Branching out – Why we’re using digital for sustainability, and this time, for forests

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Branching out – Why we’re using digital for sustainability, and this time, for forests

It’s been a little over a year since I wrote the blog post detailing our early steps into the environmental space. Applying our creativity to environmental challenges was a natural fit with our values as a humanity-led agency, but also a channelling of our expertise and passions.

The profile of issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution reached new heights during the events of the last year. Within the backdrop of global high temperatures, we saw a surge in wildfires in the Amazon rainforest and devastating Australian bushfires fill our news, whilst simmering public concern and political frustration manifested in demonstrations in towns and cities across the globe. Even the global COVID-19 pandemic has not fully detracted from environmental agendas but instead offered a lens for seeing what it means to do business as usual.

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Doing more

It was clear that environmental issues were no longer marginal and they have too been central to us over the last year. As a company we have sought to improve our processes and lessen our environmental footprint. We’ve examined our role and responsibilities in digital and the tools and services we design and build. We developed an award winning service to measure and mitigate the greenhouse gas impact of digital digital services. And we’ve employed our development capabilities to measure and track our own carbon footprint.

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Doing what we do in digital allows us to apply our skills and have significant reach beyond that of the walls of our office (or remote working environment…). We have achieved a lot in understanding and mitigating our environmental impact in digital.

However, seeing beyond our own sector, DD shares the sentiment and responsibility that we have a fundamental role as an innovator, enabler and collaborator in the solving of environmental challenges more widely. As our collaboration with MARINElife demonstrates - partnerships offer the conditions for creativity and impact by melding a range of digital and domain perspectives and expertise. This process is catalysed by our in-house environmental expertise (removing barriers to shared understandings), our ways of working (best practices in digital project delivery) and our passions and values (energy and ideas).

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But why forests?

It’s in this same spirit in which we have been fortunate enough to undertake several exciting projects this year focusing on the conservation and restoration of the world’s forests. We’ll detail more about these exciting projects as part of upcoming posts in this forest series. But why forests? The overlap for us as a digital design and development agency is perhaps not so obvious but we think it is a globally important area where we can contribute.

Forests are important for numerous reasons. They’re vital ecosystems, which support most of the planet’s terrestrial biodiversity. They have a bearing on local weather but also global climate and mechanisms of carbon sequestration and storage. Forests provide a means of livelihoods for millions of people around the globe and we all use products from forest commodities everyday. They also hold deep cultural significance in art and for recreation.

However, an estimated 420 million hectares of forest has been lost since 1990 - being converted into other land uses such as agriculture or urban areas. The drivers of deforestation are varied across regions but include conversion to agricultural land, illegal logging, degradation from subsistence agricultural practices and sourcing woodfuel, expanding urbanisation and fire.

Despite the extent of deforestation over the past several decades there are areas for optimism, including:

  • International agreements and initiatives that recognise and consider forests (e.g. Paris Agreement, the Bonn Challenge, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+))
  • Decreasing rates of deforestation. Supported by the adoption of sustainable forest management practices and protected statuses. Some regions of the world have seen expansions in their forest cover.
  • Increasing affordability and ubiquity of technology to help monitor and manage forest (e.g. remote sensing, drones, tracking systems, smartphones and mobile coverage)
  • Increasing company awareness and commitments to zero deforestation, climate change and forests issues.

Now we’ve started, we want to do more

For DD, forests offer an exciting area for collaboration where recent technology advances unlock exciting opportunities for us to apply our creativity. Forests are seen as a fundamental natural climate solution, one that is vital to harness if we are to fulfil global climate targets, which aligns very much to our wider mission and purpose as a company. Additionally, it’s impossible to decouple forest issues and challenges with that of people, a fit with our humanity-led approach to business.

This however, makes the forestry sector very complicated, with many interlocking (and often competing) social, economic and political interests, whilst also exhibiting specific local and regional subtleties. But as a team we already have familiarity and expertise to navigate this, and can interface with the goals and issues on the ground to translate them into digital solutions - more details on this in forthcoming posts!

If you’re looking to increase your impact and reach in the forestry sector we’d love to hear from you!