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Major home improvement retailer Lowe’s has made new commitments to work towards eliminating deforestation and primary forest degradation. These commitments came in response to a shareholder proposal from Green Century Capital Management°, Environment America’s affiliated socially responsible mutual fund company.
Lowe’s has made several new commitments related to the wood, wood products and paper products that it sells. Lowe’s will:
1. Disclose the impact of its sourcing on “primary forests” and evaluate an end to sourcing from primary forests
Primary forests are dwindling. Defined as forests that have never been logged and have experienced minimal human disturbance, primary forests provide our planet with innumerable benefits. They filter water, control floods, prevent erosion and stabilize local temperatures. Primary forests absorb carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and store centuries-old carbon. They are bastions of biodiversity, providing refuge to threatened species that have been driven out of disturbed and deforested habitats.
The commitment to disclose its sourcing impact on primary forests is significant. If we know the impact of a supply chain on primary forests, we can advocate for specific policies that reduce that impact.
Once it has measured and disclosed the impact of its sourcing on primary forests, Lowe’s will evaluate ending sourcing from these forests. This would be an important step for a major seller of forest products. The preservation of primary forests is critical for mitigating global warming and maintaining biodiversity.
2. Develop a strategy to mitigate climate, biodiversity and human rights risks associated with its wood sourcing.
We know that logging mature and older trees and forests is counterproductive for fighting climate change and harmful to biodiversity. Older intact forests absorb and store carbon dioxide and provide homes for billions of birds and other wildlife. For example, degradation in the Canadian boreal forests releases an average of 26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. Some argue that planting new trees can counteract the damage caused by logging. In fact, when forests are cut down and replanted, they often emit more carbon than they capture for more than 10 years. Furthermore, some species, such as woodland caribou, do not inhabit areas of disturbed boreal forest—even after newly-planted trees have emerged. Currently, disturbances in the boreal forest have endangered more than half of the iconic woodland caribou herds, which are a cornerstone of many Indigenous tribes’ cultures and histories.
Forest degradation and deforestation directly harm local communities who suffer from pollution associated with logging, polluted water sources and loss of the benefits of forest land including the ability to hunt or fish and spend time in the forest.
Lowe’s has committed to developing a strategy to reduce these harms. As with any “to-be-developed” strategy, we will need to make sure that the strategy does actually make things better. Environment America looks forward to making sure that this strategy does just that.
3. Report on how it is implementing its Wood Sourcing Policy, including pledges to avoid high conservation value forests and wood from the habitat of threatened species.
Lowe’s has a strong wood sourcing policy, including a commitment that by 2025, “100% of Lowe’s wood products will be purchased from a responsible source, thus either certified or from a controlled source.”
The company has committed to reporting on how this policy is being implemented. Reporting is important for transparency, ensuring that benchmarks are being hit over the next three years.
4. Explore a requirement that suppliers obtain Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) from Indigenous communities.
Free, Prior, and Informed Consent is an international standard for dealing with local Indigenous communities. It requires companies to communicate the full details and impacts of any planned development, such as logging, and to obtain consent from the local community before moving forward with a project. While it’s not guaranteed that all indigenous communities will oppose all proposed logging projects, it’s important that the full scope and impacts be communicated to the people who will be directly affected by them.
As some of the largest purchasers and retailers of wood products, home improvement retailers have the opportunity to lead our society’s transition to innovative and socially responsible forest policies. The future health of our climate, creatures and communities around the world hinges upon our ability to protect primary forests from degradation. We need the companies that source from our primary forests to lead the charge on protecting them. Now that Lowe’s is leading the charge, other companies like Home Depot should follow suit.
Environment America is not a registered investment adviser. Environment America is not providing any investment advice to any recipient of this communication.
About Green Century Capital Management
°Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds (The Funds). The Green Century Funds are the first family of fossil fuel free, responsible, and diversified mutual funds in the United States. Green Century Capital Management hosts an award-winning and in-house shareholder advocacy program and is the only mutual fund company in the U.S. wholly owned by environmental and public health nonprofit organizations.
*As of December 31, 2021, Lowe’s Companies, Inc. comprised 0.00%, 0.82%, and 0.00%; and The Home Depot, Inc. comprised 1.27%, 2.01%, and 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund, the Green Century Equity Fund, and the Green Century International Index Fund, respectively. As of the same date, other securities mentioned were not held in the portfolios of any of the Green Century Funds. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.
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