Asking price too low for green skills - Chris Packham

TV presenter Chris Packham has called on the environmental sector to recognise and exploit the value of its "unique skill set" which he believes has been undersold for too long.

Chris Packham sees corporate partnerships as crucial to driving growth in green sector

Chris Packham sees corporate partnerships as crucial to driving growth in green sector

The naturalist and wildlife expert said there were are great opportunities for green solution providers to leverage their profile by working alongside brand leaders who are increasingly recognising the value of sustainability.

Speaking to edie in a special podcast interview, Packham said this level of corporate involvement was now going beyond greenwash and being translated into real initiatives on the ground.

The backing of big business was vital, he added, not just in terms of being able to inject capital into a project, but in its influence in spreading the green message to a wider audience.

"The environmental sector will always be impoverished no matter how much funding we have, we don't have enough to spend to make the differences we want to make, therefore we are always looking for partners and corporate partners are very important," he maintained.

Packham was speaking at the debut screening of a documentary from tissue brand Velvet in London today (June 21) that detailed the work the brand is doing out in Brazil to help protect the Amazon rainforest.

As part of its 'Three Trees' initiative, the SCA-owned tissue brand has pledged to plant three trees for every one harvested to make its product. It has already planted over three million native trees in deforested areas of the rainforest and plans to plant millions more over the next decade.

Packham said he didn't "enter lightly" into supporting projects such as this without thorough investigation. He flew out to Brazil to see firsthand the work being done out there and returned impressed not only by the pragmatism of the scheme, but the fact it was being supported by scientific evidence.

"It was a practical project, putting trees in the ground. It wasn't so much theory or lobbying, it was about getting on and doing something. The scale of it was impressive ... it had scientific integrity ... I liked the honesty that flowed from that.

SCA's commitment to the project also resonated with Packham. "With a tree planting project you're not in it for a short space of time, you can't turn your back on a tree and pretend it's going to be happy for the next 100 years."

He added that he hoped SCA's involvement in the scheme and its outcomes would eventually influence other manufacturers in the sector. "If they see it's a good idea they will take it on board - that's the nature of business."

Velvet tissue is made from a mixture of hardwood and softwood. Although it is standard forestry practice to replace softwood trees on a three for one basis, hardwood trees are traditionally replaced only one for one - but SCA has pledged to plant two extra hardwood trees through its campaign.

The company has teamed up with ethical Brazilian forestry firm Amata to establish dedicated farms to grow tree species that were there before deforestation and to help create biodiversity.

The farms are sustainably managed in accordance with FSC standards. The new trees will be harvested at maturity to be used for wood and non-wood products, fibres, energy and environmental services. The harvested trees will then be replaced. Income from the initiative will be reinvested into Amata.

Amata's president Roberto Waack said the scheme is helping to develop the local economy by giving employment to people.

"As the project runs for many years, it gives us security and an income to plant and maintain the trees. It is teaching people in Brazil that trees can provide value," he said.

Velvet's managing director Sally Barker said the scheme would not have taken flight if the company had relied on existed arrangements with its suppliers under standard forestry management practices.

She said: "We have entered into a long term commitment with Amata and currently have an agreement in place for another decade. We are doing this because we feel it is the right thing to do. We want to share what we learn from this project and hope that others will follow our lead".

The full podcast interview with Chris Packham can be listened to below.

Maxine Perella


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