“Science has shown that in order to avoid runaway climate change and irreversible biodiversity loss, we need to transform the key systems which give structure to our world, including food, land and ocean use, infrastructure and the built environment, energy and extractives. It is no longer sufficient for individual companies to only address their own issues; wide transformational change is needed to meet global and societal sustainability goals. Companies can play an important role in catalysing such change. This might include engaging in cross-sectoral partnerships to advocate or drive system wide change, garnering public support for biodiversity friendly policy changes, rethinking of business strategy to focus on sustainability outcomes etc.”

Biodiversify

who are Biodiversify

Biodiversify is a conservation consultancy which advises a range of private, public and third sector clients who want to act for nature.

They work at the cutting-edge of scientific research to employ creative and disruptive techniques to challenge the status-quo of how biodiversity is managed in practice.

scope of report

Biodiversify were asked to impartially evaluate our shoes within the realms of expert, scientific knowledge.

All knowledge and data was sourced from peer reviewed scientific literature to give an objective evaluation of the sustainability of the shoes at hand.

“Fashion is big business; The sector as a whole is estimated to generate $2.5 trillion in global annual revenues (1). In the last year, the World Footwear Yearbook estimated that 24.3 billion pairs of shoes were produced and the global athletic footwear market is set to nearly double to 95 billion USD by 2025 (3).”

Biodiversify

high costs

The rise in production output has given way to an ever increasing social and environmental cost. For example, the global fashion industry produces8-10% of global CO2 emissions (4,5), (4-5 billion tonnes annually) with the footwear industry responsible for 1.4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions – equivalent to 700 million tons of CO2equivalent (5). The sector as a whole consumes 79trillion litres of water per year (6), contributes 15-20%of industrial water pollution from textile treatment and dyeing (7) and produces vast quantities of waste; over 92million tonnes per year of textile waste(3) (much of which ends up in landfill or incineration(2)) and 190,000 tonnes per year of oceanic microplastic pollution (8).

“Despite some modest progress, fashion hasn’t yet taken its environmental responsibilities seriously enough.”

McKinsey, The State of Fashion 2020

These impacts occur right across fashion’s value chain – from sourcing of materials, through transportation, production, use and disposal. For footwear, manufacturing and raw material extraction are the biggest drivers across all impact categories (figure 1). This means that the actual creation of the shoe is by far and away the most impactful part of the process; transport accounts for only 2.5% of footwear’s global impact, while packaging production and disposal also appear to be negligible, regardless of the selected indicator (9)

Measuring the impact of the footwear industry is somewhat harder than for textiles. For example, focus tends to fall on the four or five major parts that make up every sneaker, but on average, sneakers have around 65 distinct parts including laces, thread, eyelets, lining, padding, reinforcement and lasting boards many of which are hidden or overlooked. These elements are vital to the performance, comfort and longevity of footwear and also cause environmental impact in a similar way to the larger components. Each part is often manufactured separately and sourced from a multitude of different materials from across the world before being assembled at a central location. Given that more than 60% of emissions come from manufacturing and raw material extraction it is essential that all components of footwear are considered during design. The environmental impact of footwear is therefore compounded by the complexity of design and assembly.

biodiversity and fashion

While awareness of environmental issues, particularly around GHGs, has grown in recent years, the fashion industry is just beginning to get to grips with its relationship with biodiversity loss. Biodiversity is a technical term to what many would consider to be nature; the interactions of different plants and animals that make up the land and seascapes that we live in. Biodiversity is the basis to many services that nature provides such as carbon storage, pollination, air regulation, fuelwood, freshwater and so on. The fashion industry sources many natural products, such as cotton, which are directly reliant on biodiversity meaning loss of biodiversity is a material risk to the industry as a whole.

Biodiversity loss is at a critical juncture with1million species threatened with extinction and population sizes of wild animals decreased by 60% from 1970 (10). Biodiversity is impacted in a number of ways, such as clearing habitat to make way for new farms, poor farm management such as monocropping and lack of habitat diversity and improper use of pesticides and fertilisers (11).Likewise the shift of use from synthetic to natural materials can have unintended biodiversity impacts due to logging or habitat clearing (12).

