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Session 8b: Private sector perspectives on the future SESSION

Changes in the perception and role of foresters in the age of sustainable forest management and community participation

Peter W. Volker1

The perception of foresters and forestry in most countries is that both are closely associated with timber harvesting and forest exploitation. Despite evidence to the contrary, foresters are not viewed as champions of environmental management. The practice of forestry is increasing in complexity at economic, operational, environmental and social scales. The ideas for these complex changes are not new but foresters have been slow to spread the message. In most cases activism by environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) has been the catalyst for change. At the individual level professional foresters play an integral role in the implementation of sustainable forest management. This paper explores the changing face of forestry in the new age of ecosystems approaches, along with sustainable forest management and increased participation of communities in forest management at local and national scales. What is the role for foresters and what skills will be required to drive these changes?

Keywords: foresters, ecosystems approaches, sustainable forest management, forestry education, participatory forest management


Forestry is an idea, a concept resulting from human thought and experience; it has no other reality. Forestry as an idea can only survive if it is relevant and meets community aspirations.

This statement, in a presentation to the 18th Biennial Conference of the Institute of Foresters of Australia (Rolley 2001), reminds us that the role of foresters is changing and must adapt to the idea of forestry as the community sees it, not as foresters think it should be.

Obaidullah Khan (1995) stated:

Historically, in Asia and the Pacific, forests were viewed as an integral part of life itself –the source of countless products for everyday survival, but equally central as places for rest, thought, and spiritual rejuvenation. In more recent times, however, timber interests have tended to dominate how forests are viewed. Now we are gradually returning to some of our original Asian perspectives and to a more balanced view of forest values.

This view of the return to more traditional values associated with forests was driven by the emergence of the concept of sustainable forest management (SFM), which was first put forward in the Forest Principles, adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (Sayer and Maginnis 2005b).

Foresters have had to face a paradigm shift in which production of timber is no longer paramount and ecosystem management is more appropriate (Dekker et al. 2007; Kennedy and Koch 2004; Luckert 2006; Niemela et al. 2005; Obaidullah Khan 1995; Sayer and Maginnis 2005b; Schlaepfer and Elliott 2000). Ecosystem management is a concept of managing entire ecological units in an integrated and holistic way, which also includes social–ecological systems — so people and their institutions are now considered components of the ecosystems under management (Sayer and Maginnis 2005b).

Ecosystem approaches can be seen to be a logical extension of SFM in that they provide for more participation and management for a wider range of goods and services (Sayer and Maginnis 2005b). Unfortunately for foresters who must work within this new paradigm, there are subtle differences in approach that often lead to conflicting views. For example Sayer and Maginnis (2005b) stated:

The SFM debate has been led by foresters, who often have mandatory responsibilities to produce goods and services profitably from land under their control. The Ecosystem debate has been led by people more concerned with limiting the damage that resource extraction can do to natural resource systems.

A central and critical element of these approaches is the attempt to integrate ecological, economic and social issues in formulating goals and objectives and in decision-making (Schlaepfer and Elliott 2000).

Foresters must grapple with these approaches in their everyday lives. Humans require forests to provide wood and non-wood products, recreational opportunities and a spiritual function. For urban dwellers, who may rarely visit forests, there is some comfort in knowing that forests exist although the acceptance of change is not well-understood. Should foresters take an anthropocentric view or a biocentric perspective of forests? The latter is more fashionable (Rolley 2001) but foresters generally must focus on human welfare as an integral part of forest management.

The idea that people are an integral part of forest management was promoted strongly by Gifford Pinchot throughout his career; for example he said:

The earth belongs of right to all its people, and not to a minority — the public good must come first. The rightful use and purpose of our natural resources is to make all the people strong and well, able and wise, well taught, well fed, well clothed, well housed, full of knowledge and initiative, with equal opportunity for all and special privilege for none (Pinchot 1942).

Further to this Westoby (1987) stated:

Economic development in most Third World countries will depend on the response of peasants to various forms of incentives, and on their readiness to generate and absorb technological innovation. That is why foresters intent on supporting development in the Third World need to know as much about peasants as they do about trees.

More recently the second of ten tenets for best practice in forest management suggested that, "People are part of ecosystems –jobs, livelihoods and wealth generation are as important as environmental values" (Sayer and Maginnis 2005a).

Modern trends throughout the world, irrespective of development status, have seen foresters increasingly involved with communities. The relationships that foresters are engaged in vary with political environment, style and structure of government, ownership of land and interaction of people with forests. This can range from indigenous communities who may not have formal ownership, but have a deep reliance and relationship with their forest environment, to urbanized societies where forests are viewed merely as places for recreation or spiritual fulfilment, with little understanding of the demands of others on these same forests.

Perception of foresters

In Australia and other developed countries the perception of foresters is often negative (Luckert 2006; Rolley 2001). Perhaps this has been due to a tendency in the past to apply management approaches or models across landscapes with little adaptation for local needs. In addition during the 1950s and 1960s foresters were usually taught that if forests were efficiently managed for wood production that other wildlife, water or recreational values would take care of themselves — known as the "wake theory" in European silviculture (Kennedy and Koch 2004). Foresters viewed themselves, and were viewed by the public, as having the expertise and knowledge to manage forests for the good of society. The commonly adopted position of humans in control of nature rather than as a constituent part of the natural world was to give rise to major conflicts involving forests in the modern era of forestry (Niemela et al. 2005).

The rise of the environmental movement in the 1970s and 1980s began to question the paradigm that wood production was paramount. In Australia this was brought to public attention during a period of rapid expansion of the pine plantation estate and the start of the export woodchip industry, which was perceived as having long-term detrimental effects on the native forest estate (Routley and Routley 1973).

Another mitigating factor in the perception of foresters is reflected in forest ownership. In Asia and Oceania, 94 percent and 84 percent respectively of forests are in public ownership (Siry et al. 2005). Tribal and communal forests represent a transitory ownership group with characteristics of both public and private ownership; they are primarily located in the Americas, Asia and Oceania (Siry et al. 2005).

In the Australian context the high level of public ownership (75 percent; [Musselwhite and Herath 2005]) is somewhat misleading as more than half of this public land is leased and managed by the private sector. In addition, the ownership of plantations in Australia has shifted from largely public ownership of pine plantations developed by state governments in the middle of the last century, to private ownership of an expanding eucalypt plantation estate as well as sale of the aforementioned pine plantations to the private sector.

Many foresters are employed in government forestry agencies and private sector companies, which are primarily concerned with timber production. Thomas (2002) explained that in the United States, "Foresters reputations have declined as a result of hanging on too long to models of management predicated on the application of industrial strength forestry." This phenomenon has also been observed in Canada (Luckert 2006), Australia (Rolley 2001) and Europe (Kennedy et al. 2001).

