Industry News

Companies need Governments' support to halt deforestation, says Fern survey

The environmental NGO Fern has issued a new report - How businesses are meeting commitments to end deforestation - asking Governments to do more to help companies whose products drive tropical deforestation.

Fern interviewed 15 major companies involved in the production and trade of four agricultural commodities which are causing the most of forest loss worldwide: palm oil, timber, cocoa and rubber.

The survey covered big name Western users and traders of agricultural commodities, such as Unilever, Nestlé, Cargill and IKEA. It also included producer companies based in developing countries which are not household names but nonetheless have considerable influence, such as APP (Asia Pulp and Paper), Sime Darby and Golden Agri-Resources

Areas where companies wanted government support in their efforts to end deforestation included:

  • having clear and consistent policies on customary land tenure;
  • better and more effectively implemented policies on land use planning and the allocation of concessions;
  • stronger protection of forests that are rich in carbon and have high conservation value;
  • tougher enforcement of existing laws designed to protect forests.

Failures of government regulation and enforcement were specifically identified as problems.

Other major issues reported in the survey included:

  • In general, the companies interviewed believed that global targets for reducing deforestation set out in the UN’s New York Declaration on Forests, and by industry bodies such as the Consumer Goods Forum, would not be met. Companies did, however, expect to deliver on promises they have made about their own operations. Achieving targets for cocoa and rubber was seen as more difficult than for timber and palm oil.
  • Social issues, including disputes over land tenure and ownership, were viewed by many companies as critical and far more difficult to resolve than environmental issues. The lack of clarity over ‘who owns the land’ was seen as a particular problem.
  • Some companies had experienced problems with investors being more focused on short-term profits; none reported pressure from investors to increase their levels of ambition.
  • The cost to companies of meeting their commitments, although difficult to calculate, are seen as significant but not excessive for large companies.
  • Systematic external monitoring of overall company commitments and progress towards them is not common, but some companies are developing systems.


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AHEC presents "Too Good to Waste", the installation that celebrates sustainability in hardwood

The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has presented a new interactive installation - "Too Good Waste" - to be unveiled at Universitá degli Studi di Milano for the Milan Design Week taking place from 3 to 15 April 2017.

This bold timber installation - designed by Benedetta Tagliabue of EMBT and crafted by furniture makers Benchmark - comprises four individual and unique pieces, wrapped around the statuesque pillars of the entrance to the Aula Magna auditorium, transforming at the hand of visitors to reveal hidden pieces of fine furniture.

Too Good to Waste was created using "species that are not getting the value they should but actually are beautiful, versatile and useful woods for craftsmen", explains Sean Sutcliffe, co-founder of Benchmark. The installation features a combination of red oak, cherry, maple and tulipwood. Moreover it was graded using elements that "10 years ago would have been unthinkable in high end furniture" such as knots and sapwood.

David Venables, AHEC European Director, said: “So many wood products available to us are limited to certain colours and hardwood species; it’s depriving consumers and designers the freedom and excitement to experience what comes from using much more of the material that is available.”

"We’re tapping into an important concept that’s very relevant in today’s society: how do we make more use of materials that may not be our first choice in order to be more sustainable? This project aims to open a dialogue on these topics. Why limit oneself? Why be traditional? Why only use materials we think we like? Let’s be more imaginative!"

Benedetta Tagliabue added: “We wanted to re-create this concept in a playful and modern way by creating a wall full of surprises, where the people who inhabit the wall will be real."

"We hope that visitors, surprised by this installation, will want to interact with it, and that they will discover and use the pieces of furniture it hides: seats, tables, mirrors… We hope that their curiosity will make this piece very animated.”

For more information about the project click here.

A photo gallery is also available here.


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Trees and forests recycle water and help address climate change, new research proves

A new research paper, entitled "Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world", shows that forests and trees play a major role on water cycles and cooler temperatures, contributing to food security and climate change adaptation.

The study - published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) - points at the important effects of trees on helping to retain water on the ground and to produce cooling moisture, which in turn have a positive impact on food security and climate change adaptation

Scientists suggest that the global conversation on trees, forests and climate needs to be turned on its head: the direct effects of trees on climate through rainfall and cooling may be more important than their well-studied capacity of storing carbon. 

“The role of trees widens,” said Dr Vincent Gitz, Director of Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). “This is very important in the context of the Paris Agreement, which recognized climate change is not only about mitigation, but also about adaptation.”

“The influence of trees on water cycles has important consequences on the global agenda for food security and climate change adaptation, at different scales,”
Dr Gitz explained. “With trees, there is no tradeoff between adaptation and mitigation, but a synergy.”

“Carbon sequestration is a co-benefit of the precipitation-recycling and cooling power of trees. As trees process and redistribute water, they simultaneously cool planetary surfaces,”
said Dr David Ellison, lead author of the study.