The footwear industry appears to be playing catch up even with the wider fashion sector when it comes to sustainability. Estimates suggest that only one in 29 pairs of sneakers are considered to be “eco-sneakers” and in reality is likely to be far fewer (13). When exploring the credentials of “eco-sneakers” in more detail, it appears their claims are limited (13). Using recycled plastic or biodegradable products for only a single part of the shoe leads to only modest reductions in GHGs compared to an average sneaker (10% less on average).

“Shoes are complex products with many hidden components which have a significant impact on biodiversity and the climate. Despite being a widely used term, sustainability is complex and multi-faceted particularly in relation to supply chains; Brands must start taking a holistic view of the design of the whole shoe as well as enhancing the production process to start improving the impact of footwear on the planet.”

Biodiversify

shifting landscape

Awareness of these issues is increasingly being brought to prominence; groups such as Extinction Rebellion have started to target the fashion industry, through boycotts of London Fashion Week and other public communications (14). The UK House of Commons held an Environmental Audit Committee into the impacts of the fashion industry (15). This awareness is starting to lead to changing consumer behavior; internet searches for “sustainable fashion ”tripled between 2016 and 2019 (16). McKinsey estimate that 15% of consumers in the US and Europe are expected to shift to buying more ecologically and socially sustainable clothing and that this could accelerate further with the onset of Covid 19 (1). The pandemic is likely to bring values around sustainability into sharp focus and intensify discussions around irresponsible business practices, particularly for Gen-Z and Millennial shoppers.

“Brands that are able to reorient their missions and business models in more sustainable ways will be able to cater to a more captive audience than ever before.”
“Whatever the outcome, sustainability messaging will need to be grounded in authentic behaviour and rigorous internal practices.”

McKinsey, The State of Fashion 2020, Coronavirus Update

moving forwards

Dealing with the vast array of environmental impacts from fashion and footwear is somewhat of a balancing act for companies. Dealing with issues directly attributable to companies such as warehousing, offices and transport are similar to any other business, but the vast majority of the fashion industry’s impact and dependency comes from deep within its supply chain (17).

In order to truly become more sustainable, companies must work carefully with a range of parties from its designers right through to its suppliers in order to make the best decisions. These decisions must explore the inevitable trade-offs between using different types of material, sourcing locations or manufacturing processes and identifying potential win-wins across different tranches is absolutely critical. For instance, biodiversity and climate change are exacerbated by each other and therefore ideally should be viewed together; nature based solutions can simultaneously protect and restore biodiversity as well as sequester carbon (18).

“In order to truly reduce the environmental impact of footwear, designers will have to rethink every component of shoe design as far as possible. Simply looking at the upper material or sole is no longer good enough in the fight against climate and biodiversity loss. Brands should apply more scientific rigour to better understand and track their impact on a product level. This may require slowing the product development process to allow investigation of materials and their impacts but also finding the manoeuvrability to make environmental based decisions while remaining profitable.”

Biodiversify

implications for business

improve longevity

A focus on increased longevity of footwear, focusing on the environmental and quality benefits of buying shoes that last longer. Further coordinated campaigns required to improve manufacturer tagging/labelling of footwear.

consider materials

Understand the impacts of using different materials and considering these through both design and sourcing across all components of the shoe. Brands need to start taking responsibility for the impact of every component and process throughout production.

increase supply chain transparency and vertical integration

Increase supply chain transparency and vertical integration: Increasing transparency through the supply chain will allow for great integration and control and thus the ability to better mitigate impacts.

be the change

Be the change: Work with other companies and initiatives to drive sector-wide change.

compensate

Footwear will always have a residual impact. To work towards impact neutrality, compensation through offsetting, regenerative agriculture or other means will be essential.

innovate and disrupt

The door is open for significant innovation in the fashion sector e.g. using waste materials or business ideas such as clothing rental that tackle over consumption

research findings

We suggest that natural rubber sourced from Indonesia is of high biodiversity risk to habitat destruction. There is currently limited threat from excessive nutrient loading. Overall, there is a low level of certainty on the risk of this material due to a lack of scientific research into its impacts in Indonesia.

Conservation International considers Indonesia to be one of the seventeen “megadiverse” countries, with the third largest extent of tropical forest (CBD, n.d.; Enrici & Hubacek, 2018). Therefore, understanding how activity within a company’s supply chain impacts this region should be of high priority. This is further magnified as the environmental performance of Indonesia was found to be poor by the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) (2020) – ranking 116/180 countries.

