Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter and memorandum to the Clerk of the Committee from Dr Ruth Nussbaum, Director, Proforest

  ProForest specialises in sustainable management of natural resources, in particular forests and the wood products supply chain. Our work is extremely relevant to several of the questions the committee is considering, in particular:

    (a)  timber procurement;

    (c)  development of a domestic certification system; and

    (d)  forest indicators.

  I summarise below three areas of particular importance which I would ask the committee to consider, relating them to the three questions (a), (c) and (d).

  1.  Assessing Certification Schemes (a) and (c): whenever the issues of forest certification is addressed, inevitably the question of "which scheme" is raised as there are a number of schemes being used or developed. In response to this, DFID's Forest Research Programme commissioned ProForest to produce a report called "Assessing Forest Certification Schemes: A Practical Guide"[1]. This report has already been widely distributed and used and has been proposed as a basis for further discussion by a number of agencies ranging from the World Bank to several environmental NGOs. It would also provide a very useful basis for any discussion in the UK.

  2.  Producer Groups (a): ProForest is currently working with WWF's Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN) to develop the concept of Producer Groups. The GFTN is a network of about 20 groups covering 30 countries and with over 900 members including such companies as B&Q, Sainsbury, IKEA, Railtrack, WHSmith and The Home Depot. Over the last decade, the GFTN has worked with these members through "Buyers Groups" in major consuming countries to implement buying policies very similar to the one which the UK government is now trying to implement. Though the GFTN members are ultimately committed to buying certified products, it has been accepted from the start that this will take a number of years. It has also become clear that there are a number of particular challenges and one of these is the lack of progress in moving towards certification in many of the remaining tropical and boreal (particularly Russian) forest. As a result, the GFTN is now developing the concept of Producer Groups. These groups will focus on providing support and incentives to the forest managers and primary processors at the production end of the supply chain. In particular, Producer Groups will:

    —  Require members to demonstrate that their timber is from legal sources thereby providing a potential source of legal timber for procurement.

    —  Require members to be part of a formal and audited programme of improvement leading to full compliance with a sustainable forest management standard, thereby providing a mechanism for procurement decisions to support improvement in forest management.

    —  Link supply with demand, thereby allowing procurement decisions in consumer countries to support the improvement of forest management in producer countries.

  Producer Group development already involves a wide range of partners including donors, private sector such as IKEA who are investing significantly in their development, governments and NGOs. Therefore, although the idea is relatively new, it already has widespread international support. Linking UK procurement to such groups could provide a quick but very effective policy measure to begin implementing real change. A recent update on the development of Producer Groups is attached as annex A.

  3.  Small and community forests (a), (c), (d): studies funded by DFID have shown that it is important to consider the impacts of any policy decision on small and community forests. The ProForest report "An analysis of current FSC accreditation, certification and standard-setting procedures identifying elements which create constraints for small forest owners"[2] provides an analysis of potential problems and some solutions for the most widely used certification system.

May 2002

Annex A

WWF Global Forest and Trade Network Briefing on Producer Groups

  The WWF Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN) now has 19 national Forest and Trade Network (FTN) groups around the world with a presence in Europe, North America, Asia and South America. Each one is made up of companies, NGOs and other organisations involved in the trade of wood products and committed to sourcing these products from independently certified well-managed forests. Altogether the network has over 900 members.

  During the first decade of its existence, the main focus of the GFTN has been on the market end of the production chain with many national FTNs formerly known as Buyers Groups.

  This approach has been extremely successful in developing the demand for certified products which in turn has driven forest certification in many parts of the world. However, it has become clear over the last few years that there are many places where the barriers to certification are so great that without increased support, forest managers are unlikely to achieve certification and primary processors unlikely to have access to certified material.

  Therefore, the GFTN has begun the development of FTNs which focus specifically on the challenges and needs of producers, both forest managers and primary processors, through the development of FTNs aimed specifically at producers.

  Producer FTNs will be part of the GFTN network exactly like any other FTN group. However, the development and the management of the groups will be aimed specifically at forest managers and primary processors in producer countries.

What can FTNs offer their producer members?

  Producer FTNs will provide a range of services to their members depending on local needs. These include:

    —  Information and training: in many countries there is a lack of information for forest managers about certification itself—what it is and how to get involved in the process. There is also frequently a lack of information on the requirements for sustainable forest management and how to implement them. Producer FTNs will be able to provide this information to forest managers in local languages and interpreted for local conditions.

