Supporting Brazilian forestry companies to engage with Indigenous people
Through the Centre for Social Excellence (CSE), which builds capacity on social issues, Earthworm Foundation is supporting Brazilian pulp and paper plantation companies within Nestlé and 3M’s supply chains to better engage with local indigenous and traditional communities.
Between 2015 and 2017, Earthworm assessed the practices of some of the major forest plantation companies in Brazil against Nestlé and 3M’s Responsible Sourcing Policies. How forest plantation companies interacted with indigenous communities was raised as an area for improvement.
Although the major forest plantation companies were engaging regularly with local communities, their discussions were not always fully aligned with best practices and the principal of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
In 2007, the United Nations called for universal adoption of FPIC of indigenous communities before starting a project, officially recognising indigenous and traditional peoples having special, long-standing connections to their land and resources. FPIC ensures a process wherein the indigenous can give or withhold their consent to any work or projects that could affect them or their territories.
Pulp and paper is an ubiquitous commodity - it’s estimated around 40 percent of wood harvested around the world is used to make pulp and paper products for packaging and labels. For Nestlé, it is used to safely package and transport its globally recognised products; while for 3M, it is used in a variety of its packaging and products.
Simply recommending that Brazilian plantation companies reference FPIC in line with Nestlé, 3M, and Earthworm Foundation responsible sourcing expectations would not solve the widespread concern surrounding FPIC obligations. So, a different approach was taken. It involved supporting plantation companies on the journey.
Through previous engagement, Klabin had shown itself as a progressive forest plantation and pulp and paper company open to adopting FPIC. In 2019, with support from Nestlé and 3M, Earthworm approached them and together designed training, which representatives from five major forest companies participated in.
The resulting training programme is reaching a growing number of companies. As part of this training, Earthworm built capacity and coached forest plantation companies on implementing FPIC processes within their own operations. This capacity building is part of a wider initiative to incorporate FPIC within Nestlé and 3M’s pulp and paper supply chains.
Building on this experience and positive feedback from the participating companies, we collaborated with FSC Brazil and Cooperative Program for Forest Certification in 2020 to offer a second remote edition (due to COVID 19) of the FPIC training. This was again supported by Nestlé and 3M.
Attendees participated from 25 forest plantation companies, along with members of the FSC Brazil standard development committees. The case studies were used as training materials and the companies presented their experiences and learnings from FPIC planning, negotiating and consensus-building with affected communities.
“Seeing is believing,” said Carolina Graca, Member Manager at Earthworm Foundation. "This training is showing that FPIC is helpful to improve relationships with communities and builds better business operations.”
Michèle Zollinger and Kate Shelton, both Responsible Sourcing leads from Nestlé and 3M respectively, reiterated their support for promoting FPIC within their supply chains. They describe human rights and supporting community well-being as a priority for them within their respective Forest Positive and Responsible Paper Sourcing policies.
This is an example of collaboration between Earthworm Foundation members and throughout supply chains with partners. Many different actors have contributed to this training, and they look forward to following their performance on the implementation side and are encouraging other companies to do the same.
In the meantime, Earthworm will continue efforts to build FPIC capacity within its productive forest and agribusiness members in Brazil and elsewhere, to ensure their supply chains respect human rights and worker and community wellbeing.