In 2023 Sofidel and the Woodland Trust are celebrating 10 years of partnership; helping create, protect and restore precious woodland. Karl Mitchell of the Woodland Trust and Luca Lolli of Sofidel discuss the long-term virtues of this joint effort while exploring Martinshaw Wood which has been in the care of the Woodland Trust for 40 years
The enchanting Martinshaw Wood is located between the villages of Ratby and Groby and only 10 miles from Sofidel’s UK base in Leicestershire. Within this wood is a grove covering an acre, dedicated to Sofidel as a thank you from the Woodland Trust. It is standing testament to their decade of support and provides a green space for local communities to enjoy. Since 1986, the Woodland Trust has focused on the regeneration of this 103-acre ancient woodland, which was referenced in The Domesday Book.
In the early 20th century, the indigenous trees in the forest were replaced with timber-producing conifers. Since 1986, when the Woodland Trust purchased the site, the conservation efforts have been focused on the commercial removal of regenerative conifers alongside the regrowth of native trees, thus naturally thinning the tree canopy and allowing flora and fauna to flourish on the ground below. “Restoring the forest here in Martinshaw is a gradual process. This is not just about tree planting,” says site manager David Logan of the Woodland Trust. “The project will take another 40 years to finish, but these ancient woodlands are preserving our history.”
Sofidel has contributed £1m of funding and aided the planting of a quarter of a million native trees across the UK during the past decade. In 10 years, the relationship has grown from Sofidel’s support for the Woodland Trust’s free tree packs for schools and community groups in 2013 through sales of its Nicky brand toilet tissue and kitchen towel; support for the MOREwoods scheme – which helps farmers and landowners integrate trees in their landscapes for the benefit of nature-positive farming; support for the Emergency Tree Fund – which delivers trees right to the heart of urban communities creating green spaces where they are most in need; to its 2023 commitment to champion the protection of UK woodland at a time of crisis for UK woods and trees.
Karl Mitchell, Woodland Trust Director of Fundraising says that, not only has the past 10 years of support from Sofidel been “really positive”, but it has also been a “long-term cause” that has enabled the Woodland trust to “plan for the future.”
The rewards from the partnership between Sofidel and the Woodland Trust are many. For Sofidel, the collaboration is not only helping them to attain their ESG targets, but also helping to preserve woodland across the UK. As Luca Lolli, Line of Business Director – Private label at Sofidel states: “We share the same values and goals as the Woodland Trust”. For Lolli, “sustainability is mandatory,” a statement backed up by Sofidel’s commitment to champion the protection of UK woodland. The 10-year partnership with the Woodland Trust has formed just one integral part of Sofidel’s journey to involve consumers and suppliers in ethical consumption.
The biodiversity bi-product
Another major beneficiary has been the local wildlife – and the local community who get to admire it. For example, thanks to the restoration undertaken by the Woodland Trust, Martinshaw Wood is now home to 39 species of bird, 270 species of moth and a variety of other creatures including a host of rare and interesting insects: bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and damselflies. This biodiversity is a bi-product of the progress made to replace conifers with indigenous trees, shifting focus from the economic to the environmental.
Mitchell says that “Sofidel’s continued commitment” means his team “can focus on protecting our most vulnerable woodland and improving tree equity – meaning keeping woods open and free to access and ensuring that everyone has access to nature-rich green space which can be reached within 10 minutes of where they live, whether on foot or by wheelchair”. He emphasises how the benefit of protecting woodland is a “way of helping mitigate the nature crisis, the climate crisis, and the recent health crisis, Covid-19, by safeguarding these habitats. By providing free access to people, you’re helping society in terms of our physical and mental well-being. And then the woodland itself is the most biodiverse, terrestrial habitat we have in the country as well. It’s crucial that we value these green lungs of the planet, because they are so rich for nature, and for us.”
Sofidel too have directly given back to the local community: more than 450 employees of 30 nationalities across all ages are employed in its Leicester business (including offices and two production sites in Rothley and Hamilton) and additionally it provides work placements to those carrying out vocational T-Levels training in local sixth form colleges.
However, the good work is never done. Britain is only 13% ‘wooded’ compared to the European average of 37%. In the Woodland Trust’s report Trees and Woods at the Heart of Nature Recovery in England, published in June 2023, it was revealed that only 7% of Britain’s woodland is in good ecological condition, while woodland birds and butterflies are in steep decline.
All the more reason then, that partnerships such as those between Sofidel and the Woodland Trust are proving to be so crucial. Sofidel has confirmed its “continued commitment to protect UK woodland for the benefit of people and wildlife donating a percentage of sales from its Nicky products to the Woodland Trust.”
The past 10 years have proven how organisations can collaborate for the good of the planet with the grove at Martinshaw Wood a symbol of the growing partnership. “We are proud of what we have achieved in 10 years working together with the Woodland Trust,” says Lolli. “We are delighted to see how the Woodland Trust protects and restores its woodlands across the UK for the benefit of climate, nature and local communities and are proud of Sofidel’s part in supporting their important work.”
Further details: To learn more about Sofidel’s partnership with the Woodland Trust, visit https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/partnerships/our-partners/sofidel/