Natural rubber is sourced from rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis), which are native to South America but have since been established into other tropical regions, notably southeast Asia. Currently, Indonesia is the second largest exporter of natural rubber globally (Grow Asia, 2020; Reuters, 2021). Despite recent slumps in rubber sales likely due to the global pandemic, future projections expect sales to increase in line with the continued growth of developing nations economies, driving sales in the largest end-user of rubber the automotive industry (Business Wire, 2021).

Studies suggest that the conversion of forests into rubber monoculture plantations in Southeast Asia, has led to reductions in primate populations and 76% decline in bird, bat, and beetle species (Warren-thomas et al., 2015). The expansion of cash crops in Indonesia has led to levels of primary forest loss reaching higher levels than Brazil (Paoletti et al., 2018). The expansion of oil palm and rubber have been the key culprits of forest clearance over the last 30 years, with notable loss in the lowlands of Sumatra (Potapov et al., 2021). Much of the rubber produced in Indonesia comes from small holdings, with rough estimates suggesting that 60% of the rubber cultivations (systems where rubber trees are planted under the natural forest canopies) in Indonesia come from jungle rubber systems (Hua et al., 2021). Key provinces of production are South Sumatra, North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi and West Kalimantan. A benefit of most of the rubber coming from small holders is that traditional methods of management are likely being used, including low levels of fertilisers – reducing the threat of excessive nutrient loading (Umami et al., 2019).

“Interestingly, since primary forest is now scarce in Sumatra, conserving rubber agro-forests on small-holdings is now considered one of the few options for successfully supporting biodiversity and reducing emissions on the island (Villamor et al., 2014). However, current increases in the profitability of other land-uses, such as palm oil are pushing farmers away from this land management technique (Ibid, 2014).”

Biodiversify

In recent years, due to lower productivity and value of rubber, small-holders are shifting from natural rubber towards more profitable and productive palm-oil (Indonesia Investments, 2018; Grow Asia, 2020). This has led to an emerging transition to larger, private, monoculture plantations of rubber in Indonesia (Warren-Thomas et al., 2015). In the future this may lead to greater concerns surrounding nutrient loading, habitat loss and invasive species (Potapov et al., 2021). Interestingly, since primary forest is now scarce in Sumatra, conserving rubber agro-forests on small-holdings is now considered one of the few options for successfully supporting biodiversity and reducing emissions on the island (Villamor et al., 2014). However, current increases in the profitability of other land-uses, such as palm oil are pushing farmers away from this land management technique (Ibid, 2014).

However, it should be noted that the last year saw the lowest deforestation rates since records begun (-75%) in Indonesia (Jong, 2021). This has followed changes to moratoriums on clearing primary forest and licencing for forest clearance (notably related to palm oil production), although other factors must be accounted for such as wetter season, decline in palm-oil prices and the Covid-19 pandemic (ibid, 2021). Resurgence in these levels following this year should be monitored to see whether the governments new policies are having a positive impact on deforestation in the country (ibid, 2021).

Before recent years, despite commitments from the government of Indonesia and the international community, deforestation rates have not stabilised or decreased in the years since REDD+’s introduction in 2007 (Enrici & Hubacek, 2018). Additionally, despite some major company’s efforts to implement sustainable rubber within Indonesia (See Michelin Tyres x WWF; Otten et al., 2020) the impact has been limited and it is clear that currently it is ineffective and unsustainable for the communities (Otten et al., 2020).

The current political and development situation of Indonesia does increase the risk of this material:

“Under Indonesia’s NDC, the government allows up to 325,000 hectares (803,000 acres) of deforestation per year to reach its emissions reduction goal while leaving room for economic development. That means that by the 2030 deadline for the Paris Agreement, Indonesia could potentially clear 3.25 million hectares (8 million acres) of rainforest, an area larger than Belgium, and still call it a success. A 2018 report by the NGO Rainforest Foundation Norway shows this won’t be enough to cap the average global temperature increase at 1.5° Celsius as mandated under the Paris Agreement.” - Jong, 2021

What is needed is drastic legal measures to be taken for this industry to change but also be economically sufficient for the people who are part of it.

