Bold Actions to Sustain Forests for the Planet. The Perspective from the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations

W. Henson Moore 1


The paper presents some bold actions to sustain forests from the point of view of the members of the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations, based in 40 countries. The following actions are proposed for consideration:


On behalf of the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA), I would like to say first, that it is an honor to address the Twelfth World Forestry Congress. And it is a pleasure to share this introduction to the Congress Program Area, titled Forests for the Planet, with our colleague from France, Christian Barthod.

The International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) is comprised of trade associations representing wood and paper products industries from around the world. My own principle role is President and CEO of the American Forest and Paper Association, but I have been asked to represent our collective group since I also serve as President of the ICFPA. In total, ICFPA members represent our industry in 40 different countries. These countries represent more than eighty percent of the world's paper and fifty percent of the world's wood products output. Our members have a critical interest in the sustainability of the world's forests.2

In the general outline of the Congress program I read the statement, "Considering the present situation and the future trends, bold actions are necessary." As you listen to the subsequent papers to be given in this session, I challenge you to consider what those "bold actions" should be. And, I would like to share with you the forest products industry's vision of the "bold actions" we feel are necessary if the forests of our planet are to be sustained. I will talk specifically about actions necessary at the ground level, actions by sovereign governments and actions within the global community.

Bold Actions

At the ground level, forest enterprises must commit to conducting sustainable forest practices. Members of the ICFPA have made this commitment through their support for voluntary forest management certification programs. Under this commitment we have participated with other stakeholders in the development of sound, science-based standards for sustainable forest management. These standards define the actions necessary for forest operations to be economically viable, for those operations to protect environmental values such as water quality and biodiversity, and to ensure that other expectations society holds for its forest resources, such as scenic value and community stability, are also addressed.

At the present time, across the world and looking at all certification schemes, one hundred thirty-four million (134) hectares of forestland have been independently certified to be in compliance with, what we would all recognize as, credible forest management certification standards of forest best management practices. This represents about 3.5 percent of the world's forests. Most of these certifications are in developed countries. For example, in the United States well over two-thirds of the industrial forestland is independently certified to either or both the Sustainable Forestry Initiative or the Forest Stewardship Council programs. In Europe, 55 million of hectares of forests are certified either by the Pan-European Forest Certification system or by the Forest Stewardship Council. This represents some 42% of Europe's total forest area. And in Canada, 25 million hectares are third party certified by the Canadian Standards Association, the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Important efforts are also underway in developing countries. For example, in the nations of the Congo Basin, industry is engaged with the NGO community in the development of codes of conduct. In Indonesia The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and industry interests are working to implement an effective standard and certification program. In a host of countries, diverse forestry interests are engaged in the development of standards that are specific to their region.

This represents tremendous progress since the time of the Eleventh World Forestry Congress held in 1997. But the bold action I would suggest to you is: That all forest enterprises, worldwide, be operating to the level of a standard, that is founded on the principles of sustainable forest management, before this esteemed group convenes for the Thirteenth World Forestry Congress.

Making this commitment brings other issues to the forefront, such as ensuring that the full value of this work is captured in the marketplace. Gaining recognition in the marketplace requires a consistent message about the importance of certification, a high profile message that is well understood on every continent. It also requires that certification schemes be transparent, highly credible, and not become a thinly veiled trade barrier.

These requirements can be met through a process to establish Mutual Recognition of schemes that are substantially equivalent. I would challenge everyone here to embrace the concept of Mutual Recognition as a way to communicate the value of certification in the marketplace and, ultimately, promote sustainable practices on the ground.

Within this context, I am going to propose to you that it is counter to the best interests of the forests on our planet for any group to advance one scheme by attacking others. Individuals, who engage in casting aspersions, certainly gain the ear of the media, but in the end their primary result is a society that is skeptical of all sustainable forest management, rather than a society that understands the importance of forest resources as a means to improve lives.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development held last fall in Johannesburg, South Africa, noted that there is a clear connection between poverty and unsustainable forest practices at the local level. At every opportunity we should be advancing sustainable forest management as part of the solution, and not discouraging the development of sustainable practices through campaigns of negative publicity. There is more than one way to work on the ground to develop sustainability and to take into account local differences. A `one size fits all" approach is much too inflexible and discourages needed sustainability practices.

Stepping above the ground level and looking at the country level, every sovereign government should be working to enable sustainable forest management within its boundaries. Critical to this goal is the elimination of illegal logging across the globe. The ICFPA adopted this goal as one of their first formal positions. In the United States, the American Forest and Paper Association adopted a similar policy and has become fully engaged in this issue through cooperation in partnerships like the Congo Basin Initiative and participation in several inter-governmental Forest Law Enforcement and Governance processes. It is also part of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard that participants actively support the elimination of illegal logging. It is imperative to the achievement of global forest sustainability.

Each country is ultimately responsible for creating the structure of governance that will allow this goal to be achieved. Within the global forest industry community, the global NGO community, and the global assistance community there are potential partners who stand ready to assist in this effort. But their actions are futile in the absence of government institutions that are willing to insist upon and enforce legal forest operations. Given the extent of illegal logging estimated by some groups, I believe we would all agree that nothing short of bold actions is in order.

