We use wood in tobacco production, either as a fuel in the curing of tobacco or as construction material for building barns required for the processing of tobacco. The issue of deforestation is most relevant to us in Africa, where we work with suppliers and communities to collectively address the issue.
Since 2013 we have directly funded over 3,400 hectares of forest plantations in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Mozambique. Planting these trees decreases the pressures on the indigenous woodland that is being harvested for use in tobacco production. By 2022 every tobacco leaf that we purchase from Africa will be with the knowledge that it has been cured using a sustainable and responsible source of wood.
In 2019 we took the decision to transfer the forestry projects to our major leaf suppliers so they may continue the goal to achieving wood sustainability. For more details see our case studies.
The focus will now be in burley tobacco production through the monitoring and driving the development of the national and live barn initiatives. A live barn is achieved by planting trees in the shape of a barn and as they grow, they become the barn structure. Performance of these initiatives will continue to be measured in all future business considerations through internal verification of survival rates.
Imperial has also financially supported national forestry programmes and as we purchase tobacco will continue to do so in Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi, promoting the value of trees to farmers. In addition to the environmental benefits of our forestry programme, there are also economic benefits for farmers in labour savings and the reduced cost of wood and transport.
Our afforestation programme also considers the issue of biodiversity. Where possible, we encourage the planting of indigenous trees which encourages the development of local insect and bird populations. These projects improve wildlife habitats and food sources for a number of animal species. Furthermore, the Sustainable Tobacco Programme (STP), which all our tobacco leaf suppliers are encouraged to participate in, encourages suppliers to gather data on areas of biodiversity value in and around the tobacco growing areas to create and implement a biodiversity management programme. This involves mapping areas of high biodiversity value, such as ponds, watercourses and woodland that may be affected by tobacco production.
Since 2012, we have funded the construction of over 5,000 energy efficient tobacco-curing barns. These barns can use up to 30% less wood fuel compared to standard curing barns and have contributed to significant reduction in emissions from our tobacco supply chain.