The Navigator Company: Demonstrating the benefits to biodiversity of well-managed forest landscapes in Portugal

The Navigator Company is a Portuguese pulp and paper company selling to 130 countries over five continents, with special focus on Europe and USA. It is one of the leading European manufacturers of uncoated printing and writing paper, and bleached eucalyptus pulp. The company employed over 3,000 people in 2017 and had a turnover of 1.6 billion euros.

Why a natural capital assessment?

As a pulp and paper producer, planted forests represent the primary source of raw material for The Navigator Company. The company manages approximately 112,000 hectares of woodlands in Portugal comprising eucalyptus plantations (around 75%), but also other forest production species, patches of natural and semi-natural habitats containing important flora and fauna species, water courses and ponds, as well as cultural and heritage values. This natural capital provides a set of ecosystem services as a “flow” of benefits to people.

Such a significant land surface, sometimes located within sensitive or classified areas, created the need to set up a reliable process to test and validate our assumption that well-managed plantations can have a neutral or positive impact on biodiversity at a landscape level.

What was the Protocol or the Sector Guide used for?

The Protocol and sector guide were used to evaluate the reliability of our existing assessment procedures, linked to our biodiversity conservation strategy and forest management model.

The objective is to align our existing procedures with an internationally agreed standardized framework, in order to identify its strengths and areas for improvement. This should ultimately strengthen the business case for well-managed planted forests within forest landscapes, and to explore further value-added opportunities in decision-making, communications or sustainability reporting.

How did you conduct your assessment?

To conduct the natural capital assessment we followed the Protocol’s framework step by step, using our existing Environmental and Social Impacts Assessment Matrices (ESIM), monitoring procedures and related materials such as internal and external stakeholders’ input, published literature and data collected through ongoing monitoring activities.

We focused our assessment on impacts on biodiversity, using data collected over the last 10 years.

We worked with an external consultant to assist us in comparing our existing procedures to the Protocol’s framework, identify potential gaps in our procedures and work on bridging them.

What were the outcomes of the assessment?

We found a very good level of alignment between our procedures and the Protocol’s framework. Steps that were partially or entirely missing (such as the potential monetary valuation of our impacts) would require additional efforts and resources to complete.

The assessment revealed that the consistent implementation over the years of our procedures for impacts assessment and mitigation (as framed in our forest management model) has led to positive impacts on natural capital. An area of at least 10% of the total area under Navigator’s responsibility is managed for Conservation and is classified as “Zones with interest for Conservation” (ZiC). The data within the ZiC reveals 41 different classified “Natura 2000” habitats preserved, including 8 priority habitats, which occupy an area of about 3700 hectares 98 fauna species classified in “Natura 2000” (out of 233 observed), and 76 of flora with important conservation statute (out of 750 observed).

When comparing data from 2010 and 2017, the area of habitats preserved from the impacts of forestry operations has increased from 1644 hectares to 3124 hectares and the proportion falling under an improved conservation status has also increased.

Next steps

To add to the pilot test, and ensure our assessment is solid and credible, we will run an independent stakeholder peer review to further discuss the results.

We will also use the Guide for our natural capital assessments to improve our existing procedure and add extra levels of input and useful information. We are planning to start by doing so at a project level, aiming at using the natural capital assessment to help inform decision- making.

We also wish to continue actively participating in the global debate on the importance of natural (and social) capital, using this framework as a basis to set a common methodology for discussion in the platforms in which we are involved.

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