As countries seek to enable sustainable management of their forest resources, it is also important that they fully embrace all three of the basic principles of sustainability. We know these principles to be: The economic values of forests, the environmental values of forests, and the social values of forests. Too often, well-meaning interests have advanced the notion that forests cannot be harvested for commercial purposes and also conserved for future generations. In fact, commercial forest activities and nature conservation can well complement each other. It's not uncommon to see plantations and protected areas interspersed with one another to form a very functional landscape in many parts of the world.

Poverty, starvation and a lack of opportunities for economic advancement are serious concerns in many areas, concerns that can easily overshadow concern for forests among local populations. I would say again, that we should all commit ourselves to making forests part of the solution to these problems, and that commitment starts at the country level. The commercial utilization of forests, by forest enterprises conducting sustainable forest practices, should be part of the solution. Governments that offer a secure, predictable and legally structured environment within which forest businesses can operate are enabling sustainable forest management to help alleviate these very immediate needs. Going further, I would say that governments should be promoting the use of wood, as it not only contributes to global welfare, but also helps society to profit from its diverse values, such as carbon storage potential, recycling potential, and the various products we all use and value.

Still, as countries successfully enable the development of the economic potential of their forest resources, it is important that they not allow the other principles of sustainability to be marginalized. Conservation of biological diversity, protection of air and water quality, carbon sequestration, cultural needs and community needs; these are all necessary considerations within forest management systems. Countries can create the framework within which all forest values are identified by participating in Criteria and Indicators Assessments.

These assessments have been well defined under such inter-governmental endeavors as The Montreal Process, The Pan-European Process, Tarapoto and Lepaterique Processes, The African Timber Organization and the International Tropical Timber Organization. As individual countries move forward to implement Criteria and Indicators they create an understanding among all stakeholders that the full set of forest values are important. The American Forest and Paper Association worked in concert with environmental and other groups to urge our government to create a Roundtable on Sustainable Forests to guide the implementation of Criteria and Indicators in the US. This type of broad, multi-stakeholder dialogue can help achieve well-balanced approaches to on-the-ground practices.

Another important role that countries need to fulfill is bringing together all sectors that have an impact on forests and assuring that policies for such areas as agriculture, energy, commerce and others work in concert with the goal of sustainable forest management. Too often each sector focuses too narrowly on their own sphere of interest, missing opportunities to create mutually supportive policy and unfortunately, frequently implementing policies with negative effects on forests.

Looking beyond the country level, the global community must create open, highly transparent communication on our collective progress towards implementing sustainable forest management. In the final analysis, the future generations that will reside across our planet can only enjoy the benefits from forests that we enjoy today if the highest standards for sustainable forest practices are applied in each and every forest, in each and every country. The question becomes, "What bold, global action will cause this to happen?" The most efficient catalyst for continued improvement, in the view of industry, is a clear, credible articulation of progress on a regular basis.

Just as we feel countries have much to gain from the implementation of Criteria and Indicators, we feel our collective worldwide interests have much to gain if these assessments are used to report progress towards sustainable forest management. In so doing, civil society, governments and forest products markets can all see where sustainable forest management is successfully moving forward and where more must be accomplished. With this information, everyone makes more enlightened decisions that ultimately improve the fate of our forests.

If it takes a more structured international approach to create this level of accountability, then forest industry is ready to talk about what that approach may entail. The United Nations Forum on Forests and other international bodies are dealing with forest issues. But have they given markets, consumers, policy makers and all other members of our global society a clear picture of where sustainable, accountable, legal forest enterprises are being enabled by government to operate? And, have those bodies identified locales around the world where that is not occurring?

We clearly support efforts to improve reporting of Criteria and Indicators as a means to measure progress towards sustainable forest management. Perhaps these improvements can be achieved by harmonizing the various sets of regional criteria. Certainly we should be using these agreed-to processes for reporting to inter-governmental efforts. And certainly we should all support any technical efforts to improve the consistency of terminology and definitions. Perhaps there are even further measures that may be needed, if we all agree that accountability is a key to continual improvement.

Where accountability and transparency exist, free trade and competitive markets can have profoundly positive influences on sustainability. It is within the marketplace that decisions are made about whether products meet the expectations of people. Those expectations include a level of confidence that businesses are acting responsibly towards the environment and towards individuals. Businesses and sovereign governments both have a role in providing the information that society needs to make these judgments. Governments have the added responsibility of making sure that the rule of law is embraced and implemented. When these roles are credibly fulfilled, markets within a free trade system will make decisions that encourage sustainable practices.

My final bold action to recommend at the global level, then, is broad support for free trade. Among some groups, the concept of globalization has been depicted as something terrible. Those groups could not have it more wrong. Globalization allows real capital to flow into regions of the world that desperately need economic opportunity. With that economic opportunity, these regions can address such issues as poverty. To exercise this economic opportunity, all regions must be able to sell what they produce and buy what they need. Free trade empowers those things to happen.


I hope that my words challenge you to suggest even bolder actions as you participate in this Congress. Specifically, I would challenge you to:

As the Congress theme suggests, Forests are a source of life. As this Program Area notes, Forests are for the entire planet. Our collective challenge is to take the bold actions necessary to sustain those important resources for our future generations.

1 International Council of Forest and Paper Associations, 1111 19th Street, NW Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036, USA.

2 I encourage you to visit our website at www.icfpa.org where you will find the sustainability brochure that ICFPA issued last year, as well as links to individual member association websites.