“Some of the more refined details of how forests affect rainfall are still being discussed among scientists of different disciplines and backgrounds," Dr Ellison remarked, "but the direct relevance of trees and forests for protecting and intensifying the hydrologic cycle, associated cooling and the sharing of atmospheric moisture with downwind locations is beyond reasonable doubt.”

Research authors will participate in a two-day virtual symposium hosted by FTA, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, on the occasion of the International Day of Forests (March 21) and World Water Day (March 22).

This virtual symposium will serve to discuss the findings of the paper and pave the way to new areas of research on the interconnection among forests, water and climate.


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Oslo receives European Forest City 2017 award

On 9 March 2017, the European Forest Institute (EFI) awarded Oslo "The European Forest City 2017".

The forests around Oslo are known by the locals as well as visitors as Oslomarka. The forests once used mainly for timber have become an important part of the everyday life of the entire community. During the winter months, the forests have more than 350 km of ski tracks with up to  10 000 visitors daily. The recreational activities vary with the seasons: hiking, picking berries and mushrooms, as well as fishing and biking are among the most popular ones.

In her speech Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen said: "We are honoured to receive the European Forest City award. We are very proud that the forests of Oslo are being recognized."

Mayor Borgen also pointed out that Oslo is sometimes called "the blue and the green – and the city in between" because of its proximity to the Oslo Fjord and vast surrounding forests. "You can experience both the vibe of the city centre and go skiing in the forests – all on the same day. You can even get there by subway. Oslomarka is in other words a big part of Oslos identity and this award is very much appreciated", she concluded.

EFI grants the title of European Forest City each year to the city which hosts its Annual Conference. The 2017 EFI Annual Conference will be held in Oslo in October 2017.

[In the picture, courtesy of EFI, EFI Director Marc Palahí presented Marianne Borgen, the Mayor of Oslo (in the middle), and Gerd Robsahm Kjørven, Director for Agency for Urban Environment, with a certificate to mark Oslo's nomination as European Forest City 2017]


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Timber Industry organisations give views on Spring Budget 2017

On Wednesday 8th March, the Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Spring Budget 2017.

The Government's action plan includes measures that could have strong impact on UK Timber Industry especially in key fields such as business rate, technical education and labour market.

Responding to the Budget statement, Iain McIlwee, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF), said: "There was some good news in the Budget and despite the productivity issues that were highlighted, Britain’s businesses are showing resilience and keeping Britain building. Overall, the Budget is good for business, but not so good for people running small businesses. The focus is rightfully on productivity and, as per our submission, the Chancellor has picked up the areas of skills, business rates and investment. It is encouraging that the Chancellor has listened and addressed concerns around complexity of claiming R&D relief and on business rate valuations. "

The continued focus on low corporate taxation is welcomed, but some of the gains for business will be offset by changing the tax structure for business owners, the Chancellor is in danger of here of taxing hardworking SME business owners in a blunderbuss attack on disguised employment.  

The focus and more funding for Further Education is welcomed, and yet again we heard of the importance of parity of esteem, but we remain unconvinced that the reforms announced will genuinely put this behind us.  The ‘T-levels’ may simplify and we have already started the process of mapping our qualifications, but this is not the root of the problem, we must seriously look at prioritising the UCAS style process, but there is still a danger that we are just filtering out the best for University regardless of what is best for them or the economy."

Government's new approach on skills was also welcomed by John Newcomb, Managing Director of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF)“The building industry and its supply chain are experiencing huge skills’ shortages", said Mr Newcomb. "Construction firms, large and small, face real difficulty attracting new faces. Our industry is not seen by young people as a long-term career option - especially by young women.

“This week is National Apprentices’ Week and we ask ministers to look at what more can be done to encourage school- and college-leavers to take up the trades we so desperately need - the bricklayers, the roofers, the carpenters, the electricians, the plasterers and the merchants.

“If the Chancellor’s announcement about ‘T’ levels helps redress the parity of esteem between academic and vocational training, then that is good news. Merchanting provides fantastic career opportunities for young people, and the BMF is keen to persuade parents that university is not always the right choice for their children".

David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) was rather more sceptical about the Chancellor's announcement: “There were no great surprises from this spring Budget. And very little that was great at all. Maybe this was deliberate, the drama of Brexit is hugely distracting and consuming all the energy in Government so this looked like the calm before the storm".

"Given this, we would have liked to have seen a much clearer focus on vocational education and training. This is the biggest obstacle to economic growth. We have a skills shortage now, and face a greater shortage in the future. The plan for industry training and apprenticeships needs to be clearly spelled out. The new “T-levels” sounds good, but is merely a sticking plaster when major surgery is needed", Mr Hopkins concluded.


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