Foresters are therefore seen as the agents of these organizations with a top-down approach to management and community consultation on forests (Kennedy and Koch 2004; Kennedy et al. 2001; Kevin 2007; Luckert 2006; Rolley 2001; Routley and Routley 1973). This approach is now being challenged across the world with the advent of ecosystems approaches and SFM that require community consultation and the involvement of expertise from many disciplines including biological and social sciences (Davis-Case 2001; Dekker et al. 2007; Haynes et al. 2005; Kennedy and Koch 2004; Kevin 2007; Kumar and Kant 2005; Luckert 2006; Musselwhite and Herath 2005; Obaidullah Khan 1995; Rolley 2001; Saigal et al. 2005; Sayer and Maginnis 2005b; Siry et al. 2005; Wood 2004).

Forestry education

The negative perception of foresters in urbanized developed nations in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand has been reflected in declining enrolments in university-based forestry degrees (Kanowski 2006; Luckert 2006; NAFI 2006; Salwasser 2001). This decline is also reflected in declining enrolments in other rural courses such as agriculture. Australia is a highly urbanized society with more than 80 percent of the population living in large urban communities.

The increasing desire of people to move to large urban areas is a phenomenon that is occurring throughout the world, but is perhaps more pronounced in the Asia–Pacific region. This region has prospered due to strong agricultural, forestry and mining industries that require people to live close to these resources and manage them. The rise of large urban areas has led to a perception that there is an increasing divide between rural poor and urban elites. Whether this is true or not, the incentives for young students to take on a career that may lead to a future life living away from large urban societies are seen as less attractive.

Forest education is changing in response to changing international, national and local perceptions towards forests (El-Lakany 2001; El-Lakany 2004; Kanowski et al. 2007; Stead 2001). There is a need for foresters to not only manage the world's production forests, but also to audit management standards (Stead 2001). The more recent introduction of Forest Certification processes (e.g. FSC, PEFC) should see increased demand for foresters to be engaged in auditing and verification of such standards. These standards give emphasis to the economic, biological and social requirements of forest owners, whether public or private, and the forests under their care.

Forestry education needs to change to meet the changing needs of society throughout the world. These needs include a commitment worldwide to SFM and ecosystems approaches as outlined earlier. There is also an increased need for foresters to have communication skills, which enable them to interact at all levels from local communities to government and international levels. Foresters must face this new paradigm with a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down system that has previously characterized forest governance throughout the world. These changes are not easy to implement or accept (Buchy and Hoverman 2000; Davis-Case 2001; Kumar and Kant 2005; Luckert 2006) and will require training in social sciences and a wide range of biological sciences. Foresters will no longer be the sole agents of information and advice in these situations.

Participatory forest management

Communities are demanding to have a say in landscape management and the management of natural resources at local, national and even international levels. Globalization and "information superhighways" facilitated by the World Wide Web and other forms of electronic communication have brought us all closer together.

Information is in the hands of anyone who cares to take the time to search for it. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction, verifiable information from misinformation. Foresters are not alone in the need to be able to explain often complex management ideas, which may take many years to bear fruit for local communities or indeed, for nations. The Seventh World Forestry Congress (Buenos Aires 1972) had something to say about the responsibilities of foresters in paragraphs 13 and 14 (see [Westoby 1987]) including:

...the forester has the clear duty and responsibility to ensure that his informed judgement is heard and understood at all levels of society. His allegiance is not to the resource but to the rational management of that resource in the long-term interest of the community.

The most recent World Forestry Congress (Quebec 2003) in its final statement called for a greater commitment to SFM and more participatory involvement at local community levels, which included empowerment of minorities (and women) in these communities. In his closing address Hosny El-Lakany, FAO, recalling his opening speech, in which he questioned whether or not the state of global forest policy was satisfactory, thanked the participants for the new direction being forged for forest policy. He called on the forest sector to commit itself to physical and psychological rejuvenation and recommended that it take into account cultural values (http:/ /

Previously, complex decisions were in the hands of well-trained professionals, who provided advice to governments or large industrial companies in their areas of expertise. In many cases, the social consequences of the advice were paid scant attention as long as the primary goal of increasing wealth, profit or economic development was achieved.

As we have seen, the evolution of ecosystems approaches and SFM has also introduced a greater need for decisions to be made at the community level through participation in decision-making processes. Participation can be considered an end, a means to an end, as an ethos or as a management tool (Buchy and Hoverman 2000). Participation, through community engagement, cannot solve all problems, but it can provide a process that can lead to improved communication (Kevin 2007). Managers and policy-makers cannot ignore that issues of power, representation and social change have to either be addressed or at least be anticipated by the processes put in place (Buchy and Hoverman 2000).

The role of foresters in community engagement is still under development. Should foresters take a leading role in community engagement over forest management? Should participants, along with other experts, be counted in the decisions about forests?

Although my experience in the Asia–Pacific region is limited, my perception of foresters is that on the whole they have a longstanding commitment to the role of forests in providing economic, social and environmental benefits to their societies. Unfortunately, the often negative images portrayed during the harvesting process are not counterbalanced by the positive image of regeneration and renewal of forests where this occurs. Forestry professionals are often associated with the negative aspects of logging and conversion to other land uses that pervade many areas of Asia and the Pacific, which includes Australia and New Zealand, which are hardly underdeveloped economies. Unfortunately, this conversion of forests to other land use is mostly carried out by governments or large industrial organizations, with little regard for the aspirations of local communities or direct neighbours.

So we must examine what needs to change to achieve a more participatory approach to decisions about forest management at a number of levels in society (local, regional, national, international).

It is clear that there is a general willingness at the international level for governments to commit to the principles of SFM through the development of measurable criteria and indicators (Castañeda 2000). In addition, many countries have made efforts to find means to implement SFM at the local and regional levels.

There is no doubt that national political structures and institutions can shape the implementation of these processes (Forsyth 2005) as follows:

Forest departments need to see ecosystem approaches and SFM as a new form of diversified forest governance rather than another uniform code of ecological guidelines (Forsyth 2005).

This is a challenge for foresters who may have become used to being omnipotent and omniscient when it comes to forest management. Reform will be required not only in the structure and governance of forest departments, but in the thinking and outlook of individuals. The challenges of such reforms in India have shown that such reforms are not easy to achieve (Kumar and Kant 2005).

This challenge is being faced in the developed world as well as the developing world. Scrutiny of forest departments and large industrial organizations by ENGOs has reached unprecedented levels. There are demands for consultation and inputs to policy decisions. There is increasing evidence that such demands are being implemented. The rise of Forest Certification and the open public disclosure of measurable outcomes against measurable criteria and indicators by forest departments and private sector organizations is tangible evidence in this context.

Increased participation in decision-making does not guarantee that problems will not continue to occur. In Australia, the development of a National Forest Policy Statement followed by a set of Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) between the national and state governments has resulted in ongoing criticism of forest management by a number of stakeholder groups (Musselwhite and Herath 2005). The RFA process suffered somewhat from the levels at which various stakeholders were represented, i.e. national and state departments, industry, community and NGO representative organizations. The ultimate success of the implementation of RFAs will be determined by the ability of these larger stakeholders to agree on processes and implement the principles at local community levels. There is no single approach to public participation that works across such a large and diverse country as Australia, but managers and policy-makers must address issues of power, representation and social changes in the development of the process (Buchy and Hoverman 2000).

