On Forestry and Russia Seminar on responsible wood procurement and FLEGT implementation, St. Petersburg


The excursion we were all invited to was necessary to demonstrate two things: to show how traceability of wood fibres work in practice and to show the potent implementation of FLEGT.

As someone has said, it is not enough to do the right thing – you also have to be seen to do the right thing. Our task as invitees has been to witness, so that the industry can be seen doing what it is supposed to do, and give evidence.

EU FLEGT Action Plan

I made and wrote this presentation during the morning session, Hannu Kivelä did not leave very much to say on FLEGT. In May 2003 the European Commission presented an action plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT)
[Refreshingly, the Commission abstained from introducing yet another TLA – a Three Letter Acronyme].
FLEGT marked the beginning of a long process by which the EU aims to develop and implement measures to address illegal logging and related trade. The industry, however, has taken a pro-active role in promoting and implementing FLEGT within the European paper making and has supported its implementation in e.g. Russia. Such a pro-active industry role is welcome in particular as the EU mandate on forestry is very limited – and the problem is wider than EU. (I wonder if it exists in EU at all.)


Sustainable forestry is a fundamental basis for the paper industry. From 1950s forest growth in Europe has risen continuously and growth in the forests we source from in Europe has exceeded felling. At present only 75% of the annual wood increment is harvested, meaning a sustained increase in forest resources. Every day, the European forest grows with an area similar to 4.300 football pitches. During the three days we have spent here, some 13 thousand new football pitches of forest has grown – a strong indicator of sustainable use of existing resource. (This, however, may change dramatically with the new targets for renewable energy by 2020.)

The EU made its decision to increase the share of renewable energy u to 20% until 2020. It sounds great, of course, and many environmentalists were applauding this decision, although complaining that this target is not ambitious enough. However, there is a serious risk in this kind of legally binding target, where member states are obliged to fulfil their share from the overall burden. Since we know that hydro cannot be increased anymore to large extent, since we know that in many places the wind power is already build even there where it is not windy enough (with the help of different feed-in-tariffs this is possible) and since we know that in the near future we do not have any radical other innovations available there is a huge risk that this target will be obtained by logging. This would mean the end of sustainable forestry in Europe, because according to the worst scenarios this would mean to triple the felling. To be honest, I really wonder why environmental NGOs do not make a noise about this horrifying scenario. To be biblical, why do they strain out a gnat but swallow a camel?

At least in my home country, Finland, the are plenty of examples where environmental NGO´s have concentrated on trivial details and at the same time the do not recognise the big threats to the environment. This is a big threat if we, in the name of combating the climate change, end up with destroying the forests and thus accelerate the global warming.

The wood fibre used in Europe for paper making is fully traceable back to its origin, so European paper is produced with a pedigree. Traceability is also one of our most important tools to combat illegal logging and to avoid using unacceptable sources of wood. Traceability is independently verified according to “chain-of-custody” standards set by the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) and/or the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes); both schemes should be equally satisfactory and chosen according to what is most convenient in the local conditions, in particular when the owner of the forest is holding small areas and harvesting only “once in a generation”.

Chain-of-custody is a system to ensure that wood comes from controlled and acceptable sources and ensures traceability throughout the value chain.

Clear definitions needed!

Unfortunately, it seems that few people actually agree on the exact definition of what is “sustainable”. Neither is unanimously agreed to define “illegal logging” or even “renewability”. This is important as European companies are involved within global supply chains both upstream and down stream

I recall that last summer the companies hosting us to this excursion committed to a system to ensure within 10 years all wood fibres used in their products worldwide can be traced back to legal and acceptable sources in their forest of origin. After seen and being explained the work done in Russia, I believe this goal can be achieved.

However, being able to communicate within EU and outside requires we all can have definitions well understood and unanimously accepted. Playing with words can be fun, but hardly ever productive in politics or business. Therefore, if a truck driver gets a ticket from speeding or if he has got some unpaid taxes that certainly does not make his cargo and its origin illegal. Sometimes it seems to me, to be honest, that in spite of detailed satellite systems and accurate information which proves that the rules are carefully followed, the definition of “legal logging” is simply escaping from the hands because the NGO´s tend always to give a new definition to it.

Keeping the fibre in cycle

Lengthening the life of the original material in paper products helps to expand the use of fibres as carbon sinks, and also to optimize the use of the renewable resources of the forests. (The beverage carton is composed on average 75% of paperboard, made from wood.)

The longer the lifecycle of fibre is, the longer it can serve stocking CO2, and at the end of life it will still serve as renewable energy as the caloric value of fibre is not lost during the loops in production and recycling. Here as well, the paper industry has a fantastic story to tell.

This all sums up to the necessity to give priority to production of goods with forest based raw materials, that can be recycled, and only after last possible cycle in production the fibres should be used in energy. Using wood for energy directly is perhaps good in substituting fossil fuels, but once the wood is burnt it has disappeared for good leaving no other possibilities for sustainable and efficient use of resources. That would be detrimental for the competitiveness and sustainability of European economy.

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