Sustainability from Production to consumption: Greening the wood industry

We have furniture in our homes, the paper we use, the timber that goes into building structures, or the wood we burn, but how sustainable is it all counted?

Every continent depends on wood products from the world’s forests and many of the world’s poorest people rely directly on timber and other resources from the forest for their income and subsistence. But from production to consumption, unsustainable practices remain a major challenge.

Producers and countries need to curb the presence of illegal wood in the markets and increase at the same time the market value of sustainable products. To do so it is best to encourage investments in the sector and to make sure that smaller producers have the know-how and support they need to participate in sustainable trade.

To set an example, Indonesia is tackling forest losses in Java through sourcing wood from planted trees and reforestation. The said program began in 1998. Ever since then it has worked with local farmer cooperatives to produce millions of seedlings of fast-growing species each year, including agathis, teak, falcata, balsa, and fruit trees.

Many countries are working together to take a step in the right direction and to address this challenge, so much so that an initiative has taken place (Sustainable Wood for a Sustainable World Initiative – formed in 2018)

Meeting participants explored the ways in which wood value chains, can be improved to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from harvest to consumption and how South-South Cooperation between countries could advance the process. Suggestions for action mainly focused on achieving SDG 8, SDF13, and SDG15.

There’s a need to increase exchanges for better understanding and respect of national legal systems. The said system consists of investments and technology transfers to improve wood processing; gathering evidence to integrate sustainable wood value chains into REDD+ emission-reduction strategies, and technical exchanges and capacity building on plantation systems.

Chinese National Wood-Based Panel Association presented these and other areas of South-South cooperation. The field trip was there to illustrate the multiple contributions of wood value chains with solid examples.

Legal and sustainable wood industries can benefit greatly from consumer support. The trade of different species traded as rosewood received special attention. Following a “boom and bust” pattern, these species are becoming endangered after over-harvesting pushed by increased demand. Trade of these species migrated from Asia to Africa due to diminishing stocks, and now exerts enormous pressure on stocks of countries such as Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.

Countries can now do a better job of keeping track of where and how wood is traded and produced and strengthen the capacities of producers thanks to improved methodologies and technologies. The said includes rural smallholders, who now thrive through sustainable trade and raise public awareness of how consumption choices can help promote sustainability.

SW4SW initiative is a strong sign of international commitment to boosting sustainable wood production. The challenge that follows is to translate the political will and tools at hand into greater results on the ground.