Two policy strategies are emerging in Southeast Asia that support greater community involvement in forest management. The first involves the formulation and implementation of laws and policies that explicitly articulate community rights and responsibilities on lands that have historically been claimed by the state and managed by its agencies or private sector leases. The second is policies that support devolution and decentralization, including increased local government authority over natural resource management planning, protection and production (Poffenberger 2006). While these strategies may be put in place and work relatively well, foresters may not always be comfortable with their implementation (Buchy and Hoverman 2000; Forsyth 2005; Kumar and Kant 2005; Sayer and Maginnis 2005b).

A model for community engagement

It is clear in the discussion that foresters worldwide will increasingly need to be involved in community engagement as the people-centred bottom-up paradigm gains ground (Kumar and Kant 2005) as a consequence of international acceptance of ecosystems approaches and SFM.

At the International Conference on Engaging Communities, the Brisbane Declaration on Community Engagement (2005) outlined nine major principles by which community engagement could be achieved (see Box 1). The Declaration aimed to act as a catalyst for mobilizing the global community and developing common understanding, shared visions and goals.

Box 1. Part of the Brisbane Declaration on Community Engagement

  1. Affirm that community engagement is critical to effective, transparent and accountable governance in the public, community and private sectors.
  2. Recognise that community engagement is a two way process:
    • by which the aspirations, concerns, needs and values of citizens and communities are incorporated at all levels and in all sectors in policy development, planning, decision-making, service delivery and assessment; and
    • by which governments and other business and civil society organisations involve citizens, clients, communities and other stakeholders in these processes.
  3. Affirm that effective engagement generates better decisions, delivering sustainable economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits.
  4. Also recognise that effective community engagement enables the free and full development of human potential, fosters relationships based on mutual understanding, trust and respect, facilitates the sharing of responsibilities, and creates more inclusive and sustainable communities.
  5. Further recognise that meaningful community engagement seeks to address barriers and build the capacity and confidence of people to participate in, and negotiate and partner with, institutions that affect their lives, in particular those previously excluded or disenfranchised.
  6. Further recognise that inclusive engagement requires that indigenous peoples and the poor and marginalized, are adequately resourced to participate meaningfully in the broader community and that they have a stake in the outcome and benefit equitably as a result of being involved.
  7. Endorse the core principles of integrity, inclusion, deliberation and influence in community engagement:
    • Integrity –when there is openness and honesty about the scope and purpose of engagement;
    • Inclusion –when there is an opportunity for a diverse range of values and perspectives to be freely and fairly expressed and heard;
    • Deliberation –when there is sufficient and credible information for dialogue, choice and decisions, and when there is space to weigh options, develop common understandings and to appreciate respective roles and responsibilities;
    • Influence –when people have input in designing how they participate, when policies and services reflect their involvement and when their impact is apparent.
  8. Recognise the availability of a wide range of methods and technologies, including new and emerging tools associated with the internet, to facilitate appropriate and effective community engagement.
  9. Affirm the value of education, ongoing monitoring and evaluation, and knowledge sharing about active citizenship and community engagement processes and outcomes.

Foresters will need training in areas of community engagement. The International Association for Public Participation has devised a spectrum for public participation (Figure 1). The spectrum demonstrates possible types of engagement with stakeholders and communities.

The spectrum enables selection of the appropriate type of engagement to match the purpose. The emphasis should be on selecting the most suitable type of engagement for the situation — not to use engagement types at the top of the spectrum, which may not be warranted (Kevin 2007).

The features of sound community engagement as summarized by Kevin (2007) include:

In Australian forestry to date, the level of public participation is often confined to the first three levels of the spectrum. A relatively new feature of the Australian forestry scene has seen the emergence of consultation between large forestry owners, such as state forest owners or private companies, and their neighbours and immediate communities.

IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum

Developed by the International Association for Public Participation

Figure 1. The Public Participation Spectrum

Source: International Association for Public Participation,

While these organizations intend to continue with original forest management plans, they show an increased willingness to accommodate the needs and concerns of those around them (Kevin 2007). There are examples where community consultation in the Australian context has led to continuing dissatisfaction on the part of foresters in the outcome (Poynter 2005). In the case of Wombat Forest in Victoria, as an initiative for resolving antilogging conflict, it is likely to be a vehicle for great reductions in ongoing wood production consistent with a likely over-representation by community participants drawn to it by ideological objections to conventional forest management (Poynter 2005). This example emphasizes the need for engagement with all members of the community, not just those with the loudest voice, greatest representation or most power. In the Australian context community participation in forest management decisions must be made in the context of a structured and relatively large system of forest reserves implemented under RFA processes.


Community engagement does not necessarily mean that the decisions being made will satisfy everyone in the community. In fact, this is rarely the case. However, through a process of engagement the community is in a position to understand a particular decision and the consequences of that decision.

Foresters will need to accept that community engagement will become an increasingly important part of their professional lives. Professional engagement skills are not easily acquired. They require a high level of training and practice and personality traits, which include patience and the ability to listen and be empathetic to the situation of those with whom discussions are taking place.

Education and training at formal and informal levels will be required to equip foresters with the skills to undertake consultation.

The desires of individuals and local communities may be at odds with regional or national aspirations for forest management. However, this does not mean that local communities should be marginalized or disenfranchised. In fact, the opposite situation should prevail. Community consultation should be undertaken to meet the needs of the local community, to inform it of decisions about forest management and to find ways for the forest management plan to proceed with its input and support, even if it does not agree with all aspects.

Community engagement must be undertaken in ways that suit the cultural and social mores of the community in which it is done. The style of government and administration in a particular country or region, as well as the scale of the issue to be addressed, will also determine the level at which consultation should take place.

Foresters will need increased training in social sciences as well as the traditional biological sciences. Increased involvement of foresters, as agents of communication among large organizations such as state departments or large industrial companies and local communities will be important to the outcomes of SFM ideals. This also presents an opportunity to improve the perception of foresters throughout society. If foresters are seen as champions of SFM by the wider community and prepared to accommodate community needs, their stature and respect will be enhanced.

I endorse the following ten tenets for best practice in forest management (Sayer and Maginnis 2005a) which are all essential for successful community participation:

  1. There is no single approach to the management of forest ecosystems.
  2. People are part of ecosystems.
  3. All environmental management must be adaptable.
  4. Ecosystem approaches and SFM require tools that measure performance of the whole system — both environmental gains and people's livelihood improvements.
  5. Clear and definable land rights, democratic institutions and the rule of law are important elements of an enabling environment for best practice in managing forests.
  6. Forestry professionals must be eclectic, have excellent interpersonal skills, must stand back from the fray and earn the respect of all stakeholder groups.
  7. Science does not provide the answers but it helps us to learn from mistakes, adopt and explore innovative solutions.
  8. The soft side of the ecosystem approaches and the various definitions of SFM are more important than the hard side. These approaches entail a new attitude, approach, set of competencies and a broadened range of skills.
  9. Many elements of ecosystem and SFM approaches are not directly under the control of forest departments, so these agencies have to learn to exert influence and broker deals.
  10. Ecosystem approaches and the criteria and indicators that underpin SFM will not make conflicts disappear; win-win situations remain rare. Good practice can help reduce the power differentials between stakeholders and lead to more equitable outcomes, ensuring that society in general and specific stakeholder groups in particular are winning more and losing less.


