Resellers, ENGOs and industry meet on neutral ground to discuss the future of wood certification in Australia
A group of almost 100 representatives from ENGOs, the forest and wood industry, retailers, manufacturers and engineers gathered at Dockside in Sydney's Darling Harbour on Thursday 31 May to discuss and workshop the current state of wood products certification in Australia.
The event, Certification: Growing demand. Increasing confidence. National Wood Products Forum & Workshop 2012 was the first of its kind in Australia, and unusual in that it brought together parties with widely differing points of view on many aspects of forestry.
Facilitated by researcher Howard Parry-Husbands, the forum began with everyone writing down what a successful day looked like from their point of view. It was engaging and interactive from the start.
The morning session aimed to identify the barriers to wood certification and it kicked off with four speakers who set the scene well. The audience heard from Niick Bez, a director of Mobium - a consumer research company who discussed environmental or ecolabeling. He was followed by two academic certification specialists, Fred Gale who presented case histories of certification in four different countries and Chris Taylor who presented an analysis of the AFS and FSC standards. The morning’s presentations concluded with Stephen Mitchell, the Sustainability Program Manger from the Timber Development Association talking about certification from a builder’s point of view.
The morning breakout split the audience into small groups who were asked to identify the barriers to certification. Surprisingly there was a degree of consensus in the room. The top three barriers identified were consumer awareness and trust, clarity and complexity of the schemes and the additional cost of certified wood.
“The breakout sessions took everyone 'back to basics', the first one was 'token', got everyone to shed a layer” reported a delegate on their feedback form.
The afternoon session focused on the positives – what do we need to do in order to increase awareness of certification? What are the triggers?
The speakers providing the consumer perspective were Armineh Mardirossian, Group Manager, Corporate responsibility, Community & Sustainability, Woolworths Limited, who spoke about chain of custody certification programs, She was followed by Mark Gomm, the Risk/Sustainability Manager at Bunnings/Officeworks who discussed achieving the twin aims of sustainability and growth. Next, Jacqueline Fegent-McGeachie, Sustainability Manager, Kimberly Clark took the group through the promotional campaign associated with the Kleenex brand and FSC.
The resellers were followed by Richard Stanton, National Secretary, Australian Forestry Standard, who discussed promoting the AFS, while Natalie Reynolds, CEO, Forest Stewardship Council shared some of the experiences of FSC in driving growth.
The subsequent breakout session asked participants to list the triggers to initiate action to promote certification. Five key areas were identified: consumer demand, public procurement, collaboration, trust and balance. An interesting conclusioin was that there were more demand based concerns than supply side. From the day’s workshops it seems clear that in order to promote certification the whole supply chain, from growers to resellers and certification bodies, must work to increase the demand for it.
The international speaker from the UK – architect and academic Alex de Rijke, director, de Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects, broght delegates back to the real world with a fascinating presentation featuring projects built with certified wood products, in this case cross laminated timber (CLT). These UK examples showcased the beauty and ease, and speed of construction offered by advanced timber building systems.
Comments from the day include: ‘A good representation of the industry and not forced’; ‘I hope there are more of these events’; ‘The workshop was excellent, well done planet Ark’; ‘amazing to get everyone in the same room, saw a lot of hand shakes, felt positive’; ‘Planet Ark is a good honest broker’; ‘The day reflects well on Planet Ark’.
For those interested, presentations from the Forum will be posted to www.makeitwood.org. Future events are being planned to keep the momentum and promote the benefits of certification throughout the supply chain, building material specifiers and purchasers. If you would like to be kept in touch with future developments, please email Chris@planetark.org
Presented by Planet Ark, Certification: Growing demand. Increasing confidence. National Wood Products Forum & Workshop 2012 was sponsored by Forest and Wood Products Australia and Bunnings/Officeworks.