Founder and Executive Director
About Nicole Rycroft
Nicole is the Founder and Executive Director of Canopy. She is the recipient of an Ashoka Fellowship, a Canadian Environment Award Gold Medal, and numerous conservation and publishing industry awards. With a drive and passion for harnessing corporate power Nicole has dedicated the last 20 years to Canopy’s growing success.
Founder of Canopy, Nicole Rycroft, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss the greening of the Harry Potter series; making industry more eco-friendly + working with the likes of Stella McCartney, H&M and Zara.
Canopy is focused on protecting the world’s forests, species, climate and helping advance community rights. They do this by harnessing the power of the marketplace.
Nicole launched Canopy 20 years ago with a small budget of $1,800. Today, they work with 750 large corporate customers, including H&M, Zara and Kimberly-Clark by helping them to develop and implement environmental policies.
They aim to change behaviours at a societal level. They approach this by working with the top 1,000 to 2,000 senior decision-makers who work within clothing companies, e-retailers and publishers.
The sheer size and purchasing power of the companies these individuals work for means they have incredible economic and political influence to incentivise forestry companies and governments to change business-as-usual practice.
Nicole notes that Canopy is probably best known for ‘greening’ the Harry Potter series, which we hear was a lot of fun to do.
Back in the early 2000s, they were working with Raincoast Books – the Canadian publisher of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the 5th instalment of the series. They worked to get the book published on environmental paper – free from ancient and endangered forest fibre. Nicole underscores that both JK Rowling and her agent were very supportive of the initiative.
Then, fast-forward to the 7th book in the Harry Potter series where the book was printed on environmental paper in 24 countries and became the greenest book in publishing history.
The sheer volume of this endeavour provided proof to the industry that you really could publish high volume work on environmentally friendly paper.
Canopy’s work also tackles fast fashion, and the environmental and social footprint of the whole fashion industry. We hear how fashion is a major driver of deforestation and forest degradation. There are 200 million trees today disappearing into fashion annually; into viscose, into rayon, and modal fabrics. And this number is slated to double within the next decade.
Canopy have been proactive in engaging with industry leaders and they started reaching out to brands and designers, icons within the fashion industry: Stella McCartney, H&M, Eileen Fisher, Levis – working with them to develop environmental policies that commit to eliminating the use of viscose and rayon fabrics originating from ancient and endangered forests and, also, to prioritise and help drive next-generation solutions.
They publicly launched ‘Canopy Style’ six years ago and now have 213 brands on board that represent $260 billion in annual revenues. This has enabled them to get similar commitments from most of the world’s viscose producers and, consequently, enabled them to start transforming the industry. Canopy drives change through collective action and convening; they help corporate clients through key services such as developing policies, tools and systems.
Interestingly, Canopy does not enter into financial relationships with any of the brands they work with. They feel this helps protect the integrity of their work – they’re keen on long-term, transformational relationships. Nicole feels that when a cheque is slid across the table, the whole relationship can become more transactional. Therefore, Canopy relies on a more traditional philanthropy model whereby most of their income comes from Foundations (60%) and major donors (30%).
Nicole’s key takeaway: We’re at a critical junction as humanity. Our time is calling us to be more audacious and to take risks. We can’t just keep doing the same things and feel frustrated that we’re not shifting the dial fast enough. We have to be bolder and we need to be willing to be uncomfortable.
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