China commits to sustainable forests
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of forests in China's Heilongjiang and Jilin Provinces – totaling an area of 420,000ha – were supported by WWF China, IKEA and the German Investment and Development Company (DEG).
China’s State Forestry Administration, the Chinese Academy of Forestry, the General Bureau of Forest Industry of Heilongjiang Province, Heilongjiang Academy of Forestry, and Jilin Forestry Department also assisted in the process.
"When WWF first introduced the concept of FSC certification to China in 2000, China had no certified forests," said Dr Zhu Chunquan, WWF China's Forest Programme Director.
"By working with government agencies, the forestry industry, NGOs and the media, Chinese businesses are now becoming increasingly aware of the importance of responsible forest management."
SGS, the independent third-party certifier, confirmed that the Youhao and Baihe Forestry Bureaus – two bureaus responsible for managing the newly-certified forest areas –are adhering to certification principles and standards, which include assuring the rights of forestry workers and local communities, controlling amounts and methods of forest harvesting, and protecting the forest ecosystems.
In addition to timber, forest products harvested from these areas include mushrooms, edible plants, fruits, herbs, honey and frogs. The Youhao Forestry Bureau is a furniture supplier of IKEA, while the Baihe Forestry Bureau is exporting a large volume of wooden flooring and doors to Japan, the US and Europe.
Prior to this, there were only two certified forests in southeast China – the Jia Yao Forestry Development Company in Guangdong province (5,237ha) and the Changhua Forest Farm (CFF) in Zhejiang province (940ha), both privately-owned.
Compared with the rapid development of companies in China that have achieved FSC Chain of Custody (CoC) certification, the number of certified forests is still very limited. Over 90 companies now have CoC certification, meaning that they obtain certified wood to make their products.
In the last twenty years, forest problems worldwide have been on the increase. Forest cover and quality have both declined, with stakeholders in conflict over the increasingly scarce goods and services that forests provide. In China, forests cover only 18.22 per cent of the land, compared to an international average of 34 per cent.
It is generally acknowledged that the basic causes of the problems faced by forests are due to policy, market and institutional failures. Certification has been identified as a key market based initiative to improve forest management worldwide.
"These two newly certified state-owned forests are models for responsible forestry, and are a very encouraging sign for the survival of China's forests," Zhu said.
• Forest certification is widely seen as the most important initiative of the last decade to promote better forest management. Forest certification is a system of forest inspection plus a means of tracking timber and paper through a "chain of custody" – following the raw material through to the finished product. This is all to ensure that the products have come from forests which are well managed and take into account environmental, social and economic principles and criteria.
• The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, not for profit, non-government organization based in Bonn, Germany, that provides standard setting, trademark assurance, and accreditation services for companies and organizations interested in responsible forestry. Founded in 1993, FSC’s mission is to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.
For further information:
An Yan, Forest Communications Coordinator
Tel: + 86 10 6522 7100 ext 3224