award-winning non-profit organisation, Canopy, but also a former physiotherapist and accomplished athlete. As an avid surfer and someone who embraces life wholeheartedly, she strongly believes in the power of asking for what you want, as it can sometimes lead to unexpected positive outcomes. This guiding principle has played a crucial role in her work with Canopy, where she is dedicated to transforming unsustainable supply chains and advancing forest conservation and community rights. In recognition of her remarkable efforts, Nicole has been involved with prestigious programs such as the UBS Global Visionaries Program and has received numerous accolades including the Canadian Environment Award Gold Medal, the 2020 Climate Breakthrough Award, and the Meritorious Service Cross of Canada.
Can you tell us about Canopy’s mission?
- Canopy is a solutions-driven environmental non-profit dedicated to transforming unsustainable supply chains to lower carbon and circular alternatives to save climate-critical forests worldwide.
- Around 3.4 billion trees are cut down annually for paper packaging and fashion fabrics like viscose and rayon, many from the world’s most carbon and biodiversity-rich forests. The loss of these forests not only endangers climate action but risks massive biodiversity loss, unleashing new pandemics and threatening the livelihoods of millions of Indigenous and other local communities.
- Canopy works with hundreds of world-leading brands, like H&M, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s, and Puma, to transform unsustainable take-make-waste supply chains to low-carbon, circular alternatives – otherwise known as Next Gen solutions – to ensure the world’s most vital forests don’t end up as next season’s fashion or packaging for takeout containers.
- Today, one-third of the world’s most influential companies have yet to make forest conservation commitments, despite the scientific community’s warnings that at least 50% of the world’s forests must be conserved or restored by 2030 to ensure global temperature rises stay below 1.5 °C.
Canopy has achieved impressive results in conservation and sustainable consumption. What are some of the key accomplishments you are most proud of over the past 25 years?
Canopy has worked collaboratively with hundreds of the world’s largest fashion, food and beverage, and beauty and care brands for nearly 25 years to transform the viscose, paper, packaging and pulp supply chains. Our work has already advanced cutting-edge environmental policies with over 900 major global brands to end sourcing from climate-critical forests. Highlights include:
- Greening the fifth Harry Potter book, ensuring they are printed in ancient forest-friendly paper in 24 countries and transforming the publishing sector.
- It is working with 550 CanopyStyle brand and retail partners to eliminate the use of Ancient and Endangered Forests from the viscose/MMCF supply chain. This collaborative work with brands has resulted in producers representing 92% of global viscose production having similar commitments in place and 54% of global viscose production now being awarded a green shirt in Canopy’s Hot Button Report.
- Playing a pivotal role in helping secure 39 million acres of large-scale conservation gains in forests globally.
- Last year, Canopy helped launch the world’s first commercial-scale textile-to-textile pulp mill, Renewcell. The mill uses millions of old jeans and t-shirts rather than huge swaths of forests to produce rayon and lyocell textile pulp. Renewcell is at the forefront of fashion’s circular economy. As the first generation application of this Next Gen technology at scale, Renewcell’s finance package was ‘unlocked’ by one of the world’s viscose producers committing to a five-year off-take agreement. Brands buoyed the confidence of the producer to do so. The next tier of Next Gen mills is already progressing. (In April, Canopy received a $60M anchor investment from TED’s Audacious initiative, which will underpin our efforts to catalyse 60M tonnes of Next Gen production by 2033. You can learn more at www.nextgennow.ca).
- Last year at COP27, we led the announcement of a collective commitment from world-leading retailers – H&M, Inditex, Ben & Jerry’s, and Kering, among them – to create market pull-through for the growing Next Gen materials market by purchasing over half a million tonnes of Next Gen products.
The Hot Button Report is a leading tool for the fashion sector. How can brands use this report and other resources to source sustainably from approved producers?
- The Canopy Hot Button Report is a crucial engagement tool for understanding and transforming the previously opaque viscose/MMCF supply chain. Hot Button is a go-to resource where brands can:
- Assess the risk producers in their MMCF supply originating from high-carbon, biodiverse forests and controversial sources.
- Identify which MMCF producers are leading the transition to Next Gen production and which have commercial Next Gen product(s) available.
- Identify which producers are taking the lead on advancing forest conservation.
- Snapshot of chemical management engagement of each producer with ZDHC.
- See which jurisdictions producers operate in.
- Any red in a producer’s shirt indicates a high risk of controversial sourcing and MMCFs originating from an Ancient and Endangered Forest. Producers that score enough points in other areas to secure a green or yellow shirt rating will also have red on their shirt if they are at high risk of sourcing from an Ancient and Endangered Forest.
- In addition to being a foundational tool for brands, the Hot Button Report also provides much-needed feedback for producers to identify priority areas of their operations that need to change to reduce their impact on forests and climate and improve their environmental performance. Fulsome brand adoption of Hot Button is incentivising producers to take action.