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1 National President, Institute of Foresters of Australia, PO Box 7002, Yarralumla ACT 2600, Australia. Tel: +61 2 6281 3992. Fax: +61 2 6281 4693. E-mail: Web site:

The ideal climate for a forest culture

David Rhodes1

Globally, the forest sector is not enjoying the level of recognition, or support, that an industry based on a renewable, recyclable resource should expect. In fact, despite their compatibility with societal objectives, wood products are losing their market share to less benign substitute materials. Left unaddressed, both the forest industry and wider society will fail to capture the contribution to sustainability that forestry can make at a time when it is most needed.

Against this background, the growing awareness of the impact of human-induced climate change and growing acceptance of the need to take action provide a unique opportunity for forestry to gain a level of recognition and support that has potentially significant ramifications globally and regionally. It is important that the forest industry utilizes this opportunity and takes a lead in driving awareness of the life-enhancing service the industry can provide.

Several country initiatives have been embarked upon recently with the objective of repositioning forestry with governments, customers and other community stakeholders, as well as increasing wood consumption. Others are being planned. New Zealand provides an example where a pan-industry programme aimed at re-establishing a culture that embraces forestry and wood products has just commenced. Collaboration with those involved in existing programmes elsewhere has informed the strategic planning of the New Zealand exercise. A number of aspects of the New Zealand initiative are expected to have wide applicability and interest, particularly when the potential to create linkage between the programmes of different countries exists. This paper reviews some of the objectives, lessons and critical success factors in anticipation that similar initiatives in the Asia–Pacific region will be considered given the compatibility between their objectives and those of government and wider society.

Keywords: forest sector, wood culture, New Zealand, Life Cycle Assessment, impacts


In 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), forestry, or the accelerating loss of it, sufficiently occupied the attention of world leaders to warrant a specific chapter under Agenda 21 and the establishment of a set of forest principles. Since that promising flourish the focus on forestry has waned and discussion on key forestry issues has been eclipsed by other agendas both internationally and nationally.

While forestry does have a direct and significant role to play in global efforts aimed at poverty reduction, sustainable development and the promotion of biodiversity, gaining appreciation of this role has, at times, been a struggle with the debates dominated by non-forest sector stakeholders. Despite the large impact on many sectors in society, forestry is still a rather weak actor on the policy scene (ECE 2003). Forestry issues are often dealt with via agricultural or environmental policies and have increasingly been housed within such national policy departments. Even within the United Nations Forum on Forestry (UNFF) and its previous manifestations, which was specifically established to support and implement Chapter 11 of Agenda 21, gaining commitment to the cause has proven elusive and been subservient to foreign policy directives.

At the same time the wood industry has been losing its market share in many markets (ECE 2003) and per capita consumption of wood has fallen (Sewell 2003), even though production and consumption of wood products has continued to rise overall. These downward trends have been identified for some time across a range of countries and products. A meeting of the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) in June discussed the low level of acceptance of forestry, its lack of profile and through what means this could be reversed. Particular attention was drawn to the increasingly competitive efforts of other industries challenging for the sustainability high ground.

A high profile, profitable industry that is valued for the environmental and economic contribution that it makes to the community has a much better ability to influence the environment within which it operates from policies and regulation, through to research funding and the attraction of skilled labour.

Climate change, changes everything

In the last few years a new global issue has emerged that has dominated all agendas — that of human-induced global warming. The fact that the impacts of enhanced climate change directly, and immediately, affect all nations and cannot be adequately addressed in any other way than via a collective international response makes the topic unique, and explains its prominence. While there is a strong European focus on greenhouse gas emissions through the Kyoto Protocol there is also significant attention being paid to them in Asia and the Pacific. Given that the region will be one of the more heavily impacted areas globally, this is quite appropriate.

The recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Australia is evidence of the political commitment to reducing human-induced global warming whether a country is part of the Kyoto club or not. Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States are all inaugural members of the Asia–Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

Papua New Guinea is at the forefront of efforts to negotiate international agreements on preventing deforestation under the Kyoto Protocol.

This global challenge has created the terms of reference to allow forestry to be fundamentally repositioned in society.

Looking at the Kyoto Protocol foresters could be forgiven for thinking that forestry would have been better left out of the equation altogether. A number of arbitrary rules that do not reflect reality have created divisions within forestry, between forests and wood products and between forestry and other land uses that have been distortionary and inequitable. Nowhere is this more so than in New Zealand.

Others will also argue that forestry is a temporary distraction from the real focus — that of emissions reductions — and for this reason it should not form part of the toolkit for climate change.

While forestry is not a substitute for action on emissions, the atmosphere nonetheless directly feels the impact of changes in the forest estate and wood products pool. Deforestation, primarily in tropical forests, is responsible for at least 20 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. This is occurring where forests are permanently cleared and converted to agriculture and human settlement.

The acceptance of the role of sinks, the establishment of sink credits and the emergence in the international marketplace of a price on carbon sequestration has rekindled interest in forestry. How then to take maximum advantage of this increased awareness by society to reposition the sector?

Capturing the opportunity through national programmes

In the last few years a number of countries have embarked on promotional campaigns to try to change the operating environment for forests and wood products. Examples include the United Kingdom, Canada, France and the United States.

Such initiatives have many parallels with national forest programmes (NFPs). Chapter 11 of the (UNCED) Agenda 21 Action Plan invites all countries to develop NFPs. They are seen as important in building robust forest industries and most countries have implemented such programmes to increase capacity and ensure sustainable development. As FAO notes, "The purpose of national forest programmes is to establish a workable social and political framework for the conservation, management and sustainable development of all types of forest, which in turn will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of public and private operational and funding commitments" (FAO 2007). This description could equally apply to the promotional campaigns listed above.

Commencing last year, New Zealand embarked on a multiyear programme to enhance the sustainable development of the forest sector in New Zealand in the broadest sense. The objectives are to:

These objectives, not surprisingly, closely mirror the objectives of other similar programmes:

Partnership support

Commitment to the programme and participation in its management should ideally come from across the whole industry. This necessitates both growers and producers recognizing that the share of benefits to each part of the value chain is very difficult to quantify, but the return to each investor will be significant, and that what benefits one part of the industry benefits everyone. In New Zealand, this has required the development of a sound business proposal and a multiyear joint-funding partnership agreement. This is an important first step given that ownership patterns in the forest sector globally are typically more fragmented than in competing industries such as plastics, concrete and aluminium that can, as a consequence, raise funds for public relations exercises more easily.

Of equal importance in the New Zealand campaign has been partnership with the government. On the basis that the objectives of NZ Wood are aligned with many of the government's wider societal goals, a significant amount of public funding has been allocated to the programme. While the financial support has been important, the government endorsement of the programme and the public support by ministers and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is even more valuable. This provides a level of credible independent authority to the messages that the programme delivers. The organizers of the UK's Wood for Good campaign similarly rated the UK government's acknowledgement of the positive messages about the role of forestry and wood products on climate change as a critical success factor in their campaign.

