The best way to save forests is to use them. According to the UN, the global economy will be greener if forests are managed sustainably and people can benefit from the wide range of eco-services forest provide, such as fiber, timber, fuel, clean water, oxygen, shelter, wildlife habitats, medicine, jobs and recreation spaces.
We at SIG want to see healthy forests because they provide our key raw material, paperboard. We get our board only from sustainable sources and we want to make sure that all the world’s forests thrive.
Forests, like the oceans, play a hugely important part in regulating global climate and local weather systems. Forests store carbon (called carbon sinks) as trees grow and are vital in the battle to combat climate change. When destroyed, forests release large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere (by burning) and their destruction removes a carbon sink from the ecosystem. Deforestation and degradation contribute nearly 20% of the greenhouse gases associated with climate change, according to the UN.
There are two broad types of forest: man-made and original “wild” forests, also called old-growth. Old-growth forests have been severely depleted over centuries by logging (for hardwood used in construction and furniture), fuel, and land clearance for agriculture (soy farming, palm oil plantations, beef grazing).
Man-made forests and tree farms, where SIG gets its paperboard, are carefully managed and constantly replanted. Young fast-growing trees absorb (fix) more carbon than older slow-growing trees. As long as man-made forests are managed sustainably they will continue to provide essential, recyclable products while contributing to prosperous communities who depend on the forests for their livelihoods.
The relative health of the world’s forests is directly related to the stage of human development in different regions. For example, Europe used its trees with abandon in the medieval period for construction, shipbuilding, and fuel before coal took over to power the industrial revolution. Deforestation was intense. Now, through better management, the continent’s forests have recovered rapidly, increasing by about the size of Greece (13 million ha) since the 1990s. Thirty-three percent of Europe is forested and coverage is increasing.
“The good news is that the world is fully aware of the important role of forests in climate health.”
But the threat to tropical forests continues with deforestation rampant in Africa and Latin America. The good news is that the world is fully aware of the important role of forests in climate health and people from all sides are banding together to protect our forests and to ensure we better manage this important resource.
There is also a greater realisation that forests are as much about trees as people, providing jobs and social benefits. The UN estimates that “billions” of people use forest products to meet their needs for food, energy, and shelter. It estimates that the formal forest sector employs some 13.2 million people across the world and at least another 41 million are employed in the informal sector.
Pressure on forests will only increase as the world’s population expands to nearly 10 billion people by 2050. This makes it even more important to manage forests sustainably, which can only happen if positive action is taken by all those who benefit from forests, which is everybody.
Business is playing its part. Because every company contributes to climate change (by using energy that produces carbon dioxide) most large businesses have set targets to cut their use of fossil fuels and look to use renewable sources of energy, such as hydro, solar and wind where possible. An essential part of these plans is to formulate anti-deforestation policies that commit companies to avoid using products from badly-managed or threatened forests. This includes products that can contribute to deforestation, such as palm oil and beef unless their production is well managed. The idea is to increase forest cover because trees take carbon from the atmosphere, which helps combat climate change.
“The way forests are managed is vitally important to the local environment and the people who live nearby.”
Really exciting progress is being made in the paper and timber industries which use wood mainly from man-made forests, or tree farms. The way forests are managed is vitally important to the local environment and the people who live nearby.
Much of the improvement in plantation management has been achieved by the work of the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC™). The FSC sets forest management standards through a multi-stakeholder dialogue to create consensus among social and environmental organisations and the forest industry. Individual countries have also developed standards that have contributed to better management of all their forests.
The battle to tackle climate change has stimulated a much deeper understanding of the importance of forests to the world’s health and prosperity. As the UN says, the best way to ensure the future of forests is to use them because this demonstrates their value to society. That’s why, put simply, cutting a tree can help save the forest.
Want to know more about SIG´s environmental behaviour? Give us a call, comment or e-mail us. SIG is FSC® certified. Licence number: FSC®-C020428.