Currently there is limited consistent messaging around the carbon sequestration potential of rubber trees, with different systems and regions having different potentials (Li et al., 2008; Annamalainathan et al., 2011; Yiping et al., 2014; Villamor et al., 2014; Blagodatsky et al., 2016; Brahma et al., 2017). However, it is understood that despite the carbon sequestration of rubber trees they cannot make up the emissions or biodiversity losses encountered from converting intact forest and even degraded forests (Warren-thomas et al., 2018).

In relation to other forms of pollution, it is likely that the impact in the region is low if the traditional practices are being carried out on the rubber plantations as well as the continued jungle forest techniques for production in the main producing regions of Indonesia. However, as pressure mounts to increase production of rubber and access to more modern techniques spreads, the threat from other pollution is likely to increase (e.g., soil erosion due to lower density leaf crown, increased machinery use, and increased chemical use). Another factor that should be considered is the chemicals needed to process latex into rubber e.g. ammonia and formic acid in waste waters, which paired with the low EPI 2020 ranking (68/134) of Indonesia’s wastewater management may pose an environmental threat. However, there is limited information on this impact.

It should also be considered that the sole does consist of other, smaller amounts of materials that are currently less understood and known including, 10% unspecified fillers (likely to be plastic based), 3% additives (likely to be an anti-UV agent to prevent yellowing) and 1% pigments (for colouring). The likely presence of plastic within this material does increase concern for energy use and plastic pollution however, it should be recognised that aspect climate projects have tried as far as possible to eliminate plastic from their product.

assessment and comparison

future recommendations

It is unclear how Indonesia’s rubber industry will change in the future. The last year has caused anomalies within records of production, demand, and land-use % changes. There have been some efforts by the government to reduce pressure on primary forests although it is unclear how truly effective this has been. Currently the government has not been ambitious in their goals for deforestation rates, and this has raised concerns among the international community. It is likely that progress in Indonesia will need to be closely monitored over the years to come.

Most of the sole material does consist of natural, renewable rubber which is a positive for avoiding plastic within the product as far as possible – which was a key priority for aspect climate projects. Another key design feature of the natural rubber sole was its longevity, which was another key feature for aspect climate projects in their design, maximising the lifespan of the shoe and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. In the future, aspect climate projects may wish to work with their supplier to understand what the added substances going into the sole are, as well as continuing to explore innovations into other plant-based solutions for outsoles.

For the last year aspect climate projects have worked hard to try and source more sustainable rubber options, including FSC, recycled rubber and Fair Rubber. However, given the current global pandemic and the lack of demand from larger markets, this has proven near impossible without excess amounts of material being brought potentially increasing the amount of waste produced. It should be acknowledged that aspect climate projects have worked to follow the Mitigation Hierarchy model to eliminate biodiversity and climatic risks as far as currently possible. Therefore, offsetting of impacts should be considered for this material, until another option becomes available. This may include supporting REDD+ projects within the sourcing region.

research findings

Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) husk is considered low risk in all categories of risk identified. As coconut husk is an abundant waste material from the coconut industry, we suggest that the demand for coconut husk is lower than the demand for coconut itself. This means no extra resources such as land, water, fertilizer, or pesticide are being used to produce this material. Furthermore, by utilising an abundant waste product aspect climate projects are reducing the pollution and waste of another supply chain. Due to the nuanced nature of the material aspect climate projects are using, there is limited understanding as to how much energy that is being used during production of this material or the chemical/water usage during production, therefore with greater understanding of these areas the risk assessment may need to be updated accordingly.

“no extra resources such as land, water, fertilizer, or pesticide are being used to produce this material. Furthermore, by utilising an abundant waste product Aspect are reducing the pollution and waste of another supply chain.”

Biodiversify

The threat from climate change, as currently projected for Sri Lanka, means that in the future the yield of coconuts from the Sri Lanka may be reduced impacting the future sustainability of supplying coconut waste from this region in the future (Ranasinghe, n.d.). However, due to the reliance of the region on coconuts for food security it is likely that they will work hard to increase resilience in this industry over time (Erandathie, 2016).

