By Jeff Bradley
Manager, Forestry & Wood Products Policy
Our members have practiced responsible and sustainable forestry for decades. To meet customer demand, they are now doing more than ever to increase the availability of certified fiber from certified fiber sourcing programs and third party-certified forestlands.
Forest certification systems are not the only method to demonstrate that the wood our industry uses comes from responsible sources that are harvested sustainably. But it is probably the most recognized tool on the landscape to demonstrate sustainable harvesting and management.
The amount of wood fiber that members procure from third party-certified forestlands continues to grow slowly. It’s a hard thing to do when the largest landowners are certified and small landowners make up so much of the environment—and the fiber supply!
The costs associated with becoming third party certified can be cost-prohibitive for these small landowners. Over 21 million people in the U.S. own forestland and many of these landowners will only cut trees once in their lifetime due to the slow growth of trees and size of their woodlots.
Our members have used a number of strategies to reach these family foresters. First and foremost, they educate landowners as part of their certified sourcing programs. In 2014 and 2015, respectively, Evergreen Packaging and Domtar won AF&PA Sustainability Awards for sustainable forest management for their work in providing resources and know-how to small landowners to get certified. This helped them to meet their own company goals for fiber from certified forestlands. International Paper won an AF&PA Sustainability Award for a similar project that has seen over half a million additional acres certified.
Member companies are continuing to experiment with programs to increase content from certified forests. WestRock partnered with the American Forest Foundation to reach out to landowners through their accredited foresters and contractors.
All of these individual actions add up to more certified fiber from forests, and that helps to demonstrate the sustainability of the industry as a whole.