Prosperity and Sustainability Go Hand-In-Hand in Asia and Worldwide

Famed GE CEO Jack Welch once said “You can’t grow long-term if you can’t eat short term.” The same can be said about forests. They can’t grow long-term if people can’t eat short term. That is the spirit behind my editorial in the Bangkok Post addressing forest certification standards.

It is certainly true that foresters should be given incentives to manage for the long-term and be given science-based standards of good forestry. Ignoring economic sustainability, however, is not a sound policy. If it isn’t economically sustainable, it won’t be environmentally sustainable.

As I wrote in the piece:

Prosperity and economic growth go hand-in-hand with good forestry practices; poverty and politics are the enemies of sustainable forestry. The evidence of this connection is everywhere. Last year the United Nations celebrated the International Year of the Forest, highlighting the link between prosperity and sound forestry. The UN noted that forest land is actually expanding in the Northern Hemisphere, where demand for wood products is high.

The areas where forests are at risk are primarily the poorest areas of the Southern Hemisphere. But in these regions, active forestry is not the culprit. In fact, it is part of the solution. Most trees in the Southern Hemisphere are cut down to cook food or to heat homes. Focusing on active forestry as the cause is misleading.

You can read the entire piece here: Don’t let politically driven forest certification derail Asia’s economic rise.

Is Forest Certification Helping or Harming the World’s Forests?

What began as a way to offer foresters in developing countries an incentive to practice sustainable forestry has, unfortunately, become a tool to impose particular politics on developing countries.

Forest certification systems, a part of some companies’ corporate social responsibility efforts, were originally designed to offer a price premium to those foresters who followed a basic set of forestry guidelines. Systems like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) promised to help those who followed their guidelines – both environmentally and economically.

Too often this process does not produce its intended results. Instead, some in the environmental community used the standard as a political tool – hanging banners from big box lumber stores – and turning the systems into trade restrictions that harm the developing countries the greens claim to care about.

Forest Certification Audit is designed to examine the ways forest certification systems have gotten off track. They left the science and economics behind (even as they promised to follow them) and have now replaced them with political motives. It is often wealthy Americans lecturing poor foresters in developing countries – in many cases the same wealthy Americans who didn’t honor their promise to pay a price premium for certified wood.

Our simple guiding principle is this: prosperity and good forestry go hand in hand, and poverty and politics are the enemies of sustainable forestry.

The evidence of this is everywhere. Last year the United Nations celebrated the International Year of the Forest highlighting the link between prosperity and sound forestry. The U.N. noted that forestland is actually expanding in the Northern Hemisphere while the areas where forests are at risk are primarily the poorest areas of the Southern Hemisphere. Indeed, active forestry is not the culprit. Most trees in the Southern Hemisphere are cut down to cook food or heat homes. Focusing on active forestry as the cause is misleading.

Forest Certification Audit will focus on promoting science-based forestry that offers developing countries a way to benefit, trade and grow. We will examine which certification systems achieve those goals and which are failing. We will identify the real areas of concern for forest habitat and wildlife so we can honestly assess their effectiveness. Such assessments stand in stark contrast to chasing mistaken, but on-the-surface, emotionally satisfying political issues that take our attention away from real opportunities to help forestland.

And to those that may disagree with what we have to say, we want to hear from you.  Forest Certification Audit will be an open platform to learn about the various certification systems, and hear from their champions, including FSC.  We aim to foster a healthy dialogue to educate stakeholders, public officials, civil society and concerned citizens.