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Fostering Responsible Sourcing Through The Borneo Initiative
IWPA remains committed to building demand in North America for responsibly sourced wood products from around the world. This mission helps to maintain the health of global forests by sending clear market signals about their worth as forests and helping to prevent clearing for conversion to agriculture or other uses.
IWPA Associate Member The Borneo Initiative (TBI) shares this dedication to responsible sourcing, and works to promote the use of sustainable wood products from Indonesian producers and assists producers as they work towards Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
In March 2014, Alex Gama joined TBI as their Market Links Coordinator for North America. Gama is responsible for linking Indonesian concessions/industries to U.S. importers by promoting Indonesian timber products such as plywood, veneers, decking, TG4 flooring and truck flooring. Gama has spent nearly three decades in the wood products industry, starting with sourcing, grading and supply management in his native Brazil and continuing throughout South America, Europe and Asia.
Q: Please describe how and why The Borneo Initiative was created.
A: In 2005 the Building and Borneo Campaign was implemented by the World Wildlife Fund, FSC Netherlands, Dutch housing associations and local authorities. The goal was to introduce a new chain-oriented approach to protect forests on the island of Borneo. The Building and Borneo Campaign was a major success: 46 Dutch housing corporations signed partnership agreements stating their commitment to use FSC timber in their new building and renovation activities in the coming five years.
Together they planned to build 120,000 new homes with FSC timber. In 2007 and 2008 the allied groups continued and intensified the campaign to use FSC timber from Borneo in the Dutch housing sector by talking to the next partner in the chain: project developers. These stakeholders showed serious interest in developing and investing in a fund for the certification of concessions in Borneo. The housing corporations and housing project developers wanted to be assured of a sufficient supply of sustainably produced tropical timber into the future. The Borneo Initiative was established in 2008 to facilitate this process of certification of sustainable forest management and increase the supply of FSC timber.
Q: How do you measure success in The Borneo Initiative’s stated mission?
A: Before The Borneo Initiative came into operation, there were twelve FSC certificates in Indonesia (of which one was a controlled wood certificate), covering 1.2 million hectares (ha). The Borneo Initiative’s pledge is to add another 4 million ha FSC certified area. Today, we have added 14 full FSC and 2 controlled wood certificates (together 1.36 million ha – all natural forest) while another 21 forest concessions with 2.07 million ha are still in progress towards FSC certification. Out of a total area of 1.9 million ha FSC certified natural forest in Indonesia, 67% has been facilitated by TBI.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of the North American wood products market to the success of The Borneo Initiative?
A: The continuously growing FSC certification process in Indonesia supported by The Borneo Initiative, now responsible for 4.3 million FSC certified hectares aiming to achieve 8 million hectares by 2018, naturally demands growth in market shares. With the European wood products market in retraction and having the North American wood products market in ascendance, reflected by the 2.5% average growth per year in its economy, the North American market is extremely important, and I would say a key factor to the continuous success of our organization.
Q: In addition to assisting Indonesian producers with certification, what role can The Borneo Initiative play in assisting North American importers looking to source wood products in Indonesia?
A: The Borneo initiative, through its Market Links Program, facilitates direct contact by guiding American importers to Indonesian exporters that are suitable for their company profile and products. We also work among Indonesian exporters explaining particular characteristics of the North American market such as grading and standard sizes in different wood products sectors.
Q: What are you looking forward to accomplishing during your own time leading The Borneo Initiative Market Links Program in the USA?
A: My goal is to generate awareness here in the North American wood products market about the difference between legality and sustainability and why it is so important to be sustainable. Sustainable wood products are directly related to long term business relationships between importers and exporters and enables more investment in marketing.
Another goal is to show this great market that Indonesian producers are ready to meet the needs of U.S. importers when talking about legal sourcing and product excellence. We hope furthermore that North-American companies will follow the example from the Dutch wood and construction sector and will also contribute to our forest certification fund.
Q: Are there lessons you have learned in The Borneo Initiative that you believe are important to the global dialogue about strengthening the health of global forests?
A: Yes, the major lesson is that strengthening the health of global forests is the only way to assure the future of the wood products business. I’ve always believed that we cannot discuss environment issues without taking the economical social impact in consideration, especially in areas below the poverty level and that depend on this business.
Therefore, well managed healthier global forests are directly related to a healthier planet and also to healthier people. The private sector can play a positive role here by creating a market for sustainably produced wood products, and so become a positive actor for the conservation of our natural resources.