Such support from governments in the Asia–Pacific region would be appropriate. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) workshop on climate change and health in Southeast and East Asia countries identified a frightening list of current and emerging climate change-related health risks including water-, food- and vector-borne diseases, respiratory diseases, heat stress, food and water scarcity and the psychosocial impacts of displacement (WHO 2007). Between 2.3 million and 150 million people are expected to be forced from the Asia–Pacific region by a combination of rising sea levels and devastating storms (Easton 2007).

This comes at a time when the threat to forests from climate change is also increasing and the anticipated new investment in forestry to mitigate climate change is not materializing (FAO 2007). The WHO workshop concluded that governments should develop and implement national action plans on adaptation and mitigation to climate change. The promotion of forest and wood products is clearly aligned with this.


The existence of a number of country programmes means that this experience can be drawn on and this is invaluable. It is unlikely, however, to obviate the need for extensive fundamental local market research. In order to understand the challenges, strengths, weaknesses and needs of forest sector stakeholders, market research was carried out across a range of target audiences including the general public, regulators, architects and engineers in New Zealand. This was used to tailor the programme to the audiences. The results were a mixture of the expected and the unexpected, which further validates the need for undertaking such assessment before selecting a strategy.

Key findings

It was confirmed that, consistent with many other countries, wood is losing its market share. New Zealand has some of the highest residential usage of wood in the world. Nonetheless from 2000 to 2006 timber framing in new dwellings, for example, fell from 98 to 93 percent. The trend is obviously concerning. In non-residential applications the use is steady but at a low level. A number of concerns were registered related to:

Sharai-Rad and Welling (2003), in reviewing why other products are substituted for wood drew attention to a number of reasons that influence customers' decision-making. Their conclusions were borne out in the New Zealand research and include:

In some cases these concerns identify areas where the industry needs to take corrective action such as simplifying the grading regime for timber; in others it is a case of addressing misconceptions and misunderstandings through better provision of information such as the impact of plantations on the soil profile.

At the same time a range of positive associations with the industry were also recorded. A range of environmental benefits were associated with forestry including water quality, biodiversity and recreation. Wood was considered to be easy to build with, environmentally friendly, attractive, a good insulator and cost-competitive. There was a very strong recognition by all groups of the role of forestry in addressing climate change.

In general the forest industry was perceived as being sustainable and there was a clear message from consumers that they would use more wood if they were assured that it was contributing to sustainability. Architects, engineers and designers also indicated that they would use more wood if the process could be made more simple and supportive. They also required product support and the development of new products and solutions.

The market research work heavily influenced the design of the programme as will be shown, and enabled it to build on its strengths, and to target known and quantified opportunities.

Life cycle comparisons

It was also recognized at an early stage that a full cradle-to-grave (tree nursery to destruction/ recycling) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based on local conditions was essential to help reverse the trends in market share. LCA should rely on the use of a consistent and standardized assessment process to determine the environmental impact of a product compared with other products. The ISO 14040 series deals with LCA and is seeking to develop a global standard.

Since the development of LCA methodology in the early 1990s competitors have been quick to utilize it to try to position their products, including claims that these products are more environmentally beneficial than wood. Claims being made by proponents of wood substitute products do not reflect a full life, preferring a piecemeal approach highlighting strong performance in only parts of the life cycle. The activities of the ISO/Technical Committee 207/Subcommittee 5 that was responsible for standardizing LCA methodology were heavily influenced and driven by the chemical industry (Sharai-Rad and Welling 2002). The forest sector in comparison has been slow to realize the advantages and risks associated with LCA. This is undoubtedly a result of the forest sector taking the environmental credentials of forests and wood for granted. This has been a mistake. Perceptions are reality, and the lack of adequate scope in LCA assessments needs rectifying by forest agencies.

A typical example of how this is adversely affecting timber is the development of "sustainability" criteria by the Green Building Council in a number of countries. Unfortunately, while the objectives of promoting awareness and incorporation of environmentally friendly building materials and processes are laudable, the criteria only take into account part of the cradle-tograve life cycle of the materials involved and thus significantly under-recognize the positive characteristics of timber. LCA studies confirm that the energy balances of substitutes are dramatically worse compared to wood products (Frühwald et al. 2003).

The difficult job of developing both a comprehensive assessment of the ecological footprint of the forest industry and developing and comparing LCAs for building materials has commenced in New Zealand.


Any such programme should be intended to be long term. The evolution of a permanent forest culture will require such a time commitment to change perceptions in some cases of generations of consumers yet to come.

A) Broad stakeholder participation

To ensure that the programme is "grounded" and kept relevant, participation has been sought, and obtained, from key stakeholder groups for representative experts to make up a number of specific fora. Key groups established are resource managers and users, specifiers, brand leaders and educators. The groups are all ongoing with regular, but not frequent, communication from the programme managers to brief these voluntary "experts" on developments and to allow them to influence the direction and focus of the programme.

B) Establishing a brand story

A key element identified from the research was that wood has certain favourable characteristics that other materials lack. Wood was described as being inter alia, versatile, honest, friendly, warm, natural and attractive. These are not values or emotions that are attributed to wood's competitors and thus represent a very important asset that should be utilized in any wood promotion initiative. The New Zealand programme deliberately sets out to create a strong association between the brand and the values, and this too has been a feature of other campaigns to good effect.

C) Sequencing

The New Zealand programme has been deliberately and carefully sequenced to ensure that the promotion to any particular segment of the market does not run ahead of the ability to deliver on the promises.

The renewable nature of forestry and the contribution of forests and wood to mitigating carbon emissions are underpinning propositions of the New Zealand programme. The unique place of forestry in sustainable development strategies on the basis of these two credentials was also recognized at an international conference on strategies for the sound use of wood (ECE 2003) and, again, this has featured strongly in the other campaigns cited above.

These are strengths that people already associate with forests and they thus form an early part of the programme. There is an emphasis on ensuring that sufficient reputable information is available to establish forests as responsibly managed and good for the planet.

The unique renewable aspect of the resource and the uncontested contribution of forestry to climate change mitigation, when combined, then allow the further proposition that the greater the use of wood the greater the benefits for the planet.

The concept that using wood actually enhances the environment and is life-enhancing needs to replace the protectionist dogma that cutting down trees is bad. The positive aspect of the "save the trees" stance is that society cares deeply about forests. What is required is for people to be aware that to protect forests they should use more wood, not less. This paradox has been at the heart of all the promotional campaigns to date although the message has been delivered in a variety of imaginative ways through the campaigns referenced.

Typically, the campaigns to date have identified a significant market opportunity to increase wood consumption, in New Zealand's case, the non-residential sector. However, what has also become apparent is that new products and systems need to be developed to secure this increase. The market share of many traditional forest products is stagnant or declining, and others (e.g. the Orientated Strand Board) are entering maturity. If the share of forest products is to increase, innovative products and uses are necessary. For instance, engineered wood products and pre-cut and component manufacturing services for building and furniture industries offer possibilities to move forward in the value chain and add more value to the basic product.

