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PEFC Stakeholder Dialogue: “Sustainability is the new normal”

Nov 21 2013

"For two full days [...] we brought PEFC to Asia and the Pacific, a region that is economically vibrant and the most populous in the world. It is also a region with forests of mega-diversity status. It is a region that is shaping the world's landscape of forestry, timber trade and consumption," said Dato' Dr Freezailah B. Che Yeom, Chairman of the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) as the Co-Chair of the PEFC Stakeholder Dialogue, highlighting the significance of Kuala Lumpur hosting the very first PEFC Forest Certification Week.

The event recognized that Asia holds the key to unlocking the production and trade of sustainable forest products. The region's forest industry has grown massively over the past 15 years, gaining international recognition for production of forest based products.

A Vicious Circle

Moving towards sustainability, however, the sector is caught in "[...] a kind of vicious circle facing many tropical countries attempting to implement sustainable forest management (SFM): they are squeezed on one side by unscrupulous operators who undercut them in undiscriminating markets by selling unsustainable or illegally produced timber, and from the other side by markets that increasingly demand expensive new regulatory mechanisms to ensure legality and/or sustainability," warned Emmanuel Ze Meka, Executive Director of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). "If SFM can't pay its way as a viable land use, then we ultimately face the biggest challenge to SFM: conversion of forest land to other uses.

szaekholders

"SFM is complex and will have to deal with social, environmental and economic dimensions. Progress can only be achieved and endured if we are able to strike a balance between the various needs," agreed Mr. Freezailah. "Most encouraging is the serious interest and initiatives in the region for sustainable forest management and certification, reflected in the overwhelming response to this Stakeholder Dialogue, as you can see for yourselves in this room." The serious interest is also highlighted by India, Japan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Turkey and others looking to follow the examples set by China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, countries that are already part of the PEFC family.

Throughout the day, participants, panelists and speakers discussed the important issues around linking sustainable forest product supply chains through Asia, looking at bottlenecks in supply chains and the next steps to be taken.

"Put the Logo on Your Product"

A key message raised by several participants was the need to increase demand for certified products in the Asian and Middle Eastern markets. As markets in Europe and the USA decline, companies are increasingly trading with Asian and Middle Eastern markets, where there is currently no or limited demand for certified products.

Many participants called on PEFC to increase the knowledge and therefore the demand for certified products in this region. "Many Asian countries don't require certification – they are very new consumers and the governments are not as proactive in certification," said Ernie Koh, Executive Director, Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC). "For me as a manufacturer, I believe that PEFC should look into this part of the world with a pull strategy."

William Street, Chairman of the Board of PEFC International, wholeheartedly agreed, emphasizing that certified companies have enormous potential to mainstream certification as "[t]he best way to promote certification is to put the logo on the product."

There was a call from the private sector for the need to certify trees outside of the forest, with a particular focus on rubber wood. With rubber wood being an extremely important source of material for wood-based industries in Malaysia and the wider Asia region, both speakers and participants called on PEFC to start certifying this material. "We are ready, if you are ready," said Mr. Richard Lee from Regent Furniture, describing the industry's readiness to become certified once more certified wood was available "upstream".

The Rise of Legality Regulations (EUTR etc)

Many discussions during the day turned back to the topic of legality. "The rise of legality regulations globally risks moving the focus from sustainability towards the very different concept of legality," said one participants. Panelists agreed: "Legality is becoming the higher concern and sustainability is secondary," said Cindy Squires from the International Wood Products Association (IWPA). Mr. Ng Kay Yip, Maran Road Sawmil, concurred: "I feel that legality is a disruption in our business as it is a step back from sustainability."

Despite these challenges, "sustainability is the new normal in Asia", said Genevieve Chua from Spicers, and Sheam Satkuru-Granzella, PEFC Vice Chair, concurred: "Never give up on sustainable forest management and independent third party certification".

For more coverage and quotes from the PEFC Stakeholder Dialogue, please see our Facebook page

More information:

Opening Speech: "Timber Certification and the Role of ITTO" - Emmanuel Ze Meka, Executive Director, ITTO (160.40 kB)

Presentation: Stakeholder Dialogue (5.04 MB)

Presentation - Side Event: Common Legality Framework for Assessing Legality of Forestry Operations, Timber Processing and Trade (2.16 MB)

Presentation - Side Event: Plantation Forests: Distinct Approaches and Trends (4.03 MB)

Presentation - Side Event: Increasing the Commitment of Private Forest Owners to PEFC (2.00 MB)

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