intro: forests are essential to the web of life - they are home to millions of species, protect soil from erosion, produce oxygen and fix carbon dioxide, and help regulate regional and global climate. Forests are also essential to human beings. Nevertheless, almost half of the planet's original forests have disappeared and of what remains, only 8% are protected. Every minute, some 64 acres (roughly the size of 60 football fields) of forest are lost due to activities such as illegal or irresponsible logging, land clearance for agriculture and development, and forest fires. Every year the forest industry accounts for the harvest of 680 billion board feet of wood to meet the growing demand for paper and timber products.
Worldwide demand for paper - the single largest use of wood fibre - has increased fivefold since the 1950s, and it is expected to double again over the next 50 years. Harvesting on this scale must be extremely well managed to minimise impact on the environment and local communities, and to maintain future supplies of forest products.
labelled trees: forest certification is a means of protecting forests by promoting responsible forestry practices. Forest certification provides an independent third-party assurance that a forestry operation meets the environmental, social and economically responsible standards set by a certification program. Companies apply voluntarily, and government has no direct role in the process. Wood products from these forests are then labelled so that consumers can identify them as coming from well-managed sources. Consumer demand for certified-forest products is a powerful incentive for forest managers to adopt more ecologically sound practices, and for retailers and manufacturers to seek wood from certified forests.
forest stewardship council: FSC is a non-governmental organisation that operates the first established worldwide environmental, social and economic viable certification system for forest management. FSC does not itself certify, but accredits and monitor independent certification organisations to carry out the evaluations. FSC certification is applicable for all forest types and forest ownership structures around the world. The distinctive FSC trademark - the check and tree symbol - as well as the letters FSC and words 'Forest Stewardship Council' enable customers to identify responsible forestry products in stores around the world. Major retailers in Europe, North America, South America and Asia ask for FSC certification. Over the past 10 years, 42 million hectares in more than 60 countries have been certified according to FSC standards while several thousand products have been produced using FSC certified wood and carrying the FSC trademark. FSC operates through its network of National Initiatives in more than 30 countries.
labelled & fair: an example of ‘best practice’ in this regard is promoted by the Solomon Western Islands Fair Trade (SWIFT). This organisation has helped small producers in the Solomon Islands to gain a reasonable livelihood from the sale of sustainably-produced timber to high value European markets. SWIFT is supported by the Dutch Church Aid Development Agency, ICCO, which has helped provide access to European markets: over 90% of the timber produced is exported, the majority to the Netherlands.
SWIFT provides forestry support and distribution and marketing services to 300 producer groups covering 50,000 ha. of forest. Revenues from the trade are distributed within the community according to agreements drawn up with the groups, which vary according to the make-up and priorities of each particular community. The five-year history of SWIFT clearly demonstrates the costs and benefits of certification. FSC certification has brought 20% premiums and has been crucial in developing markets. The development of a 'Green Umbrella' group certification has made the process easier and SWIFT is in the process of designing a simplified scheme, Kopu Huda ('hold onto your trees'), which they hope will satisfy sustainable forest management principles as well as their overseas customers.