Specifiers and architects were clearly identified as the key influencers of product purchasing decisions. The development of such new products and systems that are so critical to ensure specifier support of wood will require time. Once the focus of the programme is on encouraging the use of wood as an alternative to another building product or in new building applications, then it will be essential to be able deliver the information to support this as well as flexible product options for consumption. Work is currently underway to ensure that they will be available from next year onwards.

Potential impacts

Apart from the measurable outputs of increased wood consumption and altered perceptions of forests and wood, there are less tangible but important benefits that can accrue from generic promotional programmes.

One of the most important flow-on effects is the change in perceptions of forestry by those working within the industry. When forest workers are viewed by the community as responsible guardians and producers of a valuable asset with a soft environmental footprint, their own self-image is positively enhanced. Listing forestry as a vocation becomes a measure of pride and satisfaction. This in turn enhances the ability to recruit labour and to attract skilled and experienced operators.

Greater awareness of forestry's ability to prevent long-term damage and associated costs to the nation should ultimately see the treatment of the forest industry by policy-makers and environmental regulators made more favourable and the operating environment made more enabling. This reduces the cost of doing business and thus makes the industry more competitive with respect to either other land uses or law-makers. In New Zealand, while the NZ Wood campaign is still in its infancy, there are already a number of recent policy developments and announcements that have been influenced by this growing awareness of the contribution of the forest sector. These include:

Policies that favour wood products have a universally beneficial impact on the whole forest sector. Forestry-focused policies, such as regulation that facilitates planting or harvesting, will again benefit the whole sector. Other forest policies, however, may not benefit wood processing such as renewable energy policies.

Wood promotion efforts have frequently carried the message that the use of biomass as a fuel is important in combating enhanced global warming. The commitment to addressing climate change has resulted in policies in Europe and North America that have encouraged the use of biofuels. Policies and subsidies aimed at achieving the EU target of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 have had significant consequences for the forest sector with wood energy markets growing strongly through 2006 and 2007. While this has been beneficial for forest growers it has significantly impacted on the profitability of an increasingly resource-hungry wood- and paper-processing industry.

In the United States, 20 percent of the maize crop is now used for ethanol production and this is projected to continue to increase significantly. As maize is the primary feed source for poultry and livestock, the price surge of over 50 percent in six months has constrained supply, and the additional land devoted to maize for biofuel has also lowered dairy production. This has impacted on the forest sector in New Zealand via a 73 percent hike in dairy prices in the last year, which has resulted in considerable conversion of forest land for dairy purposes.

One could ask the question then as to whether increased promotion of wood use is only going to accentuate these problems for the forest sector. In fact, what is ultimately required is the supply of more wood. Promotional campaigns, if successful, should create an environment for forestry that will facilitate growth of the resource base for both wood and biofuel uses. The answer is to ensure that the policies are sustainable in the broad sense and that policies reflect the positive and negative externalities for society.

The many non-market benefits of forests and wood, and the cost of producing them, are often taken for granted. For many materials, or land uses, which compete with wood, the non-market benefits are usually not as important, and the non-market costs of negative externalities such as pollution, are often not borne by the producer. Far from diminishing the need for wood promotion, this re-enforces it.

Regardless of whether such programmes are undertaken within any particular country their existence elsewhere is likely to have an impact on the supply and demand for wood in the region. Enhanced domestic consumption will increase demand locally but also reduce supply to the traditional export markets of that country.

Influence on local policy can also be expected to be beneficial for wood generally although there will be an expectation that this will favour locally grown material — government procurement policies. NZ Wood does not have the NZ on it by accident.

Recipe for success

Generic promotional campaigns are a relatively new phenomenon for the forest sector. Nonetheless, the limited number of campaigns undertaken to date does provide sufficient experience to identify some key elements to note for those looking to implement successful strategies, including:


The timing for undertaking campaigns to promote the benefits of forests and encourage the use of wood could not be better, nor the justification more appropriate. While forestry has always been compatible with sustainable environmental management goals much of the potential has not been realized because the economic imperative has been lacking. Global and national drives towards greenhouse gas emission reductions and increased energy efficiency in a carbon-constrained world have thrust forests and wood products into the limelight in the best possible way.

This has occurred both within, and outside, the Kyoto Protocol and provides fertile ground for strategic national programmes to significantly enhance the environment within which forest companies operate. The forestry sector in Asia and the Pacific has significant potential to contribute to economic development, rural employment and provide export income for economic growth. It also has an important role to play in slowing and reversing climate change and thus the adverse impacts that are already being felt in the region. As a consequence, efforts to promote the societal benefits of forests and wood products should find favour with governments that have similar objectives. A forest sector buoyed by strong consumption policies will be much more likely to deliver such benefits as well as the desired environmental and energy advantages.

The design of forest and wood promotional programmes needs to be based on adequate local market research and include LCA comparisons. Such programmes will generate expectations and this must also be factored into timing of the components of the programme.

Successful programmes will have a positive internal influence on the forest sector itself and will lead to supporting policies from governments and other regulators.

Ultimately, national efforts could conceivably lead to the collaborative promotion of the same messages at a regional level. Such promotions are overt manifestations of national forest programmes that FAO has supported for a long time. The role of external agencies such as FAO in facilitating such efforts as a vehicle for advancing national forest programme objectives should be considered.

The expansion of such initiatives can be expected to have important consequences for wood markets. Successful programmes will increase the market share of wood at the expense of less renewable, less environmentally benign substitutes and thus increase consumption. In the short term this higher demand, coupled with demand for non-traditional fibre uses such as bioenergy, may lead to firmer log prices. The demand, along with the more favourable operating environment created, should favour investment in forestry and consequent plantation expansion. Combined with the need to satisfy the expectation of responsible forest management from specifiers, consumers and regulators and the increasing market presence of independent verification of the same, the result will be an expansion of sustainably managed forests.

A wider realization of the true values of this asset to society and an appreciation that responsible but increased utilization of wood will equally increase its benefits will help to ensure its sustainable existence.


Bollard, A. 2007. Commodities, dairy prices and the New Zealand economy. Speech by Dr Alan Bollard, Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, to the Waikato Grasshoppers, Hamilton, 12 June. (also available at

Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)/FAO. 2003. Seminar: Strategies for the Sound Use of Wood, Poiana Brasov, Romania, 24–27 March.

ECE. 2007. Forest products annual market review 2006–2007. ECE/TIM/SP/22. Geneva Timber and Forest Study Paper 22 (also available at 2007/fpamr2007.pdf

Easton, P. 2007. Briefings urge block on climate ‘refugees'. The Dominion Post, 6 October 2007 (also available at:

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 2007. What is a National Forest Programme (nfp)? (also available at:

FAO. 2007. State of the world's forests. Rome, FAO. Summary.

FrØhwald, A., Welling, J. & Sharai-Rad, M. 2003. Comparison of wood products and major substitutes with respect to environmental and energy balances. ECE/FAO seminar: Strategies for the sound use of wood, Poiana Brasov, Romania, 24–27 March.

Maclaren, P. 2007. What post-2012 forestry policy for NZ? NZ Journal of Forestry, August. 52(2): 48. ISSN 1174-7986.

