Press release

China can reduce its environmental impact with changes to supply chain management

November 24, 2008

BEIJING—November 25, 2008—China can "dramatically mitigate" the environmental impact of its expanding economy by developing sustainable global supply chains in the forestry, cotton and e-product sectors, according to new research undertaken by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

"We found the environmental impact varied a great deal according to China's position in the supply chain," said IISD president and CEO David Runnalls. "There are real opportunities for China to dramatically mitigate negative impacts of economic growth, while substantially reducing the environmental pressures it incurs in some parts of the supply chains."

The study was carried out in cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM).

"As the world's leading importer of raw cotton and exporter of cotton textiles, for example, China is well positioned to be a force for good in helping West Africa," Runnalls said. "China could make a significant difference for sustainable development by importing primarily from West Africa, which is one of the world's leading producers of pesticide-free, sustainable cotton. More guaranteed import contracts from West Africa would greatly benefit the region."

Runnalls said China can take a leading role in addressing deforestation issues, as the world's largest importer of logs. "China's impact on deforestation isn't a good-news story, but it could become one if China adopts recommendations to foster forest governance and management in supplying countries."

In the case of e-products, Runnalls said the issue is more about what the rest of the world can do to help China deal with e-waste. "E-waste isn't just China's problem. Consumers of e-products need to work with China to develop an action plan for responsible trade and disposal of the waste."

IISD has issued a summary report (PDF - 2.5 mb) of its findings with policy recommendations for each of the sectors studied, as well as three comprehensive reports.

Global Forest Product Chains (PDF - 2.8 mb) summary of recommendations

  • Build capacity for sustainable forest management by providing targeted supplying countries with financial aid to build forest governance and management capacity

  • Build markets for sustainable forest products by improving market transparency and encouraging the growth of markets for sustainably produced forest products

  • Be a proactive participant in international initiatives.

Global Cotton and Textile Product Chains (PDF - 1.2 mb) summary recommendations

  • Develop national strategy for environmentally sound cotton production;

  • Promote international cooperation for sustainable production and trade, particularly in the development of Sino-African cotton trade.

Sustainable Electronics and Electrical Equipment for China (PDF - 1.5 mb) summary recommendations

  • Develop a national sustainable e-product growth strategy aimed at stimulating "green" economic growth in the e-product sector, through investment and innovation for sustainable e-product design and production practices

  • Develop a national e-waste strategy for the responsible collection and treatment of e-waste, based on increased transparency and coherence across existing e-waste management legislation and programs, as well as the drafting of new legislation to fill existing e-waste management gaps

  • Join an international action plan for sustainable e-waste management for the responsible trade and disposal of e-waste.

David Runnalls will be in Beijing from November 24 to 26, and can be reached on his mobile at +1 (613) 263-4889.

More about IISD

As one of the world's leading policy research institutes, IISD has been involved with China through the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development for many years. The CCICED is a high-level advisory body that makes recommendations to the Chinese government on environment and development issues. IISD is a founding member of CCICED's Working Group on Trade and Environment of the China, established in 1995. IISD has helped to assess the environmental consequences of China's WTO accession, particularly on the environment and development, and contributes to the debates concerning the transformation of China's economy and its impact on sustainable development. IISD continues to be involved in the China Council through the work of IISD's Distinguished Fellow and former President, Arthur Hanson, as well as this project and others.

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About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.