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The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC UK), recently held its Annual Stakeholder Day, with the theme of this year’s event being; ‘Market Drivers for Certified Products’.

The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC UK), recently held its Annual Stakeholder Day, with the theme of this year’s event being; ‘Market Drivers for Certified Products’.

The Stakeholder Day saw a breadth of speakers from the fields of retail, construction and brands provide informative insights into the market-based initiatives that are driving demand for certified products, sustainable forest management and the global role PEFC plays in developing certified forests.

The Annual Stakeholder event, which was held at The Society of Chemical Industry in the heart of London’s Belgravia on 5th July, was introduced by Chairman for the day, Julian Walker-Palin, a non-executive Director of PEFC International, and formerly Walmart’s Head of Corporate Responsibility at Asda. Julian said that, “The environment had never been more important than it is now, with sustainable development goals proving to be key drivers for certified products.”

The keynote speech was provided by Ignacio Gavilan, Director of Sustainability for the influential global industry group, The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). The CGF brings together more than 400 retailers, manufacturers and service providers, including major brands such as Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, L’Oreal, Nestle, P&G, Tesco and Asda-WalMart. Gavilan leads the CGF’s Sustainability team, which aims to position the consumer goods industry as a leader in protection against climate change and reducing waste. CEO led, and with its board members comprising of some 50 leading global CEO’s, the CGF was formed in 1960, and has developed into a leading forum on the issues of compliance and implementation surrounding product sustainability.

The theme of Ignacio’s presentation was, ‘Zero Net Deforestation by 2020’, and the role of responsible sourcing in helping achieve this goal. The CGF recognises the important role that forest certification schemes such as PEFC’s can play, in providing companies with verification of legality and providing a low risk of controversial sources. Ignacio said, “Consumers need to trust the products they are buying, so transparency and the truth are big issues.”

Other speakers included Martyn White, Manager of Sustainability for the John Lewis Partnership, who provided a retailer’s perspective on managing risk and enhancing brand value through responsible sourcing. As the UK’s largest co-owned business, with some 91,500 partners and annual sales of £11bn, Martyn stated that John Lewis has a 2020 target, of having all its wood-based own brand products coming from sustainable sources.

Steve Cook, Principal Sustainable Development Manager for Willmott Dixon, and with over 20 year’s experience in the construction sector, highlighted what the UK construction sector is doing to ensure that the timber it sources and uses comes from well-managed forests.

Riikka Joukio, Senior Vice-President for Sustainability and Corporate Affairs at the Metsä Group, and also a former co-chair of the WBCSD Forest Solutions Group, gave an informative view from the packaging sector’s perspective, urging customers to actively support sustainable forest management certification. Riikka revealed that Europe is the currently the global champion in paper recycling, with a rate of 71%, whilst paperboard is the most recycled packaging product with a current rate of 81%. Riikka also stated that it is fresh fibre in paper and board products that helps to make recycling possible, and that since 1950, European forests have grown by over 30%, at a rate of 1.5m football pitches per year, an area equivalent to four times the size of London.

PEFC International’s Sarah Price completed the speaker line up, delivering an update on PEFC’s work to grow certified forests to meet customer demand, and informing those gathered that so far, PEFC has Chain of Custody in 62 countries, totaling over 285m hectares.

Currently there are over 450m hectares certified worldwide to both PEFC and FSC Chain of Custody standards, and, since 2013, PEFC has seen its share of certified forestry grow by 9%, whilst the overall growth for certification during that period was just 4%.

Sarah revealed that of the United Nation’s17 Forest Certification and Sustainable Development Goals, PEFC is currently delivering against 14 of these. In addition, as global certification continues to grow to meet consumer demand, Sarah stated that new areas of growth are emerging, including South Africa, where some 1.5m hectares of productive forest land now have certified with PEFC Chain of Custody. A national standard is also currently being developed and pilot tested in conjunction with PEFC in South Africa, in the communal and smaller forest lands.

Other areas for future growth include Thailand, where areas outside of the traditional forest areas are also being investigated as to their eligibility for forest certification. Again a national standard is also being pilot tested. Also in Nepal, where there are extensive forest resources available, multi-stakeholder dialogues on forestry and analysis of group certification are currently taking place. As part of the PEFC 2016 Collaboration Fund, Malaysia is also working on improving its knowledge and best practice management for rare and endangered tree species.

The afternoon concluded with a short Q&A discussion session from the floor, which was then followed by a networking drinks reception. PEFC UK Chairman, Ross Bradshaw said: “More and more companies from SMEs to global brands are keen to demonstrate that the forest products they use come from certified sustainable sources. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the impact of their purchasing decisions and we hope those who joined us for this year’s stakeholder event gained a better understanding of the role market-based initiatives play in helping to secure a healthy future for the world’s forests.”

The event was sponsored by AB Group Packaging, leading certification body CATG (Certification & Timber Grading) and Finnish forest products company Metsä.