Sappi Forests embarks on an ambitious initiative for small grower certification.

Forests play a critical role for the global environment, population and economy. They are a source of wood, an enormously valuable and versatile natural resource. It is therefore essential that forests are managed sustainably but doing this is complex and becoming increasingly difficult as human pressure on the planet increases. Consumers, businesses and governments are becoming more
concerned with their environmental footprint. This means the markets for forest-based materials, from paper to timber, are increasingly relying on certified products to protect the sources of wood and other forest products and services. Sappi Forests has been FSC certified for more than 20 years, and in 2020 achieved PEFC (SAFAS) certification. The decision to become duel certified was driven by a number of reasons including:

  • demand from some customers;
  • risk mitigation of having all “certification eggs in one basket”;
  • greater focus on the specific risks to sustainable forest management in South Africa ; and most importantly;
  • access to certification by small growers.

In November this year, Sappi launched an innovative and ambitious project to roll out access to certification for emerging small growers and well established small and medium sized growers. This will be achieved by establishing a group scheme and facilitating grower membership in the group scheme through the use of the value-based platform which is a tool that assesses the prevailing risks
to sustainable forest management and conformance with certification standards for the forest management unit being assessed. The value-based platform allows the assessment to take scale and the prevailing environmental, social and economic conditions into account. This risk assessment of each grower will also inform the audit process and in so doing the key requirements for achieving sustainable management will be highlighted making SAFAS certification an effective measure and promotor of sustainable forest management.
This ambitious and exciting project aims to overcome the barriers to certification many small growers experience when living in a socio-economic environment of weak governance, poor service provision and thus poor access to resources. The project also aims to identify and prioritise the mitigation of any prevailing risks to sustainable forest management and also to build management capacity in sustainable forest management. The importance of this project for getting an effective, self-sustaining group scheme with wide participation in the developing world has been recognised by PEFC International, who reached out to both Sappi and SAFAS to record and tell the project story as it rolls out. These three parties have signed a memorandum of cooperation and will be telling the story through a range of media, including published articles, a series of podcasts and videos. Many of these articles or links to the stories and videos will be posted on this website.

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