Something that should be considered is that due to this material largely consisting of coconut fibres, it is mixed with natural latex to increase the comfort of the material for the insole. However, it is currently unknown how much natural latex is used to mix with the coconut husk, with the 12.7%consisting of both the coconut and the latex together. Therefore, as previously discussed for natural rubber, the natural latex industry unless sustainably sourced possess a huge risk to global biodiversity. The risk is largely attributable to the high ecosystem value of Malaysia, which is home to a range of endangered and endemic species, and the land pressure in the region from other cash crops, notably palm oil. However, it is understood that the percentage content of this material is believed to be low and that understanding the difficult trade-off faced by aspect climate projects to reduce petroleum-based plastics in their supply chain, which would traditionally be used.

assessment and comparison

future recommendations

For the risk to stay as low as they currently are for this material, it is important that coconut husk remains to be sourced as a waste material from the coconut industry. If farmers begin to invest in coconut plantations due to the growing demand for husk or increased income from husk, then the risks associated with coconuts sourced from Sri Lanka would need to be urgently considered. Furthermore, if upon reflection the natural latex makes up a large amount of the final material it might be wise for us to exchange the environmental impacts of the Malaysian rubber industry –possible movement to sustainably sourced/managed rubber may be a call of action.

research findings

Pineapple Leaf Fibre (PALF) constitutes the third most abundant material in option which uses a Pinatex upper. All categories were ranked as low risk. As PALF is made from pineapple (Ananascomosus) leaves, which are an abundant waste material from the pineapple industry (Asim et al.,2015; Kengkhetkit et al., 2018), we suggest that the demand for PALF is lower than the demand for pineapple itself. This means that no extra resources such as land, water, fertilizer, or pesticide are being used to produce PALF. Furthermore, by utilising a waste product Aspect are reducing the pollution and waste of another supply chain.

There is currently limited literature regarding the energy demands, water, or chemical demands for producing PALF, thus with greater understanding of these areas the risk assessment may need to be updated accordingly. The greatest threat from this material is the transportation from the Philippines, although this is still considered to be low.

“the demand for PALF is lower than the demand for pineapple itself. This means that no extra resources such as land, water, fertilizer, or pesticide are being used to produce PALF. Furthermore, by utilising a waste product Aspect are reducing the pollution and waste of another supply chain.”

Biodiversify

Something that should be considered is that due to this material largely consisting of plant-based material (72%) it must be mixed with something more durable, in this case (10%) polyurethane was used by the brand company Piñatex. This has implications for microplastic pollution. However, by reinforcing the material with this as stated, the durability of the shoe increases and thus the lifespan of the shoe.

Furthermore, it must be considered that alternatively the upper would be made from either a much higher percentage of plastic or leather which research suggests would have a much greater negative impact on the environment in all categories of risk (Rosegrant and Sombilla, 2019). Furthermore, as the material largely consists of plant-based material (including the bioplastic, polylactic acid (18%))at the end of the materials life 90% of it will be biodegradable.

assessment and comparison

future recommendations

At present PALF appears to be a promising material for use within the apparel and footwear industry. For the risk to stay as low as they currently are for this material, it is important that PALF remains to be sourced as a waste material from the pineapple industry. If in the long-term farmers begin to invest in expanding pineapple plantations due to the growing demand for PALF or increased profit from PALF, then the risks associated with Pineapples sourced from the Philippines would need to be considered.

research findings

It is currently unclear where the polyurethane (PU) was originally made, or the energy sources used to produce it. However, it has been assumed that the companies who produced the final materials that the PU is bonded with has made/sourced within the same region.

Currently, there seems to be a lack of accessible environmental impact assessments regarding polyurethane production. However, there are some assumptions that can be made about this material such as the risk to natural habitats. PU is a petroleum-based plastic that relies upon the oil industry. Conventional oil can be sourced off-shore by drilling at sea, this can result in catastrophic oil spills, which although infrequent and unlikely, when they do occur can have extreme, long-term impacts on ecosystems (Schmidt, 2012; Troisi et al., 2016). Additionally, offshore noise pollution from drilling activity can also impact aquatic lifeforms, with many endangered species impacted (AmecFoster, 2016; Farmer et al., 2018). On-shore drilling activity for conventional oil can also take place and has negative impacts on habitats and ecosystems, which in areas of poor environmental legislation occur more frequently. Large amounts of toxins can be leached into local water sources, noise pollution can push local ecosystems away from their habitats, whilst habitats can be destroyed to make way for drilling and processing plants (Amec Foster, 2016).

“the threat of micro-plastic pollution from shoes (especially such that have been produced with such a low quantity of plastic) is low compared to other products, notably clothing that is frequently washed.”

Biodiversify

There is a gap in knowledge of how much energy is used to produce PU coating, though we have assumed that non-renewable energy sources were used to make and there is no carbon sequestration potential for this material, thus the threat is high for this material.

