Investing in social development and conservation of tropical forests

Posted 7 hours ago

Proposed by DOW

Some of the best and most creative ideas are born outside the walls of the typical workplace. Inspired by a commitment to help preserve one of the world’s richest resources – the Amazon Rainforest – Dow and key partners have joined together in a unique project that champions conservation, supports local communities and drives business results.

Mapping biodiversity to create business models

With the support of our Dow Impact Fund, we recently launched the Ybá project. Dow owns a total of 45,000 hectares of land near Breu Branco, 80% of which is preserved native rainforest. The earth is home to around 470 species of animals and plants, 37 of which are endangered. To create a business model that encourages rainforest preservation, the Ybá project seeks to map the biodiversity of forest lands for bioactive ingredients – such as seeds and fruits – and develop a local cooperative that will harvest and sell them. .

“This project aims to combine environmental, social and business benefits,” said Eric Peeters, vice president of sustainability, performance materials and coatings at Dow. “For the environment, we want to protect biodiversity and demonstrate how preserving the forest brings more value than deforestation. On the social level, we hope that the project will contribute to diversity and local economic growth. From a commercial point of view, the project is a unique opportunity for joint development with customers.

Work with local communities to harvest and sell bioactives

Supported by Dow, the nonprofit Peabiru Institute is conducting a social assessment of local communities to determine a location for the co-op. Once selected, the institute will develop and train the local cooperative to harvest and sell bioactives – helping to increase family incomes in the community while conserving the rainforest. Our long-time collaborator, The Nature Conservancy, is also helping to measure the ecosystem services provided by the Dow Preserve and to integrate the biodiversity component into it.

Our collaboration with Natura to promote the assets of biodiversity

In 2021, we also named our first commercial collaborator with Project Ybá – Brazil-based cosmetics brand Natura. Natura has been using Brazilian biodiversity assets from the Amazon rainforest in its cosmetics for over 20 years. The company’s business model is to promote the development of the region through the union of science, traditional knowledge and local entrepreneurship. Currently, Natura uses 38 bio-ingredients (including oils, butters, essential oils, extracts and derivatives) from Amazonian biodiversity in the formulation of articles for skin care, hair care and perfume.

Natura will support the development of the local cooperative and provide its expertise in the technical assessment of bioactives. When the business cooperative is fully formed and organized, it is estimated that up to 150 local families could benefit from the sustainable trade of the Ybá project.

The future of the Amazon rainforest ecosystem

Eventually, Dow and his collaborators hope to expand the Ybá project’s “bio-business” model to other communities and other value chains to help preserve and restore the Amazon rainforest.

“To conserve biodiversity, we need innovative conservation models that engage people – including local communities and businesses – to foster the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystems,” Peeters said. “Collaborating with Natura reinforces our commitment to the environment, social equity, sustainable economic development, and our collaboration with diverse partners and communities to help build a better and more prosperous world.”

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Joel C. Hicks