What is Panda Friendly?“Panda Friendly” is a product certification standard proposed by WWF based on WWF’s rich experiences in giant panda conservation. A Panda Friendly Product needs to meet the following standards: produced in panda distribution areas, contribute to panda conservation and community livelihood, and meet the requirements of sustainable use.
Once a product received the certification of “Panda Friendly”, it means this product is supporting panda and panda habitat conservation, as well as promoting local communities' sustainable development. As customers, buying these products means you are supporting and donating to panda conservation.
Most indigenous communities in panda habitats are poor and the conflict between wildlife conservation and economic development is tense. To protect pandas and their habitat, a lot of local villagers’ livelihoods, like logging, grazing, and medicinal herb collection, are forbidden. Thus, local villagers need to find other ways to supplement their income.
The common business model using natural resources is not only a threat to pandas and their habitat, but also unsustainable. Indigenous communities near panda habitats are usually located in remote mountainous areas where transportation is difficult. If the common business model is applied in such places, their products would not be able to compete with products from flat areas. To win market share, the only way is to produce distinctive, small amounts of products in a sustainable way. The ideal product should be high quality and eco-friendly.
Panda Friendly Product: A way to solve the problem
It is very difficult to advertise these high quality, eco-friendly products to society and the market. News is usually spread within the circle of environmentalists, but influencing the general public is much harder. The profit can only support pilot programs in a limited amount of villages, and it is hard to attract more habitat communities to join the sustainable development business model.
Therefore, we hope that “panda friendly” certification can bridge the gap. Products that have received the certification are self-evident in their eco-friendly values, which makes them more profitable than non-certificated ones. Also, by applying the sustainable management method the certification required, producers consume fewer resources and can increase the income of local villagers. As a result, the local communities are encouraged to protect pandas!
The first panda friendly product: Pingwu Southern Schisandra Berries?
In 2010, supported by WWF, the sustainably harvested Southern Schisandra berries in Pingwu county successfully received both US and EU organic certificates. Inspired by this, WWF started to establish the Panda Friendly Product certification system, hoping to promote more high-quality, sustainably managed products to the market.
In 2017, the Panda Friendly Product successfully registered in the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China, and the Southern Schisandra from Pingwu county will probably be the first certificated Panda Friendly product. The collecting and processing procedures of Southern Schisandra meet every standard of Panda Friendly certification. Schisandra is a local species, its production process has a complete record and is trackable, and it meets the requirements of sustainable harvesting guidelines (no trees are chopped down and some berries are left to regenerate).
With further promotion of the Panda Friendly certification, we expect more products to apply for the certification, and transform their eco-friendly value into real economic value. This will increase local people’s income and help protect giant pandas and many other wild animals and plants in the shadow of pandas.