The company was established with a mission to stop deforestation by developing a market for valuable products from the rainforest, thereby empowering local people to protect the remaining forests and the wildlife it shelters.
“We look at how we can further increase the value of the rainforest and look inside the forest where we are working and find the most valuable products,” said founder and CEO of Forestwise, Dirk-Jan Oudshoorn.
One of the company’s star products is its unique illipe butter. Illipe butter is made from the nuts of the endangered Shorea stenoptera tree, which only grows in the forests of Borneo.
Traditionally, it has been used by locals as an ancient remedy for repairing chronically dry or cracked skin, or to heal sores and sunburns.
What makes illipe butter different is that it has a higher melting point than shea butter, but melts when it comes into contact with skin.
This characteristic makes it ideal for use in lipsticks and face masks, as well as solid formulations of shampoo, lotions, and soap.
With demand for sustainability, traceability and clean formulations on the rise, Oudshoorn believes beauty manufacturers and consumers will appreciate the ingredient.
However, he laments that there is still a misunderstanding surrounding the ingredient in regard to its supply.
“If you look up illipe butter, you’ll find that there’s only one harvest every two to three years. Some bigger companies may be hesitant because they are not sure about security of supply. We always stock up for three years so we can bridge the gap between harvests.”
Bringing multinationals on board is imperative for the company, which is struggling to help as many rainforest communities as it would like.
“We are only processing about 2% of the illipe nuts in the area. About 75% only come from six villages and there are hundreds. Some villages have 500 to 2,000 tonnes of illipe nuts. Every season, we cannot take all that stock because no one else is buying these nuts at the moment,” said Oudshoorn
“We want slightly bigger customers, multinationals perhaps, so we can help other communities.”
The company and the local communities are also facing other uncontrollable challenges such as climate change.
“There's just a lot more rain. There's not really been any dry seasons for the last two to three years, so we have a lot of floods. That is impacting everyone in the in the villages and the city as well. In fact, what this shows is that we have to bring the forests back to stabilise the climate,” said Oudshoorn.
Despite this, Forestwise has a stable supply of illipe butter, he emphasised.
From cosmetics to chocolate
In addition to cosmetics, Forestwise is also expanding into the food sector. This is a natural expansion for it as illipe butter is equivalent to cocoa butter and can be used to make chocolate as well.
The company also has organic coconut sugar, which can be applied in food and cosmetics, said Oudshoorn.
“In the rainforest, there’s super high production. You can get about two kilos of sugar every day from one tree all year round. It's really good addition to the portfolio of rainforest products because for the people who live near that forest, this would be their main income source. If they make sugar, they can double their monthly income if they have only three trees in their area.”