Expanding forestry certification

Expanding forestry certification in South Africa

Forests are fundamental to the well-being of people and the planet. They provide an economic resource for approximately 1.6 billion people.

When managed responsibly, they preserve wildlife habitat including endangered species, help to mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect water sources such as streams, rivers and lakes from erosion. Third-party forest certification systems work by ensuring that all steps of the sourcing production process are transparent and accounted for, allowing companies and consumers alike to make informed decisions about where their timber is sourced. Sappi aims to contribute to the growth of forest certification world-wide and collaborate with diverse stakeholders.

Small-scale and emerging growers represent the largest group of timber producers in South Africa’s forestry sector but find the financial costs and administration of forest certification cumbersome. To overcome this challenge, Sappi worked closely with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest CertificationTM (PEFCTM) to develop a forestry assurance standard for smallholders to reflect local conditions, now known as the South African Forestry Assurance Standard (SAFAS).

SAFAS aims to offer smallholders feasible, affordable forest certification.

SAFAS aims to offer access to feasible, attainable and especially affordable forest certification solutions and thus market access, especially for the country’s smallholders. Sappi has played a pivotal role in introducing PEFC to South Africa and sees it as a strategically important step to enhance sustainable forest management practices in the country and the entire continent of Africa.

Small-scale and emerging growers represent the largest group of timber producers in South Africa’s forestry sector.

According to Dr David Everard, Chair of Forestry South Africa’s Environmental Management Committee and Divisional Environmental Manager at Sappi Southern Africa: “The endorsement of the SAFAS scheme and its forest management standard is an important milestone for the industry in South Africa. The standard is a home-grown standard specifically designed to be applied to plantation forestry in South Africa, developed as an additional standard to the well- known Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) standard for a number of reasons including practicality, ease of implementation in small operations and to overcome the risk of only having one certification system.”

Michael Peter, Executive Director of Forestry South Africa, which represents the sector comprises around 20,000 small-scale growers as well as 1,300 medium-sized commercial growers and 11 large corporate growers, commented: “As the SAFAS standard is homegrown, directly relevant to a range of South African conditions and more flexible with respect to group schemes, we hope that this move will facilitate the full involvement of small-scale growers and improve the sustainability of the forestry industry.”

Sappi has played a pivotal role in introducing PEFC to South Africa.

In South Africa, we also run a group certification scheme to help mitigate cost pressure on small growers. We pay small growers in the scheme a premium for certified timber.