Interview with Uta Jungermann, Manager of the Forest Solutions Group of the World Council for Sustainable Development
In the 1990s, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a partner of the Global Landscapes Forum 2014, initiated a Forest Solutions Group (FSG), bringing together over 20 companies with a commitment to sustainable forest management. Ahead of this year’s Forum, the Forest Solutions Group visualized challenges of the forest sector in the future in a striking infographic. Landscapes.org asked Uta Jungermann, Manager of the FSG about how these challenges can be met.
Q: The demand for wood is expected to triple by 2050, how can this be met without irrevocably damaging the ecosystem and further contribute to the negative effects of climate change?
Bringing more of the world’s forests under sustainable management is fundamental to make the equation work. To meet growing demand in a responsible way forests must be sustainably managed and used. Forests and their resources are renewable and we must leverage this. Our group works hard to ensure that the supply from sustainable sources of wood and other forest products continues to increase to meet growing demand.
Q: You say that forests directly impact the livelihoods of 20% of the world population, in which aspects?
The forest-based sector employs 14 million people worldwide. 500 million people are estimated to live in forests, and more three times as many, about 1.6 billion, depend on forests: this means food, fuel, fiber, fresh water and more. And we have to see that much forestry employment is outside the formal sector. Therefore forests are likely even more important to rural livelihoods and national economies than the reported figures suggest.
Active management of forests generates income and employment for vast numbers of people, in particular in remote and often underdeveloped areas. In those areas, forestry may be the only economically viable land-use option. Through the multiplier effect on employment, rural economies can further benefit from wood processing and other related activities.
Small and medium forest enterprises have been successful in reducing poverty, improving equity and helping to protect forests and related ecosystems. In this way, productive forest management directly strengthens the resilience of rural communities. By providing a long-term diversification strategy of rural economies that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, sustainable forest management improves livelihoods. And it combats deforestation and forest degradation.
Q: According to the UN definition from 1992, “Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is a
management regime that integrates and balances social, economic, ecological, cultural, and spiritual needs of present and future generations.” What does this mean in practice?
A: Sustainable forest management means retaining the growth and vitality of forest resources to meet the needs we have today without interfering with the needs of future generations. Managing forests sustainably means a variety of things, like reducing climate change risks or providing critical ecosystem services that make life on earth possible. It also refers to generating industrial wood and fiber for a wide range of traditional products and innovative bio-product solutions. And last, but not least, we are talking about providing food and renewable energy, about sustaining livelihoods and delivering recreational benefits. Simply speaking, people should be able to enjoy nature and benefit from natural resources, and forests play an important part in this.
Q: Although members of the FSG represent 40% of the production, only 10% of the world’s forests are certified. How does one explain that? Does the FSG want to change that? If so, how?
The vast majority – almost 90% – of the forests that our members own, or lease or manage are third-party certified. However, a significant share of the total wood supply that our companies process for production comes from third parties. Here our members do not have direct influence on the land. Nevertheless, the Forest Solutions Group is actively engaged in expanding certification beyond its current reach and impact. We encourage all stakeholders involved in certification to promote it further, to convince other forest owners and companies. This also means to support approaches to sustainable development that include small forest owners, community forestry, indigenous peoples and agroforestry operators. Forest certification is just one of many tools here.
Q: The FSG brings together leaders in sustainability. What are these corporate role models doing to encourage others to join – for example big players and companies in countries with rapid deforestation?
Our group is a global platform for strategic collaboration for the forest-based industry and its value chain partners. As part of this, members aim to demonstrate leading performance and share best practices.
One concrete example of our engagement is The Forests Dialogue, an independent and well-recognized platform for multi-stakeholder discussion and collaboration on the most pressing local and global issues facing forests and people.
Q: In short, what is the most important impact of being a member of the Forest Solutions Group?
It is a condition for the membership in the FSG that the company endorses and adheres to FSG principles and responsibilities. These principles oblige them for example to use resources responsibly, be eco-efficient and mitigate greenhouse gases, but also to respect human rights and labor standards. The group is in the process to set key performance indicators demonstrating the group’s performance against these principles. Also, as part of the membership principles, members progressively introduce certification in their own operations and advance certification throughout supply chains.
Q: You will be attending this year’s Global Landscapes Forum. What will be your contribution to the event?
Peter Bakker, President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development attended the Global Landscapes Forum in Warsaw last year, and represented the role of business in the session “Investing in sustainable landscapes in forests and on farms”. This year Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and Chairman of WBCSD will be a key speaker, promoting the Council’s program called Action2020. With this program, our members have been developing business solutions that can help society to work towards the Vision2050 of having nine billion people, all living well, within the limits of the planet, by 2050. These business solutions are actions that are both good for business and for social and environmental priorities. They include using forests and forest products as carbon sinks, halving food waste from field to fork and investing in natural infrastructure – true win:wins, including for the landscapes in which we all live. We see the Global Landscapes Forum as a great engagement platform for business.