20.02.2018. Interholco CEO Ulrich Grauert addressed over 300 participants in the conference ‘Working across Sectors to Halt Deforestation and Increase Forest Area - from Aspiration to Action’.
The Conference was held from 20 to 22 February 2018, at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy.
‘Tropical wood for local, national, regional and global markets has become a co-product of rural development, social well-being, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and economic growth.’ Mr. Grauert started his presentation showing tropical wood from a new angle, with various examples from Interholco’s recently launched Sustainability Report.
Imagine a renewable product from a renewable natural resource that has little, and only temporary impact on the resource itself – a wood product that not only maintains tropical forests for future generations, but also, effectively sustains Intact Forest Landscapes.
Now, consider that this same product delivers on a broad scope of expectations, ranging from biodiversity conservation, through protecting the environment from irreversible change, to implementing local rural development and providing socio-economic benefits to the employees involved in its making as well as their families and communities.
Take that the product contributes significantly to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - i.e. Ensuring Zero Hunger (SDG 2), and Advancing Good Health and Well-Being (SDG 3), and Delivering Quality Education (SDG 4), and Safeguarding Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), and Providing Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8), and Advancing Industrial Development, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9, and Reducing Inequalities (SDG 10).
And finally, add that the product substantially contributes to combating climate change, as stated in the Paris Agreement of the UNFCCC.
All these benefits coexist in one and the same product, when an industry actor manages natural tropical forests in a sustainable, holistic way.
This commitment to social development, environmental conservation and economic growth best differentiates tropical timber in the market and needs much wider recognition and promotion.
‘Interholco is doing its best to deliver on local and international goals and expectations, while maintaining intact natural forests in Africa, effectively protecting them from irreversible change and/or conversion,’ said Mr. Grauert . ‘It needs to be recognised, however, that a company’s ability to do so relies on the economic viability of its operations, which is effectively the only basis for maintaining a commitment towards future rural development, social benefits, environmental safeguards, regulatory compliance and economic growth.’
Actors sharing the same commitment across the industry do not need more talk about and among themselves, but more engagement with external partners, linking their achievement with external expectations: ‘Not to legitimise what Interholco is doing, but to understand where and when Interholco meets external expectations for social, environmental, economic and regulatory performance and compliance.’
Published late in 2017, the SPOTT assessment independently evaluated timber as well as pulp and paper companies in the tropics. ‘The SPOTT evaluation illustrates well how recognized external experts can contribute to highlighting the industry’s commitment, while at the same time pointing to the need for further improvement. Interholco ranked 1st in the SPOTT assessment achieving a score of 90.2% - more than 20% ahead of the second best, the April Group based in Indonesia.’
The SPOTT analysis is an excellent example of:
(1) testifying to the industry’s commitment to rural social, environmental and economic development;
(2) linking the industry’s achievement to expectations of external constituents;
(3) helping the industry understand where improvement is needed; and also of
(4) promoting the social benefits, environmental safeguards and economic properties that tropical wood is loaded with, when sustainably produced.
Despite implementing a wide range of social, environmental and economic actions on the ground, some private sector forestry actors in the Congo Basin are increasingly confronted with serious regulatory, infrastructural and administrative challenges, adding further strain to the lack of a level playing field. As urged by Mr. Grauert, ‘All concerned parties need to sit together and reflect on realistic solutions to stabilise and support a sustainable future for African Forests and the people depending on them – locally and globally.’
The UN Conference needs to urgently launch an Action Plan involving local governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, development organizations, social and environmental NGOs, civil society groups, research institutes and the private sector in a joint effort to ensure Intact Forest Landscapes that :
(1) deliver rural development and social benefit to the local people living in and from natural tropical forests;
(2) safeguard environmental integrity of natural tropical forests and prevent irreversible change;
(3) provide economic benefit and growth.
The Action Plan needs to not only facilitate local, national, regional and global agreement on the expectations towards management of natural tropical forest, but also define the conditions for viable and sustainable forest management, especially with respect to regulation, external support and market recognition.
A collaborative effort engaging civil society, private sector companies and the public sector will ensure long-term viability and sustainability of forest management operations in the tropics.
Since 1962, INTERHOLCO AG has been serving a discerning international clientele with high-quality African wood: logs, lumber, finger-joint products and more. In addition to three processing sawmills, several kilns, a finger-joint mill and a planing mill, INTERHOLCO AG manages an FSC-certified 1.1 million ha forest concession in the Republic of the Congo, employing about 1’000 staff. Based in Switzerland, INTERHOLCO AG is one of the leading international suppliers of African logs and lumber.
Media contact Interholco
Tullia Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal
INTERHOLCO AG, Schutzengelstr. 36, 6340 Baar, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)41 767 03 82