'We have to begin to think through everything we're consuming and
purchasing. First, is that purchase needed, and, secondly, if it is, what is it made from? What's the journey that product's taken?'
Rosie Sibley is a supply chain professional at Preferred by Nature, where she researches and challenges the links between commodity supply chains and deforestation. She works with companies in the timber sector helping make environmentally and socially sustainable sourcing decisions.
After taking a Bachelor's degree in Geography at Sussex, Sibley worked for a sustainability consultancy firm. Her first exposure to supply chains was while partnering with a major UK food retailer.
'As soon as I started learning about supply chains, I realised their complexity and how often large companies overlook environmental issues...The complexity of the corporate global system means it is only too easy to overlook them.'
Wanting to combine her work experience with theory, she returned to school in 2017 and earned an MSc in Natural, Society, and Environmental Governance from Oxford's School of Geography and the Environment. Her research on the links between communities in the Brazilian Amazon and deforestation invoked a personal transformation.
Cattle Ranching in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo credit: Rosie Sibley
Post-graduation, she determined to increase big corporates’ environmental traction. 'Businesses are some of the largest emitters in the world. Some are the same size as countries, and they can have an international impact, for good or ill.'
At Preferred by Nature, part of her role is working with companies to help them to sustainably source forest resources. One such way is through third-party voluntary certifications, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which consumers can support through their
purchasing decisions. Sibley says it can be difficult for consumers to know what to purchase and what the different certification labels actually mean.
In the developed world, so much of our carbon footprint is outsourced through the products consumers purchase and businesses source...You have to think about the products you're using and ask, 'What emissions are they producing? How does that impact my carbon footprint?'
Supporting products with sustainability certifications is a way for consumers
to make their preferences known to companies.
Admittedly, certification isn't perfect, and Sibley acknowledges it's a work
in progress. 'It's really important that it's [certification's] are there. A lot of companies are working towards that goal, which is better than ignoring the issue, even if the system needs more work.'
'There has to be continual pressure from customers—as well as investors and banks—asking companies they're investing in to at least meet certification requirements and where possible, to go beyond that.'
If we are to cut emissions to net-zero, there’s a long way to go, but ensuring sustainable practices for forest-risk commodities, is one step towards that goal.