While the Earth Summit took place in Brazil (20-22 June), a new documentary was launched in the UK on the work that one British household brand is carrying out to help protect the rainforests.

Velvet, the SCA-owned tissue brand, has already planted more than three million native trees in areas of the Brazilian rainforest that have been previously deforested – with millions more to come.

The initiative is part of Velvet’s ‘Three Trees’ promise to replace three trees for each one harvested to make the tissue.

Velvet tissue is made from a mixture of hardwood – for softness, softwood – for strength and recycled fibres. 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.

SCA ensures that each hardwood tree harvested by its suppliers for Velvet is replaced. However, two additional hardwood trees are then also being planted on land in Brazil that has been deforested through ranching.

A project of this scale needs a high quality partner, and this is why Amata, an ethical Brazilian forestry company, has been chosen by SCA for Velvet.

Amata is a Brazilian forestry company certified to manage tropical forest projects. It was set up in 2005 with the backing of the Brazilian government to address the issue of sustainable reforestation in Brazil.

The creation of the Velvet Amata tree farms is a pioneering project on an enormous scale from Velvet to grow tree species that were there before deforestation and to help create bio-diversity.

However, reintroducing native species into Brazil is something that is still very new and Velvet is supporting Amata in its work to determine the optimum ways to reintroduce native species, ascertain which are the best trees to plant together and help the local economy by introducing livestock among the saplings.

The project is also demonstrating to Brazilian farmers the value of growing trees and replacing them, rather than using the land for cattle ranching and other practices which involve stripping away the forests.

Velvet’s involvement is to provide funding and support for Amata, which is used to purchase and plant trees and fund on-going maintenance of the reforested areas. Velvet, however, does not have any ownership of the trees. The trees purchased and funded by Velvet are planted by Amata and remain the property of Amata.

The tree farms are sustainably managed by Amata in accordance with FSC high 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.

The Velvet trees are planted, usually at the start of the rainy season by local workers employed by Amata, and then maintained until they grow to maturity which can take anything from six to 40 years depending on the species.

The Velvet Amata trees are located on six farms in the state of Para in northern Brazil. In total, there are 2,600 hectares under cultivation. However, this is only a part of the story.

There are also some 15 million trees on the farms in protected areas, mainly around watercourses. These protected trees will be allowed to grow and flourish and will not be harvested and will help to support biodiversity.

Roberto Waack, president of Amata, said: “This scheme has given employment to local people and, as the project runs for many years, gives us security and an income to plant and maintain the trees. It is teaching people in Brazil that trees can provide value.”

The numbers of trees that have been planted to meet Velvet’s ‘Three Trees’ promise so far are staggering. Between January 2009 and December 2011 approximately two million trees were harvested to create Velvet products.

In the same period approximately six million were replaced by planting saplings, seeds or coppicing through a combination of supplier arrangements and the Amata relationship. More than three million were replaced by Amata alone. These figures were independently reviewed by the ASA, who concluded that SCA and Velvet not only met but exceeded its ‘3 for 1’ promise.

Sally Barker, managing director of Velvet, said: “The three million trees planted in Brazil through the Velvet/Amata partnership would not otherwise have existed if we had simply relied on our arrangements with suppliers under standard forestry management practices.

“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 Velvet Three Trees documentary on the Amata project is presented by broadcaster and environmentalist Chris Packham who went to Brazil to see the initiative for himself. It can be viewed at www.velvettissue.com

Chris saw how the Velvet Amata partnership worked, visited the areas being reforested and even helped to plant some of the trees.

Chris Packham said: “It was brilliant to see the project first hand and meet everyone involved. When we flew across Brazil to the project areas, we could see from the aircraft huge sections of the rainforest which no longer had trees growing.

“This scheme is showing people that sustainable forestry can work for them and that they don’t need to destroy the rainforest to make a living. “It is also encouraging wildlife to return and this is particularly pleasing.”


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