Plastic pollution is a very well-known problem that humanity faces. Throughout the lifespan of the PU micro-plastics will be shred into the environment and will eventually end up in our water systems. It is widely accepted in public debate that microplastics are a huge cause for concern to marine ecosystems and the persistence of endangered species. Laboratory based research suggests micro-plastics have a negative impact on marine life (Cole et al., 2013; Browne et al., 2013; Setälä etal., 2014). However, their impact on aquatic life in the natural world is suggested to be less conclusive(Nelms et al., 2019; Botterell et al., 2019). Furthermore, the threat of micro-plastic pollution from shoes(especially such that have been produced with such a low quantity of plastic) is low compared to other products, notably clothing that is frequently washed.

assessment and comparison

future recommendations

It is important to note that only 7% of the shoe with the Appleskin upper consists of PU (and only 3% for the shoe with the Pinatex upper), which is minimal compared to many shoes on the market today. Additionally, it should be considered that the PU coating helps to increase the durability of the material used – essential when using plant-based materials – thus increasing the final products lifespan. Furthermore, petroleum-based plastics do not cause any risk from excessive nutrition loading. However, in terms of future sustainability threat, the finite nature of crude oil should be considered when sourcing this material for a long-term perspective of its sustainability.

research findings

We suggest that recycled polyester (rPET) posed a medium risk in all applicable categories, due to the sourcing from China where environmental regulations are low and the reliance on non-renewable energy sources for production.

rPET reduces the amount of plastic waste within the environment, having a positive impact on reducing waste from other supply chains and the impact of large plastic waste in the environment. Currently, there is such an abundance of plastic waste that it is unlikely that plastic is being produced to keep up with the demand of rPET, thus causing no new threat to habitat destruction through land-pressure and drilling activities.

Overall, the energy used to produce rPET is much lower than is needed for virgin-polyester (Kumarand Joshiba, 2020; Radhakrishman et al., 2020). However, as the rPET is sourced from China, the energy source used to produce this material will be from non-renewable means having an inherent impact to the rate of climate change.

“rPET reduces the amount of plastic waste within the environment, having a positive impact on reducing waste from other supply chains and the impact of large plastic waste in the environment.”

Biodiversify

Although rPET reduces the amount of new plastic waste in the environment, it still contributes to the accumulation of micro-plastic pollution in the environment during the manufacturing process and during use, which as previously discussed has impacts on marine life (Cole et al., 2013; Browne et al.,2013; Setälä et al., 2014; Nelms et al., 2019; Botterell et al., 2019). However, the release of micro-plastics during the use of the shoe is likely to be low due to the low external wear of the rPET as it is part of the inner lining and there is a lower likelihood that the shoes will be washed in a washing machine.

Ultimately it is important to note that aspect climate projects have a low amount of plastic present within their shoes compared to alternative shoes on the market. aspect climate projects have made the trade-off between using more petroleum-based materials or using smaller amounts of plastic to increase the durability of less durable plant-based materials - in this instance, reinforcing the corn-based lining – to increase the long-term sustainability of their supply chain, by utilising renewable materials where possible.

assessment and comparison

future recommendations

In the long term, it is worth considering how the movement towards rPET by large multinational brands, the limited times plastic can be recycled and the reliance on a material made from a finite resource (crude oil), may impact the sourcing of this material and the impact this will have on virgin-plastic production. Mechanical recycling is inherently restricted as plastic can only go through this process a limited number of times and contamination within recycling plants often restricts there cycling of recycled plastic. Ultimately, this supply chain still relies upon the non-renewable energy sector, which is inherently unsustainable. However, within the current climate of the industry this is a good starting position for aspect climate projects’ supply chain.

research findings

We suggest cork sourced from cork trees (Quercus suber L.) in Portugal to be of low risk to nutrient loading and other forms of pollution. The risk to habitat destruction, climate change and alien species is low.