    Similarly for processors information can be provided on issues related to purchasing certified wood and implementing chain of custody.

    —  Contact with buyers: an important role producer FTNs will play is to bring together forest managers and primary processors with potential customers who are looking for certified products. This allows buyers to communicate their needs and expectations for certified products to their suppliers (processors and forest managers), and suppliers to communicate their needs and challenges to the buyers.

    —  Marketing certified products: once members achieve certification, the producer FTN can use its links with all the other FTNs within the global network to connect them with buyers and help find markets for certified products.

    —  Influencing policy: in several countries it has become clear that one of the main barriers to certification is inappropriate law or policy at a national level. Individual forest managers are relatively powerless in such a situation, but producer FTNs in such countries may be able to provide a focus for changing these inappropriate laws or policies.

    —  Supporting small and low impact management forests: it is now widely recognised that certification can often pose particular problems for small forests and those with low impact management such as many community forests. Where such problems exist, producer FTNs can focus on providing appropriate support to these groups.


  Although many of the problems identified by the GFTN and its partners may be addressed by the type of producer-focused FTN described above, it is clear that in many countries a serious problem remains.

  In these countries the current level of forest management is significantly below what is required for certification. At the same time, both the institutional framework and many of the resources required to improve forest management are very limited. As a result, it can take several years for a forest manager, having decided to seek certification, to make the improvements needed to meet the standard. Currently, there are almost no incentives for forest managers while they are in this process and many either never begin or else give up before achieving the goal.

  Wide discussion with stakeholders around the world, including GFTN members, has suggested that to overcome this problem the GFTN needs to find a mechanism to:

    —  provide support for forest managers to help them move from current practices to the level required for certification; and

    —  to provide incentives during the period of improvement, even before a certificate is awarded.

  Therefore, the GFTN is now developing the concept of Transition Timber FTNs. The idea is to bring forest managers into a structured process which helps them to implement responsible forest management practices, and in return for ongoing improvements, provide market access for their wood products. Many buying FTN members have already expressed strong interest in using transition timber where certified alternatives are not available and thereby use their purchasing power to support improvements in forest management.

  Clearly there are risks attached to this approach since it means that for the first time the GFTN will be supporting products from forests which are not yet certified and therefore not yet responsibly managed. However, the alternative is to risk failing to engage forest managers in any process of improvement resulting in the continued degradation of forests.

  To minimise the risk associated with Transition Timber, the GFTN is in the process of developing a set of detailed requirements which must be met by any forest manager wishing to sell transition timber. An outline is provided below.


  1.  The forest manager must be able to demonstrate that all timber is from legal sources.

  2.  The forest manager must be able to demonstrate that there are no existing problems which might permanently prevent certification.

  3.  The forest manager must undergo an independent audit by an audit organisation approved by the FTN manager to:

    —  confirm that all timber is from legal sources;

    —  confirm that there are no existing issues which preclude certification; and

    —    assess the current level of performance relative to the requirements of the standard.

  4.  Based on the audit report the forest manager must:

    —  make a formal commitment to seek certification within a defined timeframe (eg three years); and

    —  develop an action plan showing in detail how full compliance with the standard will be achieved within the timeframe agreed.

  5.  The forest manager may then become a transition timber member of an FTN and actively market their wood as "transition timber". However, this must be done on a business to business basis and any public claims will be strictly controlled. No labelling of the product will be allowed.

  6.  Each year the forest manager must undergo an annual audit to check that the commitments made in the action plan are being met. The results of the audit must be provided to the FTN manager.

  7.  Failure to make progress will result in expulsion from the group.

  This summary is based on a paper setting out detailed requirements for transition timber producers which is currently being developed.

  One of the baseline requirements for all transition timber will be that it comes from legal sources. Therefore, transition timber will also provide a source of products made with wood from legal sources for all those governments and companies committed to ending purchases of timber and paper products made with wood from illegal sources.

  In order to link transition timber with the end users, it will be necessary to develop tracking systems for transition timber similar to those used for chain of custody of certified products. This is also being actively addressed.

  The GFTN would welcome comments from anyone who has a view on the development of producer FTNs and the concept of transition timber. The development work is being undertaken by ProForest on behalf of the GFTN so you can contact either organisation at the addresses given below.


  As part of the development of transition timber FTNs, the GFTN is involved in developing the concept of Modular Implementation and Verification. This approach will break the requirements for responsible forest management down into a series of modules, each of which can be implemented and checked independently. This will provide a framework both for undertaking improvements and for reporting on improvements made.

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