Article by Alasdair Davies, Web Development Director, The Great Primate Handshake.
Do you know where the wood-based products you use on a daily basis actually come from? It’s a difficult question to answer as the paper trail and information necessary to identify a source is often hidden from a consumer’s eye, honestly unknown, or not declared at all. Are we actually purchasing and flushing away the very trees that provide for the primates we are ultimately trying to conserve?
The problem is made worse for consumers wanting to purchase wood-based products from credible sources or environmentally aware companies. Organisations such as the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests, mark products such as toilet paper, kitchen roll and paper with an FSC logo.
The logo tells a consumer that what they are buying is sustainable and certified – a useful tool if you want to select a product that you know hasn’t intentionally been produced from illegal logging operations or virgin rainforest. The problem though, is not that forestry certification schemes are ineffective, but that only a certain number of products, companies and supply chains adhere to the practice of certification.
Having recently purchased a bed from a UK based company, it was apparent that the wood used to manufacture each bed head and divan in the warehouse was known only by its type, but not its origin. Rosewood, oak and pine was available, but was it from a sustainable source, and if not, how could I ever make an informed decision to buy a bed that was?
It was with delight that today I noticed a new UK Government initiative, namely the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project (FFD Project), created to help companies and investors identify how an organisation’s activities and supply chains contribute to deforestation, and link this ‘forest footprint‘ to their value.
This, I believe, is a step forward in helping companies actually learn where the wood they use is sourced from, and better still, identify if their actions are in-turn having an adverse effect on forests globally. Certification and a migration to sustainable sources may prove both environmentally and financially viable, but only if useful information can be collected and shared with the very companies supplying the end-consumer with the product that is ultimately driving demand.
Global demand for agricultural commodities is the primary driver of deforestation, as land is cleared to produce biofuels, soya, palm oil and beef. Alongside timber and pulp, these commodities are the building blocks of millions of products traded globally. These in turn are wealth generators, or feature in the supply chains of countless companies across sectors.
For example, European markets buy 32% of Brazil’s soy production, where use of deforested land for the crop has grown rapidly over the last decade. This is fed to European livestock thousands of miles away, ultimately arriving on supermarket shelves or restaurant menus with no trace of its ‘forest footprint’.
Interestingly, schemes to help aid the sharing of nutritional information are now prominent throughout the shelves of supermarkets, but the same is not the case for wood-based products. It’s relatively easy to discover the salt and fat content of meat, fish and eggs just by looking at the nutritional label. Stickers identifying where your free-range eggs, vegetables and even rice are also now appearing, but what about the carbon emissions required to fly or ship them to their final destination, grow them and distribute them? Perhaps the answer is an information label as seen below?
There appears to be a long way to go if useful and genuine information is to be shared with the end-consumer when it comes to wood-based products, but at least new schemes are on the horizon and taking shape. Maybe one day we can all check that the wood we intend to use, and purchase, isn’t getting flushed away leaving our closest relative without a forested home…
For more information take a look at the Forest Footprint Disclosure website.