The Value of Forest Certification
The Challenge: How to gain assurance of sustainable forest management from family forests in the U.S.
Forest ownership in the United States is diverse. More than half the forest land in the U.S. is owned and managed by 11 million private forest owners. Of those private forest owners, 92 percent (10 million) are classified as “family forest” owners. Family forest owners have many different objectives for owning woodlands, with timber production often lowest on their list of priorities. Family forest owners rank beauty and scenery, family heritage, and privacy as the primary reasons for owning forests. Even so, family forests provide wood and pulp the marketplace absolutely depends on from paper and packaging to furniture and construction materials. It is also a marketplace where companies that rely on forest products are making certain that the forests where their source materials originate are managed sustainably.
One way companies gain assurance of sustainable forest management (SFM) is through forest certification. The problem, however, is that the vast majority of family forest owners do not participate in forest certification. There are a number of reasons as to why there is such a low participation rate. Costs, complexities, and lack of awareness of forest certification are often cited. But the answer is actually not quite that simple. Instead of looking at “how to fix certification,” the companies engaged in GreenBlue’s Value of Forest Certification took a step back and asked “What is job forest certification is meant to do?”
If family forest owners are not participating in forest certification maybe we need to fundamentally rethink what family forest owners’ value? What drives their decision-making? And how can we use that information to drive SFM by finding where the value for brand owners and family forest owners intersect and develop strategies that work with and without forest certification?
News & Resources
The Value of Forest Certification project kicked off in June 2014. Since then, we have hosted two summits where we brought together members across the forest products supply chain. We have conducted numerous interviews with members of the forest products supply chain. At the last SPC Advance meeting in Charlotte, we toured a local family forest owners woodlands and gained valuable perspective at the source. And as a result of our meetings, research, tours, and discussions we have a lot of interesting findings to report on. This site is designed to serve as a place to share these findings.
For many companies that depend on wood and wood-based materials from forests, forest certification provides a reliable tool for ensuring their products originate from responsibly managed sources. The companies in FPWG’s Value of Forest Certification project view forest certification as one tool to provide assurance of sustainable forest management. The committee began its project with the question as to “Why more forests are not certified when there is significant demand for forest products originating from sustainable forest management?”
To help answer this question, the committee employed GreenBlue’s Value Innovation Process (VIP), a learn-by-doing engagement designed to tie innovation and sustainability together to create a roadmap to more sustainable solutions. The VIP methodology is focused on first answering “What” value needs to be delivered before it determines “how” to deliver value.
In the context of the Value of Forest Certification project, this means taking a step back and asking “What is the job that forest certification is supposed to do?” instead of asking “How do we fix forest certification.” It moves the conversation from picking winners in current certification systems to better defining and delivering exceptional value to customers that will drive adoption and acceptance.
Forest certification in this context includes forest management, chain of custody, and certified sourcing. The primary focus area is North America while recognizing its context in international forest certification programs and efforts.
One of our first steps in the VIP process was to identify and map the forest products value chain. And in June of 2014, with this ID and map, we hosted an Innovation Summit that brought together representatives from across the forest products industry (forest owners. loggers, paper manufacturers, printers, brokers, retailers, publishers, etc.) to discuss forest certification and defining its desired value.
One of the most valuable takeaways from the meeting came from family forest owners who expressed the need to include or reinforce value drivers outside of those typically associated with forest certification. And that has proven to be a key insight. Instead of looking at just “costs and ROI’s” the issue is actually much deeper. Do we really know what drives family forest owners’ decision-making? And if we think we do, how well does forest certification fit into that picture?
One example of this approach is to look at innovative ways for family forest owners to demonstrate and verify sustainable forest management that is more aligned with what they value and why they own forests. At the other end of the supply chain, brand owners communicated the value of forest certification in helping to establish trust with consumers, and verify responsible procurement strategies. What is the best way to match the values of these two key drivers in order to create a better assurance model of sustainable forest management?
In March 2016, The Forest Products Working Group, in partnership with the American Forest Foundation, hosted a landowner-brandowner summit in Tennessee. Read our blog article that dives into the outcomes of the summit.
Tom PollockSenior Manager
Rosalyn BandySenior Sustainability Manager, Avery Dennison
Helen SahiDirector of Sustainability, Avery Dennison
Laura ThompsonDirector of Sustainability at Sappi Fine Paper North America
Evan BrunerProject Associate
Anne ElseaCommunications Coordinator
Members of the Value of Forest Certification ILC represent companies from across the supply chain.
Interested in Participating in This Committee?
Please contact GreenBlue's staff lead for this group, Tom PollockJoin