In Portugal, the world’s largest producer of cork and home to the largest area of cork trees (APCOR2012), cork woodlands (called Montados) are traditionally managed as a multifunction agro-forestry system (Dias et al., 2014). In the past, WWF (2002) increased outreach to increase consumption of cork, due to the movement of the wine industry to plastic stoppers. WWF aimed to protect the essential habitats that the forests/woodlands provide in the Mediterranean basis, due to their low human impact and high plant and fauna diversity value. The montados are home to several threatened and endemic species, including the Iberian Lynx (Lynx paradinus) and the Iberian Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti) (Simonson et al., 2018; Essen et al., 2019). Due to the trees long standing age, cork trees are a highly valuable source of carbon storage (Pereita et al., 2007; Palma et al., 2014;Demertzi et al., 2016).

“Due to the trees long standing age, cork trees are a highly valuable source of carbon storage (Pereita et al., 2007; Palma et al., 2014; Demertzi et al., 2016). . ”

Biodiversify

The high ecosystem value of these managed habitats for ecology and climate change mitigation has led to cork trees being identified as a priority species by WWF/ANP. However, due to a loss of traditional knowledges and practices in the industry, cork woodlands are at threat of being abandoned and replaced by more intensively farmed crops and rural abandonment (Essen et al.,2019). These habitats can only continue through constant balanced management. Without sustainable management, soil degradation, invasive species and forest fires would prevail, significantly reducing the carbon storage and biodiversity value of these habitats (Riberio et al., 2011). Therefore, by investing in this industry aspect climate projects are increasing the likelihood that this highly valuable habitat will be safe guarded from being lost. Furthermore, the sourcing of organic cork is likely to help protect against unsustainable management.

assessment and comparison

future recommendations

Cork woodlands are also believed to be at risk from the pressures of future climate change, with yields potentially decreasing if the planet continues to warm in line with current projections, due to the threats from drought, disease and more intense forest fires – with an increase of 2.9 degrees potentially decreasing cork production by 20% (Essen et al., 2019). This should be considered as this is a risk to the supply chain in the very long term. However, the sourcing of organic and sustainably managed cork is likely to increase the resilience of the woodlands to future climatic changes.

research summary

- Organic corn production is more accommodating for biodiversity (Smith et al., 2020). Lack of extensive research. Yield may be lower thus requiring more land (Smith et al., 2020; Sanhu et al.,2020).

- Limited / no use of synthetic chemicals. However, limited research into the impacts of leaching on organic farms (Sanhu et al., 2020).

- Some uncertainty surrounding the use of tilling on organic farms and the impact on soil (Sanhu etal., 2020). However, some evidence that even tilled organic farms have improved soil quality than conventional systems (Seitz et al., 2019). Oeko-Tex certification for dyes.

- Limited / no use of synthetic fertilisers reduces CO2 emissions (Sanhu et al., 2020). However, some findings suggest similar levels of N2O and CH4 emissios (Sanhu et al., 2020). Inconclusive results.

assessment and comparison

future recommendations

- Limited knowledge around the energy and chemical demands to process the corn into the end polymers. More scientific research is needed for comparison to conventional alternatives.

research summary

- Limited consensus on how increasing demand for PLA is changing the landscape of maize crops.

- Soil compaction and erosion problems as well as the intensive chemical regimes increasing eutrophication (Smith et al., 2017).

- Soil erosion is often a problem, increasing run off (Smith et al., 2017). High chemical waste potential.

- High reliance on fertilisers (Smith et al., 2017).

- Biodegradable.

assessment and comparison

future recommendations

- Ensuring increased global demand doesn’t increase pressure on land or food security.

- Consider that the trade off is plastic.

research summary

- Sourced from one of the most diverse regions on the planet (Abdulah, 2015). Malaysia is a major producer of Latex, as well as other land demanding cash crops which have negatively contributed to land conversion of forests and peatland in the region (Schier-Uijl, 2013).

- Extensive use of fertilisers during immature stage (Vrignon-Brenas et al., 2019). Past evidence of reduced chemical use across rubber farms however this is likely due to increase cover of palm oil rather than less use within rubber farms themselves (FAO, 2004).

- Good wastewater policies, however Malaysia currently ranks poorly on wastewater management suggesting that these measures have not yet taken effect (EPI, 2020).

- Malaysia has good climate policies but currently performs poorly for climate measures (EPI, 2020).

- Latex does not need as much processing as rubber (Li et al., 2008). Mixed consensus on the carbon sequestation potential of rubber trees (Li et al., 2008; Annamalainathan et al., 2011; Yiping et al.,2014; Blagodatsky et al., 2017; Vrignon-Brenas et al., 2019).

- Biodegradable

assessment and comparison