At Waxman Strategies, our work is driven by a commitment to ensuring a livable, healthy planet for all people and wildlife. Whether we are working with cutting-edge innovators to solve global challenges or campaigning for positive change in support of Mighty Earth, the non-profit global environmental organization we helped launch, every day we are pushing forward toward a more sustainable future. Though there is much work left to be done, as we mark the 49th Earth Day we wanted to highlight some of the tangible results our team and partners have achieved in our mission to be responsible stewards of this planet:
Bringing real change to the rubber industry
The rubber industry is a major driver of deforestation in Southeast Asia, clearing an area the size of Ireland from 2003 to 2014. With the support of Waxman Strategies, Mighty Earth is fighting to reduce that impact and lead to truly sustainable rubber. Recently, Mighty Earth joined with tire and auto companies, including Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli, BMW, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors – as well as 10 of the world’s largest rubber companies and other civil society organizations – to create the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber. This new body will immediately begin work to establish effective industry standards for responsible rubber, so that anyone buying natural rubber products can be sure that they are not tainted by deforestation and land-grabbing. While we rarely partner with industry so directly, we are confident that this platform represents a real opportunity to transform the rubber industry. We will be working hard to make sure it delivers rapid progress.
Bank of China Reevaluates Financing for Dangerous Dam
In 2017, deep in the mountains of northern Sumatra, scientists identified an entirely new species of great ape: the Tapanuli orangutan. The identification of this species shows that nature is still full of wonders and reinforces the need to protect threatened ecosystems. But from the moment of discovery, the survival of this species was already in danger: there are only 800 surviving Tapanuli, and they live in an area just the size of Sydney, Australia. The biggest menace to the Tapanuli is a project called the Batang Toru dam, a massive industrial project that would divide the region’s river and fragment the Tapanuli into smaller, genetically unviable populations. The project is being financed largely by the Bank of China and other Chinese companies.
Waxman Strategies is working with a coalition of Indonesian and international organizations to protect the Tapanuli, and we had the honor of joining three of our Indonesian partners, the Orangutan Information Centre, the Centre for Orangutan Protection, and the Sumatran Orangutan Society at a series of press events in Indonesia to raise the profile of the issue – after which we delivered a letter signed by Indonesian and international leaders including former US Ambassadors to Indonesia and China.
We also recently learned that the Bank of China is “reevaluating” its support for the project, a potentially significant development as we continue to fight for the protection of the most endangered great ape in the world.
Upending Iowa’s Conventional Wisdom on Biofuels
For decades, too many Beltway-insiders have advised candidates they need to support massive subsidies for ethanol and other food-based biofuels in order to win the Iowa caucuses in America’s agricultural heartland – even as these subsidies pollute the water, drive destruction of the Midwest’s last prairies, and cause more climate pollution than even the oil they’re meant to replace. And so, even as candidates compete to claim the mantle of climate champion, some have continued to support climate-busting biofuels policies. Waxman Strategies has supported Mighty Earth as it joined with more than 50 Iowa organizations to call on presidential candidates to support energy and land policies that reduce biofuel crop production and shift the state to increased land conservation and clean energy generation.
Tyson Foods Moves on Sustainability
The focus of much of Waxman Strategies’ and Mighty Earth’s agriculture campaign in the United States has been Tyson Foods, the country’s largest meat producer. Tyson’s supply chain and factory farming have been major causes of water contamination in the U.S., with manure and feed production contaminating drinking water, polluting rivers, and even contributing to dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Last spring, Tyson announced that it would improve its agricultural practices on two million acres of land (about half of its sourcing areas) by 2020. Since then, we’ve been calling on Tyson to provide some details and targets about what precisely they’re going to do. Tyson took a step in that direction by announcing that it would partner with Environmental Defense Fund to improve practices for 500,000 acres of corn in the United States in 2019. While Tyson’s commitment still lacks details, and only covers about one-eighth of its supply area, it does show that broader change is possible. We’ll continue pressing Tyson and its suppliers for more comprehensive action, even as we wish the company and its partners success in putting together an ambitious program.
Together, these victories are helping us break the link between economic growth and environmental destruction around the world. From Asia to the U.S., Waxman Strategies is campaigning for more sustainable practices in both the private and public sectors.
This Earth Day, all of us here at Waxman Strategies rededicate ourselves to the fight. Together, we will continue campaigning for the outcomes that matter for our shared planet.