Representing the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification
Business View Oceania interviews Jason Ross and Simon Dorries of Responsible Wood for our Clean and Green focus.
Responsible Wood has represented the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) in Australia and New Zealand since 2007. First established as an independent organisation in 2002, Responsible Wood has worked over the last 19 years to help develop a standards-based system and certification program to verify the sustainable management of forests across both countries. Licensed by Standards Australia, the organisation is accredited to develop, implement, and enforce two standards that relate to responsible forest management; AS 4708, and AS 4707.
CEO Simon Dorries and Marketing and Communications Officer, Jason Ross, shed light on what developing, implementing, and enforcing the above Australian Standards entails. Mr. Dorries explains, “AS 4708, titled Sustainable Forest Management, essentially sets the requirements for what a sustainably managed forest is. With over 300 performance requirements that must be met and demonstrated by forest managers in order to obtain and maintain the certification, it’s incredibly effective in ensuring forests are managed properly.” AS 4708 Sustainable Forest Management is identified by Responsible Wood as a standard that: “Provides forest managers with economic, social, environmental, and cultural criteria and requirements that support management of forests for products and services.”
ISO 4707, titled the Chain of Custody certification, serves to track forest products from their harvest through to handover for end use, Mr. Dorries continues. “This certification allows for the verification of claims regarding product sustainability and source origin; it allows us to check a product really comes from where it says it does.” AS 4707 Chain of Custody is identified by Responsible Wood as a standard that: “Provides all organisations in the wood or forest products certification chain with the minimum criteria and requirements to implement a credible system. This system tracks wood or forest products originating from certified forest through all phases of ownership, transportation, and manufacturing, to the end consumer.”
Supporting the implementation of the aforementioned Australian Standards, which are also applicable to the New Zealand forest industry, is the Responsible Wood Certification Program. The Responsible Wood Certification Program is carried out by Responsible Wood to independently audit forests and forest managers, to ensure they are meeting the requirements to maintain their standard certification.
Both of Responsible Wood’s standards are internationally endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), Mr Ross explains. “PEFC is an international system of mutual recognition whereby national based standards like our AS 4707 and 4708 are compared against international benchmarks. If standards are credible and meet international benchmarks, then the organisation becomes PEFC endorsed, which allows recognition including labelling products with the PEFC logo for sale into international markets. There are over 50 different PEFC endorsed standards around the world. We were the first non-European standards organisation to be endorsed under PEFC, alongside Chile.”
A key priority of Responsible Wood is educating members of the Australian and New Zealand forest industries, as well as the general public, on the importance of credible environmental initiatives. Certification through Responsible Wood provides a mark of quality and responsibility that forest managers and consumers can trust in, Mr. Ross says. “Our logo tells you that the product, no matter what it is, comes from a sustainable source, and that it is Australian made with Australia in mind. The great thing about the Australian market is over 90% of our forests are certified as being sustainably managed. That’s in comparison with a global average of around 12%.” Responsible Wood is currently undertaking a revision of the Sustainable Forest Management statement, to better match industry changes as they continue to unfold. The revision has been a two-and-a-half-year project that will soon end with the publishing of a new Australian Standard.
Responsible Wood supports 35 individual company members across Australia and New Zealand from their headquarters in Brisbane, Queensland. Members come from all areas of the forest industry, including forest owners and managers, processors and manufacturers, suppliers, environmental and labour organisations, unions, social associates, and more. Membership is voluntary and is not required to obtain Responsible Wood certification, but does pose a number of benefits, Mr. Dorries explains. “Our support for members is cradle to grave and fees are based on the size of the member’s organisation; it’s equity based. We are ensuring fibre from forests is maintained through the supply chain all that way to their end use, and beyond. We recognise and give credit to those who recycle waste wood and forest products; we work in a carbon positive industry with a circular economy, and we will continue to work with our members to keep it that way. Our members receive support through resources, networking and communications events, and recognition through our logo, which is very powerful.”
The four-person team at Responsible Wood communicates with their members via news releases, newsletters, quarterly bulletins, and regular social media updates. The association also attends trade shows and exhibitions throughout the year, providing keynote speakers for various events. Certificate holders have the chance to meet with Responsible Wood representatives face to face, and share their stories for publishing through the quarterly magazine. Responsible Wood is also a sponsor for Australian Certified Timber category of the Australian Design Awards, and is part of government advisory panels for the Australian timber sector.
In the future, Responsible Wood hopes to further increase certification in the industry to reach 100%. Another major project in the works is expansion; the association is working towards broadening their scope to cover a wider range of the Oceania region, in particular the Pacific Islands. Mr. Ross shares, “It’s very important to us that we can support areas in the Pacific that have a history of bad forest management. We see certification, independent verification, and regular auditing as a great tool to improve the health of forests in those areas, and we hope that their governments will set a policy environment that encourages more planting and the expansion of current plantations.”
As the representative for the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification for Australia and New Zealand, Responsible Wood has a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Mr. Dorries and Mr. Ross share it is a responsibility that has been undertaken, and will continue to be undertaken, with great care as the wood and forest industry continues to develop around the globe.
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AT A GLANCE
What: Organisation representing the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification for Australia and New Zealand
Where: Responsible Wood is headquartered in Brisbane, Australia
Website: PEFC Australia: https://www.pefcaustralia.org.au/