On this International Day of Forests, we at the International Wood Products Association (IWPA) recognize the vital role that the world’s forests play in promoting health and well-being around the world.
Critical to protecting the future of forests is a global understanding of the role that sustainable harvesting of globally sourced wood products play addressing challenges such as poverty eradication, environmental sustainability, and food security. A thriving market for sustainable wood and wood products incentivizes stakeholders to implement forest management practices that protect the health and vitality of global forests for their own communities and for future generations.
Forests cover more than one-third of the Earth’s land surface and are home to a beautiful variety of species. The warm, appealing aesthetic of wood can be found all around us in flooring, furniture, boats, RVs, and musical instruments. Many special use species cannot be cultivated domestically, they play a complementary role to the wood products that are produced here in the U.S. Understandably, consumers want assurances that the products they buy were sourced and produced in a legal, fair, and sustainable manner. Providing a vibrant market in North America for wood products from sustainably managed forests from around the globe incentivizes communities to maintain and sustainably manage their forests instead of clearing them for conversion to agricultural production or other non-forest uses.
Global sourcing requires a global mindset. As leaders in the international wood products industry, we take the responsibilities set forth by the Lacey Act, which makes it unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire or purchase wildlife or plants taken in violation of state, federal, tribal, or foreign law, very seriously. We have long supported eliminating illegal logging while maintaining the ability of U.S. consumers and businesses to source the highest quality wood products from around the world. Compliance with the Lacey Act and the many other regulations that apply to wood products can be a challenge for the many small, family-owned businesses that operate in a global marketplace where the supply chain is complex and every participant throughout that chain has an important role to play.
Nearly five years ago, the International Wood Products Association launched a nationwide training program for wood trade professionals to help them establish standard operating procedures to comply with the many laws that apply to wood sourcing including the Lacey Act. The course series - “Seeing the Forest and the Trees,” is designed for CEOs, CFOs, buyers, compliance staff, customs specialists, sales staff, overseas producers and exporters and was developed in partnership with the World Resources Institute utilizing U.S. Agency for International Development and DFID funding. The courses Wood Trade Compliance Training and Due Diligence Tools, Advanced Wood Trade Compliance, Audits for the Wood Trade Professional, and Key Components of Wood and Forestry Schemes provide attendees with a solid foundation of the requirements of the Lacey Act and other laws relevant to the trade in wood products and actionable strategies. We have had wood buyers from large manufacturers and retailers sit along-side small business owners as they grapple with methods of tailoring a compliance system for their own market niche and resources.
Our goal with our education program is to gather business leaders and compliance professionals together to learn from each other and to foster a culture of professionalism and expertise that will be an asset not only to individual companies, but to our industry as a whole. We see business as part of the solution and look forward to continuing to work with Congress, the Administration and non-governmental organizations to ensure that the globally sourced wood products industry has a positive role to play in the future of the world’s forests.
Cindy Squires is Executive Director for the International Wood Products Association, the leading international trade association for the North American imported wood products industry, representing 200 companies and trade associations engaged in the import of hardwoods and softwoods from sustainably managed forests. Association members consist of three key groups involved in the import process: U.S. importers and consuming industries, offshore manufacturers and the service providers that facilitate trade.
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