- The 2023 Hot Button reveals that 71% of MMCF producers (or 54% of global viscose production by volume) have now achieved the coveted green shirt rating.
- Due to the increasing number of green shirt manufacturers, brands that aim to achieve their Scope 3 targets and adhere to the recent EU Deforestation Regulations have expanded alternatives when procuring from most global MMCF producers, providing a more comprehensive selection of Next Gen options. They can be confident that they are unlikely to be sourcing at the expense of the world’s climate-critical forests.
- Almost all MMCF producers engaged with Canopy invest in Next Gen R&D, initiate Next Gen pilot projects, and/or launch commercial-scale Next Gen products.
Can you explain the concept of the Next Gen production and its potential to displace forest fibre? How are brands and MMCF producers embracing Next Gen solutions?
- Next Gen solutions employ waste, not forests, for creating packaging and textiles.
- For example, new technologies allow us to extract and process cellulose from agricultural residues like wheat straw (often burned) to make packaging or waste textiles and industrial food waste (often landfilled) to make viscose fabrics.
- Next Gen materials provide a scalable, profitable, and readily available alternative to using high-carbon forests to make textiles and packaging.
- Next Gen alternatives carry on average 4 tonnes less carbon, use 60 – 90% less water and have 5x less impact on biodiversity than forest-based MMCF or packaging – plus they resolve secondary environmental impacts associated with industrial food waste, landfilled textiles and the burning of straw post-harvest. Next Gen solutions also keep forests standing so they can continue to act as our shields against climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
- Many Next Gen packaging solutions are already price-competitive, if not cheaper, than conventional wood-based alternatives. This is mainly attributable to lower input and manufacturing costs. Next Gen pulp for MMCF textiles currently carries a premium. Still, pricing is already coming down as larger-volume runs allow optimisation and run on larger, more cost-effective machines by the MMCF producer.
- Next Gen solutions also present significant technical (some of the Next Gen MMCF alternatives have tested “softer than silk and stronger than wood”) and social benefits (value-added revenues to farmers for straw).
- Three producers, Birla, Sanyou, and Yibin Grace, are on the market with MMCF products that contain Renewcell pulp – made from recycled textiles. Brands are now working with these producers to scale production.
Can you highlight some of the critical findings of the 2023 Hot Button Report and the progress made by MMCF producers in terms of sustainability?
- This year, 20 of the world’s MMCF producers, or 71%, are now rated with the coveted green shirt — representing 54% of global production volume.
- The number of commercially available Next Gen MMCF lines has doubled over the last two years.
- Recognised top performers such as Aditya Birla, Lenzing, Tangshan Sanyou, and Xinxiang Chemical Fiber highlight a notable trend wherein established green shirt producers are actively pursuing higher sustainability benchmarks, with an emphasis on achieving dark green shirt status by deepening their work to scale Next Gen, increasing their FSC purchases or advancing conservation.
- A crucial focus in 2023 lies in the commitment of MMCF producers toward Next Generation Solutions, marked by significant strides such as Yibin Grace’s intention to increase Next Gen content to 50% and Sanyou’s plan to elevate Next Gen capacity to 200,000 tonnes annually.
The CanopyStyle initiative has gained significant traction, with 550 brands onboard. How do major players in this initiative deepen their commitment to Next Gen and forest conservation?
- As part of the CanopyStyle policy that a brand signs with us, they increasingly commit to prefer low-carbon Next Gen alternatives within their supply chains. This commitment sends an important signal through the full value chain – incentivising conventional producers to prioritise Next Gen development and buoying the confidence of investors to unlock the financing needed to scale up Next Gen production.
- Now that early-to-market Next Gen operators are up and operating, leading brands are working directly with MMCF producers and other supply chain partners to incentivise leadership in adoption at commercial scale.
- In addition to committing to sourcing from Next Gen feedstocks, we encourage all brands to use their social influence to build a culture where the world’s forests are valued and protected at scale. For example, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood both developed specific social media campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of forests and several of Canopy’s brand partners, including LVMH and Zara/Inditex, have invested in conservation initiatives that directly support the conservation of important global hotspots.
How can brands support Canopy’s mission to protect forests, species, and climate?
The power of collective action is far-reaching. Brands have a critical role in supporting the goal of 50% of the world’s forests being conserved by 2030 by:
- They are flexing their purchasing muscle to transform the packaging, paper and viscose supply chains currently degrading forests. By transitioning away from forest fibres and towards Next Gen alternatives, brands not only take pressure off the world’s precious forests but also provide vital market pull-through and buoy investor confidence in Next Gen alternatives, helping Next Gen to become the norm.
- Leveraging their investment potential to help scale Next Gen alternatives and develop other business models that de-couple brands’ financial performance from virgin raw materials.
- Advocating for forest and nature conservation – at key strategic junctures for individual landscapes or global biodiversity fora.
- They are using their social influence to build a culture where the world’s forests are valued and protected by leveraging their social channels, stores, speaking opportunities, and on-product messaging to raise awareness and mobilise people to take action.