Consisting of 14 former forestry-students-turned-environmental-activists,
ARuPA monitors forest activities across the Indonesian region of
Central Java, and also trains members of 20 different nonprofit
organizations to document environmental crime and mismanagement.
ARuPA and its partners document illegal logging in Java’s
teak forests by Perhutani, a government-owned forestry company.
The films feature villagers’ complaints about Perhutani’s
disregard for forest dwellers’ rights, and are shown to local
civil society groups and decision-makers.
In 2002, ARuPA’s efforts contributed to the revoking of Perhutani’s
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification by Smartwood, an
international timber assessor, which impacted the company’s
market among Western furniture buyers.
Subsequent attempts by the company to regain certification and lost
business have failed. ARuPA also uses film to highlight successful
examples of alternative, decentralized, sustainable forest-based
livelihoods, including community-based forestry management and one
Javan community’s initiative to plant bamboo after local pine
plantations had been clear-cut.
“Bamboo forests protect communities from flooding, landslides
and drought—environmental services that could not be provided
by the pine forest,” said ARuPA spokesman Rama Astraatmaja.
This example of management that has worked—and there are many
other similar examples in Indonesia alone—illustrates the
importance of education for the 300 million people around the world
who live in forests. More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests
for their livelihoods (through fuel wood, medicinal plants and forest
foods). About 1.2 billion people rely directly on agroforestry farming
systems that help sustain agricultural productivity and generate
Sustainable procurement of forest products
On the other end of the spectrum, corporate managers—who often
live a very long way from forests—need to also have a degree
of understanding concerning the impact their procurement of wood
products can have. Those items include construction materials, furniture,
packaging, tissue paper and countless other practical products used
every day in their business operations.
With interest rapidly growing in what is often called “sustainable
procurement” of forest products, consumers, retailers, investors,
communities and other groups increasingly want to know that the
social and environmental impacts of buying and consuming wood-based
products are acceptable.
Corporate managers must look beyond price, quality, availability
and functionality to consider other factors in their procurement
decisions. These include environmental aspects (the effects that
the products and services have on the environment throughout their
entire lifecycle) and social aspects (effects on labor conditions,
human rights and poverty eradication). Sustainable procurement seeks
to ensure that what we do today for an ever-growing population does
not compromise the needs of future generations. Sustainable procurement
can make organizations along the supply chain more competitive,
more resilient to changing business conditions, and more likely
to attract and hold customers, investors and the best employees.
Sustainable procurement can also provide consistency and transparency
for business operations. Making sustainability part of a business
procurement process aligns companies with their stakeholder values,
and maintains a company’s social license to do business.
Six questions to ask when purchasing
In June, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business
Council for Sustainable Development are releasing a guide called
Sustainable Procurement of Forest Products: An Introductory Guide.
It is the first time that office managers without environmental
or forestry backgrounds can find, in one user-friendly document,
an overview of the issues surrounding sustainable procurement of
forest products and of some of the tools, projects, initiatives
and labels that have emerged over the past few years to aid sustainable
The questions any manager should ask include:
1.) Where do the products come from?
It is important to understand all the steps through which forest
products go from being harvested to the end product. This will help
the procurement manager know where the wood is coming from and help
assess the likelihood of several important characteristics:
• That the products have the properties they are claimed to
• That the products have been legally produced
• That the products come from well-managed forests
• That the values of areas in the forest that have unique
qualities have been maintained or enhanced
• That satisfactory social safeguards are in place.
2.) Can the information about the products be trusted?
Typically, forest products originate in remote rural areas and,
increasingly often, also in a foreign country. The products may
pass many producers, dealers and borders before they reach their
destination. The accompanying information is not always complete
or accurate enough for the customer to properly assess their environmental
and social characteristics.
3.) Have the products been legally produced?
There is no universally accepted definition of illegal logging and
trade. Strictly speaking, illegality is anything that occurs in
violation of the legal framework of a country. A strict definition
is difficult to apply, however, and it is generally acknowledged
that what is legal may not always be sustainable, and what is sustainable
may not always be legal. Legality is therefore not a synonym for
sustainable forest management.
4.) Have forests been harmed?
The environmental impacts of poor forest management, inattention
to unique and special landscapes, and conversion affect ecosystem
services (meaning it may eliminate species or affect erosion control
and water supplies). However, converting forests to non-forest uses
such as urban settlements completely eliminates the forest ecosystem.
Because of the variety of ecosystem services forests provide, often
the value of an intact forest, or a standing forest, is greater
to society than the value of a converted forest.
5.) Have local communities or people been harmed?
Logging and other forestry operations take place in the forest.
This is a potentially dangerous production environment, lacking
the protection and standardized conditions of a factory. The first
industries to process the wood are often located in remote and sparsely
populated areas where the supply of job opportunities, social support
systems, government supervision and adequate infrastructure may
be limited. Forces and conditions beyond the control of government
authorities can sometimes be found in forest areas. The forest sector
employs millions of workers, and forest companies are sometimes
compelled to make up for governmental voids and take a leadership
role in addressing social and governance issues. Values such as
fair pay, employment benefits, health and safety, and interaction
with local communities are a part the “social contract”
between employers and the communities in which they operate.
6.) Have other issues been considered?
For one important example, climate and forests are intrinsically
linked. Climate change may already be stressing forests through
higher mean annual temperatures, altered precipitation patterns,
and more frequent and extreme weather events. At the same time,
forests play a major role in climate change by either mitigating
it or contributing to it. Forests mitigate climate change by removing
carbon from the atmosphere (carbon sequestration) and storing it
in the biomass they produce and accumulate, such as wood and peat.
This carbon is released back to the atmosphere either through decomposition
(slowly) or burning (quickly). Forests contribute to climate change
when they are logged, destroyed or burned at a faster rate than
they grow back. Over the past 150 years, deforestation has contributed
an estimated 30 percent of the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide.
Products from sustainably managed forests are relatively more carbon-neutral
than other products. Emissions in sustainably produced forest products
are associated with logging operations, transportation, manufacturing
Growing demands for sustainability
promoting good management
The growing demand for sustainably produced wood-based products
promotes good forest management. Forests, if well-managed, are a
renewable source of raw materials while also providing clean air
and water, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities and aesthetics.
For example, back in the Javan community in Indonesia, after negotiating
an informal agreement with the local timber company official, villagers
set about planting bamboo, an extremely sustainable forest product
that helped preserve water supplies for their rice fields and contributed
to the village economy through the selling of bamboo poles.
Ruth Noguerón works for Global Forest Watch and the World
Resources Institute (www.wri.org). She has worked extensively on
forest-mapping projects in the Brazilian Amazon and in North
America, and is an author of Sustainable Procurement of Forest Products:
An Introductory Guide, to be released in June by WRI and the World
Business Council for Sustainable Development.