Moore, P. 2007. An inconvenient fact. Vancouver Sun. 29 August 2007.

Sharai-Rad, M. & Welling, J. 2002. Environmental and energy balances of wood products and substitutes. FAO Corporate Document Repository (also available at

Sewell, J.W. 2003. Long-run demand for wood –trends in world population and wood use. Timberland Report, 4(3) (revised). Also available at

World Health Organization (WHO). 2007. World Health Organization (WHO) regional offices for South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. Workshop on Climate Change and Health in South-East and East Asian Countries. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2–5 July. Also available at:

1 Chief Executive Officer, New Zealand Forest Owners Association, PO Box 1208, Wellington, New Zealand. E-mail:

Some key challenges to 2020 for the private sector

Barney Chan1

The Asia–Pacific region is a major producer of both temperate and tropical timber. However, as tropical timber has been singled out for criticism, this paper focuses only on private sector dealings in tropical timber.

Challenges are discussed under three key headings: (i) Governance; (ii) Planted forests; and (iii) Environmental services.

Under governance, there is a fear that actions may lead to non-tariff barriers to trade in tropical timber. Procurement policies may be unjustly executed and Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade negotiations may be discriminatory.

Planted forests are perceived to be the future of the timber industry, but they face intense competition for land and investments in other crops, especially oil-palm.

Under environmental services, payments for such services do not go to the private sector due to market failures, although the sector recognizes the potential for incentives to be derived from new mechanisms under climate change negotiations.

Policies need to be adjusted to draw positive results from the different perspectives and work of the private sector.

Keywords: private sector, governance, procurement policy, planted forests, environmental services


The Asia–Pacific region is a major producer of temperate and tropical timber. However, the environmentalists, especially the more radical NGOs or civil societies, have highlighted tropical timber aspects much more than those of temperate timber.

This highlighting has, fairly or unfairly, put the focus on the tropical timber trade. Producer countries are scrutinized closely: Their forest management is questioned along with the impact on the environment and local communities. The governance of the producing trade is under attack while the consumers of tropical timber are also being judged similarly.

Meanwhile, temperate timber trade proceeds almost unnoticed. The lack of focus by NGOs seems to imply that such timber comes from well-managed forests with very little impacts on the environment and local communities. The governance of temperate timber trade escapes scrutiny along with the consumers of temperate timber.

It is not the intention of this paper to discuss the different treatment given to tropical and temperate timber from Asia and the Pacific; suffice to say that the difference has to be pointed out.

This paper shall concentrate only on tropical timber, without disparaging temperate timber, because it has not only attracted more international scrutiny, but also because it has real challenges ahead, much greater than temperate timber.

There are obviously many challenges facing the private sector towards 2020; this paper shall discuss only some key issues grouped under three headings: (1) Governance; (2) Planted forests; and (3) Environmental services.


Perception is an important element in any market. It is no different in the global tropical timber trade; prices rise and fall sometimes based on market perceptions and not on the market reality of supply and demand.

There is a genuine fear by the mainstream timber trade that inter alia, NGOs, the media and governments have painted the entire tropical timber trade in a negative way. There are countless accusations of deforestation with accompanying extinction of wildlife, destruction of genetic banks, threatened survival of local communities — and even worse — in the tropics.

Many of these accusations are baseless or at least not related directly to the timber trade. One such accusation, illegal trade in timber, has attracted much attention, although it has been estimated that 90 to 95 percent of the value of the trade in global wood products can be considered legal (AF&PA 2004). As it is not the intention of this paper to discuss these accusations, it is enough to state that the mainstream trade does not condone or create situations that draw these accusations. However, there is enough substance in them to warrant actions to improve governance.

The private sector is currently facing challenges, and undoubtedly will face even more by 2020, which might turn into non-tariff barriers (NTB) to trade if not properly managed. Three examples of such challenges are provided hereunder.

"Bans" on the use of tropical timber

Some local governments (notably in the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany) have introduced conditions to curtail the use of tropical timber, usually via stringent certification for their own satisfaction.

These local governments have linked the use of tropical timber to that of using illegal timber; some have linked it to the destruction of tropical rain forests. For whatever reasons, there is a negative impact on the market.

Although it is generally agreed that the volumes of tropical timber consumption of local governments are not substantial, the fear of the mainstream trade is that the "bans" will generate a perception that the use of tropical timber is wrong. Some individual companies already have guidelines in place that prohibit the use of tropical timber. This is an unfortunate consequence of local governments' actions.

A total ban, like that imposed by Norway in April 2007, on the use of tropical timber might be counterproductive in terms of saving the forests. A recent paper published by FAO and ITTO said a "logging ban might contribute to increased levels of illegal operations" (FAO 2005).

Procurement policy

Public procurement policies on the use of timber are being drafted by governments2 and local governments with special emphasis on usage of tropical timber. Their concerns are that this type of timber might come from doubtful if not illegal sources. Again, there are also fears linking it to the destruction of rain forests, wildlife, habitats and more.

The spirit of such procurement policies is understood and accepted by the mainstream trade. However, the execution and translation of this spirit into procedural documents are mostly done with little input from the trade but with an overwhelming input from the NGO community.

The trade is frustrated that most procurement policy demands some form of third-party certification. Apart from the technical difficulty to comply, there is the issue of added costs to the products with little added value. And it seems that the producers are expected to bear this increase in costs.

Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade

The Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) process started when the East Asia FLEG Ministerial Conference was held in Bali in September 2001. Representatives from 20 countries agreed to a set of proposed actions.

Over the years, the FLEG process included trade and became the FLEGT process while proliferating into regions beyond Asia, like Europe, Africa and the current Russian Federation. Again, the mainstream trade is supportive of the spirit advocated in the FLEGT process but once again, the execution and translation of this spirit leaves much to be desired.

For example, the EU FLEGTAction Plan proposes, inter alia, a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with timber-producing countries to ensure that only legally harvested timber enters the EU market. The VPA will also lead to a voluntary licensing scheme to label timber.

Whilst the VPA approach seems reasonable, producer countries worry about discrimination. The EU must sign VPAs with all the timber-producing countries simultaneously or the first country to sign the VPA will be "punished" with additional procedures to adhere to, while the non-signatory countries enjoy "business as usual".

Further, the Trade Advisory Group (ITTO 2006) made a statement at the International Tropical Timber Council (May 2006 in Merida, Mexico) that the EU must initiate VPA negotiations with all timber-producing countries, with these two conditions:

Planted forests

Planted forests3 are like distant cousins when forests are discussed. Some people embrace these distant cousins while others distance themselves from them. There is even more controversy whenever their propagation is in question.

Some scientists are worried that the monoculture of planted forests will invite problems with various predators. Some NGOs are worried about environmental impacts: biodiversity conservation, hydrology, soil conservation, pests, GMOs and carbon sequestration (Elliot 2003).

On the other hand, some have welcomed planted forests as they take pressure off natural forests. Some consider planted forests as reasonable attempts at landscape restoration. Some in the private sector perceive them to be the future, others are not convinced.

However, from whatever perspective, it is clear that planted forests will be significant in the Asia–Pacific region. There are two key challenges in this regard to the private sector: the future of the timber industry and obstacles impacting this future.

