Our future depends on sustainable forestry

The earth’s lifeline

Our forests are our lifeline. Without the vital oxygen produced by trees, humanity would not survive. Not only do the
earth’s forests create oxygen, but they also absorb vast volumes of carbon dioxide and harmful fossil fuel emissions,
thereby helping to reduce global warming. As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for wood and wood
products. Just about every industry you can think of has either a direct or indirect link to forestry and wood. If we are
to continue to rely on wood and its products, then we have to find real, practical and measurable ways of giving back
what we take from our forests.

What is sustainable forestry?

Sustainability means to be future-facing, because what we do today will have an impact on tomorrow. The goal of
sustainable forestry is simple- to preserve our forests for the benefit of future generations. In practice, sustainable
forestry is led by a set of guidelines for forests to be managed in a sensitive, responsible and targeted manner. The
assumption is that sustainable forestry is centered on ecology, and while this is true in part, it also implies a narrow
scope. Sustainable forestry is all encompassing and honours the environment, ecology, wildlife and humanity in its
practices to create balance between mankind’s needs and preserving our precious forests. On one hand we are
reliant on wood and forest resources, and on the other hand forests are crucial to our survival. With this in mind, it
may seem counter-productive to channel time, energy and money into preserving the forests which we continue to
cut down, however this is the only way we can realistically continue to take from our forests.

The Forest Stewardship Council

Forestry provides a livelihood for people through direct employment in the industry, the informal trading of forest-
related products and services and as a means of subsistence. It is a challenge to protect a forest’s biodiversity while
it exists as a means of income for people – these two needs are at odds. It may seem that the easiest solution is to
stop using wood products altogether, but this is just not possible. Many industries are built around forestry, and
many people draw an income from it so it’s not economically viable to simply stop producing and using wood
products. Forestry is a lucrative industry for South Africa and it makes a huge contribution to the country’s GDP,
therefore for economic reasons we have to do what we can to protect these natural resources. In order for humanity
at large to continue to draw upon these resources, our practices need to be governed by a set of principles to this
end.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit organisation which outlines a set of standards
that uphold, promote and support responsible forest management. By having a clear set of standards like this,
responsible and sustainable forestry becomes practical and the end goal becomes tangible. As a global certification
system, the FSC has certified over 380 million hectares of forest.

The standards set out by the FSC exist to inform forestry practices, and include things such as earmarking no-logging
zones, reducing forest erosion, protecting natural waterways, conserving indigenous tree species and avoiding the
use of chemical pesticides. The FSC takes a broad scope when it comes to sustainable forest management evidenced
by its involvement throughout the forestry supply chain. By doing this the FSC helps to narrow the gaps between
producer, seller, processor and buyer thereby creating even greater sustainability for the industry at large. Products
that originate from responsibly managed forests carry the FSC logo, and by purchasing these products consumers
can become unofficial custodians, or stewards of the cause.

Smaller efforts create greater sustainability

Sustainable forestry also involves shortening the gaps in the supply chain. One of the goals of sustainability is to
create a cyclical economy where everyday products can be re-used and recycled. KZN has an important role to play
in helping to make this a reality because it’s where 2 of South Africa’s biggest agricultural sectors are concentrated.
KZN is not only one of the country’s top timber growing regions, but it is also one of South Africa’s most prolific
poultry producers, and poultry farming is heavily reliant of wood products in the form of wood shavings, supplied by
leading manufacturers like Mercor Shavings. Mercor wood shavings are a sustainable product due to their amazing
transformative qualities – what begins as poultry bedding in a poultry house, ultimately ends up as a nutrient-rich
sugar cane fertiliser. With both of these heavyweight industries flourishing in the province, the opportunity to shorten the gaps in the supply chain already exists. If we can shorten the gaps in the forestry industry between the
growing, logging and processing of wood and the production and consumption of wood products like shavings, then
we are moving ever closer to growing timber sustainably while also bolstering these industries which add massive
value to our GDP.