Dr. Michael Berger, the CEO and Secretary General of PEFC International, recently visited Australia and New Zealand to engage with industry partners, stakeholders, and certified organizations. This marked Dr. Berger’s first visit to the region since being appointed to his role in June 2022, and it was a timely opportunity to discuss key issues related to environmental sustainability and forest certification that are not only relevant to Australia and New Zealand but also have global significance.
During his visit, Dr. Berger presented at events, held meetings with politicians, industry associations, manufacturers, major retailers, and the Green Building Council of Australia, and conducted workshops for forestry and chain of custody certificate holders and other interested parties.
One of the key takeaways from his visit was the challenge of meeting the escalating demand for certified timber, as global demand for timber is expected to quadruple by 2050. Dr. Berger also shared insights on the technical role that forest certification plays in contributing to sustainable forest management worldwide, and discussed the benefits of PEFC certification, as well as the challenges of implementing sustainable forest management standards in Africa and parts of southeast Asia.
Notably, Dr. Berger highlighted that forest certification is a crucial technical tool in preventing forest conversion and deforestation for timber production. However, there are global issues of conversion and deforestation that occur outside of forests managed for commercial production, such as clearing for agriculture or urban expansion. This raises the question of what role certification can play in addressing these global challenges.
PEFC International continues to focus on innovation in setting global benchmark standards and has been supporting national systems and working in areas such as environmental social governance (ESG), ecosystem services, and carbon. The sustainability of products and business practices is becoming increasingly important globally, with consumers, retailers, investors, and governments paying more attention to and specifying certification like never before.
During his visit, Dr. Berger also discussed controversial wood supply chains and the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the supply of certified material. With no end in sight to this conflict, it presents additional challenges to the surging demand for wood products.
It is evident that the needs and concerns of stakeholders around the world are increasing, creating an opportunity for PEFC International and national government bodies to revise and modify processes and standards to meet changing community expectations. Risk management and credibility are key to the standard setting and endorsement process, and the bottom-up approach to standards development is crucial in developing national standards that reflect local operating conditions and balance the needs and expectations of various stakeholders.
As the demand for certified timber continues to rise and global sustainability becomes a more pressing issue, the visit of Dr. Michael Berger to Australia and New Zealand serves as a reminder of the importance of forest certification in contributing to mitigating the effects of climate change through sustainable forest management and addressing environmental challenges on a global scale.