Global markets will push for planted material

Two major drivers are pushing the timber industry towards planted forests: environmental issues and economics. Of these two drivers, ultimately economics will convince the sceptics.

Environmental NGOs have been against the logging of tropical rain forests since the late 1980s. These NGOs can claim some success in that they have managed to make it very difficult to log and market tropical timber; in some extreme cases, they have influenced governments to ban logging altogether.

As pointed out earlier, this in itself might be detrimental to the well-being of the very tropical rain forests the NGOs are so keen to conserve. It has made the mainstream trade pause to consider using planted timber, rightly or wrongly, to avoid accusations of environmental destruction.

Many researchers have studied planted forests in the tropics but have failed to point out their significance in usage. The quantitative aspects of plantations are impressive but they hide the even more impressive qualitative aspects. In the Asian region there has been a modest start to planting trees for solid wood and not pulp and chips. This is a watershed event for the Asian timber industry.

The economics of planted forests, in terms of solid wood recovery, are much better than that of natural forests. Early commercial trials in Sarawak have witnessed 200 m3 of seven-year-old Acacia mangium hybrid logged in a hectare, which was then peeled into 100 m3 of veneer for plywood making.

In the final analysis, the prospects of making more profits from planted forests by far over-ride any love and care for the environment. These harsh realities of an open economy will drive the development of planted forests.

Planted forests and other land use

In many countries in Asia and the Pacific, there is intense competition in land use and if everything is fair and equal, one can expect that the use with the most benefit to society will win. Foresters understand the multiple use of forests and their benefits but the current markets do not recognize many of these uses: watershed protection, wildlife conservation, carbon sequestration, genetic banking and many other non-wood forest products and services.

Thus, the timber industry has to compete against other users with its own limited range of timber products. The question boils down to how much money can one make from each hectare of land?

In Southeast Asia, the main competition for land is no longer rubber; it is oil-palm because of its efficiency in land use. The average oil yield (tonne/hectare/year) is 3.66 for oil-palm; by comparison, it is 0.60 for rapeseed, 0.46 for sunflower and 0.36 for soybean (Basiron 2006). In addition to this biological advantage, the price of palm oil has been firm over a long period of time and very attractive to investors.

There is a valid case for incentives to establish planted forests, especially in view of the more lucrative planted crops like oil-palm (and other agricultural land uses in many countries). The role of incentives in planted forests has already been thoroughly explored (Enters and Durst 2004) and it seems that the enabling conditions in a country play an equally, if not more, important role in getting trees planted rather than financial incentives per se.

The private sector is acutely aware that planting other crops might be more beneficial to society if the environmental services of forests are not considered. The challenge is which to plant: trees, palm oil or agricultural crops?

Environmental services

Since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, there have been some encouraging developments to attract forest managers; discussions have progressed from the Clean Development Mechanism to payment for environmental services (PES). Currently, there is a failure of markets to value such environmental services. Market instruments to implement such concepts have been very slow in coming, or at least they are not well-known to the forest managers if indeed they are in place.

The private sector senses that PES can be the next major issue in the relentless push towards sustainable forest management (SFM). However, the usual discretion of private investments means a prudent wait for the markets to mature.

The critical element here is that PES and the private sector are mutually exclusive in a typical logging concession/licence arrangement. While the private sector is interested in only one, admittedly narrow, use of the forests (timber), the value of the environmental services does not accrue back to the Private Sector (Chan 2001). This is recognized as a hurdle to the success of SFM.

The key challenge is to involve the private sector actively in any PES arrangements, and in particular, in issues like carbon sequestration, the water cycle, bioprospecting and even debt-for-nature swaps. Recently, the media has drawn attention to peat as a significant source of carbon emission. In Asia, there are extensive development projects on peat lands by the private sector, but what is the sector's role in ensuring that the carbon remains in the peat?

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Sydney, Australia (September 2007) witnessed Asia–Pacific leaders adopting a "long-term aspirational goal" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More importantly, hopes are high that the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2007 in Indonesia might bring new attractions in which the private sector can participate.

Forest environmental services will play a more important role by 2020; the challenge is how to involve the private sector meaningfully. New mechanisms that are attractive to the sector must be developed to address this.


Only three key challenges are discussed, from a wide range, which confront the private sector. The common conclusion of these challenges is how to draw positive results from the different perspectives and work of the private sector:


The private sector has to be engaged in any process that questions the legal status of the products it deals with, be they logs, sawntimber, plywood, furniture and others. The ongoing FLEGT processes, for example, have a striking lack of trade representations; without the trade buy-in or ownership of the process, unnecessary suspicions on NTBs are created instead.

Trade representatives are usually actively involved in business themselves and hence cannot pay full attention to any long negotiation process. This is in stark contrast to activists whose job it is to attend such meetings. This is not a criticism of either party, but just to state the status quo: trade has to be involved.

Planted forests

Planted forests and their products will be very significant by 2020. NGOs have already taken a stance against plantations and even a timber certification scheme like the FSC is very biased against plantations. Ironically, the private sector and NGOs might have a common objective: control the conversion of forests into agricultural land.

Land-use policies need to be re-examined to promote the planting of trees; if there is a need, incentives have to be offered to counter the planting of more profitable crops in place of trees.

Environmental services

The private sector is watching this development with much interest even though earlier experiences have not been encouraging.

Policies need to be adjusted so that the private sector can be persuaded to manage forest environmental services by offering it a share of the payment for such services.

There is a golden opportunity to match the need of the private sector to plant trees with the need of humankind to sequester carbon. The challenge is how to make this happen.


American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA). 2004. "Illegal" logging and global wood markets: the competitive impacts on the U.S. wood products industry. USA, American Forest & Paper Association.

Basiron, Y. 2006. Malaysian palm oil industry and price outlook. (Attributed to Oil World 2005.) Globoil India 2006.

Chan, B. 2001. The private sector and sustainable forest management –Southeast Asian perspective. CIFOR Financing Sustainable Forest Management, 22–25 January 2001. Oslo.

Elliot, C. 2003. WWF vision for planted forests. UNFF Intersessional Experts Meeting on the Role of Planted Forests in Sustainable Forest Management, 24–30 March 2003, Wellington.

Enters, T. & Durst, P. 2004. What does it take? The role of incentives in forest plantation development in Asia and the Pacific. Bangkok, Asia Pacific Forestry Commission, 2004.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 2005. Best practices for improving law compliance in the forestry sector. Rome, FAO Forestry Paper 145.

International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). 2006. Report of the international tropical timber council at its fortieth session, 29 May to 2 June 2006. Merida, Mexico.

1 eSFM tropics, Sarawak, Malaysia. Tel: (Malaysia) +60 12 886 2357. E-mail:
2 For example, the Government of the United Kingdom implemented its timber procurement policy in July 2000. The Government of Denmark published its "Purchasing Tropical Timber — Environmental Guidelines" in 2003. The Government of Japan amended its Green Purchasing Law to include Legal Wood in April 2006.
3 The term "planted forests" in this paper refers to tree plantations established in the process of afforestation or reforestation.

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