Leaders of change in Canadian paper and publishing and fashion fabrics.

Nicole Rycroft, founder and executive director of Canopy // www.canopyplanet.org
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Nicole’s Story

Nicole Rycroft was devoted to the wild long before she started protecting it: “I grew up in Australia where nature is noisy and colorful, and I had a grandmother who taught me to love it.” Nicole traveled the world on behalf of the wild, from the Burmese border to Tofino where the devastation of ecosystems became uncomfortably clear. So, between kayaks to Mears Island to see its millennium-old trees, Nicole ran a nonprofit from her kitchen table. Corporation by corporation, she set out to shift the patterns of paper consumption that were destroying ancient and endangered forests. In the first year she inspired 21 companies—including The Body Shop, Kinkos and Nike—to work with their supply chains in developing paper free of endangered forest fiber. Today, Canopy (formerly Markets Initiative) is an award-winning nonprofit that has mobilized over 600 Canadian publishers to help safeguard forests by switching to Ancient Forest FriendlyTM papers—a Canopy trademark and the highest standard in the paper industry.

Meeting Renewal

Nicole started Canopy with enough money for three months of operation, which proved far too little for bringing her idea to fruition. When she went looking for support, all conversations led back to Renewal and its charitable foundation Endswell. “Endswell came through offering a first grant and an invaluable resource base,” explains Nicole. “Many doubted my idea would work, since the logging and paper industries are so institutionalized in the Canadian economy. But with this initial grant I traveled to the 21 companies who would help prove my strategy.” When funders still feared that markets campaigns meant blockades and controversy, Endswell stepped in again. They spoke to the Canadian Environmental Grant Makers at their AGM about Nicole’s collaborative and solutions-focused approach. Since then, Canopy has steadily earned the respect of industry and funders, with capacity building and leadership development from Endswell and Renewal.

Making Ripples

It is a little known fact that 71% of the world’s paper comes from ecologically rich and biologically diverse forests. However, Canopy has started a revolution in the publishing industry. In their second year alone, they convinced 20 publishers and 60 authors to use alternative paper once it was available. When that day came in the summer of 2001, Alice Munro stopped the presses, stirring up momentum and media attention. Later, Raincoast Books and JK Rowling followed suit with the last and largest-selling Harry Potter book. “It’s about creating champions within the industry who are motivated by knowledge and passion rather than guilt,” explains Nicole. Canopy has inspired replica campaigns across the globe. Their latest breakthrough was a collaboration with Canadian Geographic and the Alberta Research Council to publish on paper made from wheat straw waste.