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Cooperation between companies and environmentalists reduces deforestation, Stanford researchers say

Deforestation continues to be an ecological catastrophe of worldwide proportions, but a new Stanford study has found a new way to help fight it. According to a report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), collaboration between industry and environmentalist organizations is a more successful solution than confrontation.

The study cited three different programs: the Chilean System for Sustainable Forest Management Certification (CERTFOR), an industry-spearheaded program; Joint Solutions Project (JSP), a deforestation embargo enacted by nongovernmental organizations; and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a collaborative effort between the two groups. All three seek to incentivize companies, through premium pricing and threats of market exclusion, to reduce deforestation in Chile.

Corporations that participated only in CERTFOR or JSP reduced their deforestation by 16 or 20 percent respectively, whereas participants in FSC saw their consumption of forest lands fall by 43 percent — more than twice that of the other efforts, and more applicable to areas of deforestation than government decrees.

“Traditional conservation policies like national parks often protect remote, pristine locations,” said lead author Robert Heilmayr M.A. ’14 Ph.D. ’15, recent graduate from Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources. “Agreements between companies and environmentalists can reduce deforestation in more threatened forests.”

Heilmayr and his co-author, Eric Lambin, the George and Setsuko Ishiyama Provostial Professor and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, assert that FSC’s success owes to the compromise it strikes between the interests of both parties — conserving the environment while keeping production costs down.

Lambin said that globalization has tied the problem of deforestation to “consumption in distant, international markets.”

“We need new approaches to environmental governance that regulate the impact of international actors,” Lambin added.

Heilmayr also suggested that the marketplace may be able to support ecological conservation by informing consumers of the sustainability of the products they purchase.

“Increasingly, people are trying to harness their power as consumers to protect the environment,” Heilmayr said. “Our research shows that these market-based conservation efforts have reduced deforestation in Chile.”

Read the study in its entirety here.

 

Contact Jacob Nierenberg at jhn2017 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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