SWM’s LeafLAB utilizes a unique patented manufacturing process to create a range of distinctive products from botanical fibers, including Infuze™, a revolutionary tea product with enhanced infusion properties that allows for hot or cold brewing, facial sheet masks, and Cocoa Paper™, an eco-friendly specialty paper and packaging product that contains up to 45% cocoa shell fibers and thereby gives a second life to discarded cocoa shells. Cocoa Paper™ embodies the concept of a circular economy; it is biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and the cocoa shell fibers utilized in this product are 100% carbon neutral, a first in SWM’s product line. In addition to its eco-friendly properties, Cocoa Paper™ also possesses a number of characteristics that make it useful for a wide range of applications, including processability, strength, moldability, foldability, printability, and (optional) grease resistance.
The Cocoa Paper™ story began in 2016 when LeafLAB developed the product in order to capitalize on the European interest in the circular economy. When LeafLAB approached some of their larger target customers, those customers expressed an interest in the Cocoa Paper™ sustainability story beyond the circular economy benefit. As a result, LeafLAB initiated a life-cycle assessment (LCA) with a consultant in late 2016 to understand the environmental and health impacts of Cocoa Paper™ pulp. The completion of the LCA then led to an interest in purchasing carbon offset credits in order to make the cocoa fiber carbon neutral.
A carbon offset credit is generated when an individual or a group funds a project that reduces carbon emissions, creating a net emissions benefit that can then be sold to a third party. Purchasing carbon offsets to meet regulatory requirements, internal company goals, or customer expectations is a common and widely accepted practice. In 2017, mandatory credits and carbon taxes generated $52 billion to the global economy. In the future, carbon offsets and trading schemes will become even more common, as generating offsets to meet the 2030 goals of the Paris Agreement could be worth around $230 billion to the global economy.
LeafLAB ultimately chose to purchase carbon offset credits from the Jacundá Forestry REDD+ project. The aim of this project is to reduce the degradation and unplanned deforestation of 35,222 hectares of rainforest in Rio Preto-Jacundá, located in the middle of Brazil. The project is led by the community, is implemented on land over which the community has rights, and will generate short and long-term community development, biodiversity, and educational benefits, including investment in community infrastructure, the monitoring and protection of threatened species, and the building of a new school designed to educate youth and adults. This Verified Carbon Standard and Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance certified project is expected to save 7,315,458 tonnes CO2e in its lifetime.
Due to its many applications as a specialty packaging material, its circular economy benefits, and the social and environmental benefits derived from the purchase of carbon offset credits, the Cocoa Paper™ story aligns well with SWM’s mission to demonstrate respect for our natural environment and for our diverse stakeholders and to provide value to the people and places we impact. It also contributes to our current focus on using sustainability as a growth engine. We do this by ensuring that our existing new product development processes include efforts to target products that support our sustainability efforts and by seeking out megatrend opportunities that will also support our growth and profitability efforts, demonstrating that sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive.