The APEC region is experiencing greater connectivity with increased business interactions between buyers and suppliers in production and trade of timber and non-timber commodities (e.g. palm oil and rubber). Combating illegal logging and promoting sustainable forest management requires changes in policies and practices across the international forest products supply chain. Although corporations have crucial effects on responsible forest management and timber trade, financial institutions, government authorities, industry associations, as well as NGOs can also develop incentives to encourage robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) implementation on legal timber trade and sustainable forest management. Numerous policies, tools, initiatives and projects to promote and aid CSR practices have already been developed to combat illegal logging and avoid deforestation. For example, the IWAY Forestry Standard of IKEA, Australian Timber Importers Federation’s Code of Ethics, WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), and the Indonesian SVLK mandatory third-party certification approach for timber legality assurance.
This year, RAFT has provided technical support to the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Forest Authority in organizing the “Multi-stakeholder Dialogue on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Best Practices to Promote Legal Trade of Wood Products” at the 14th APEC Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade (EGILAT) meeting.
The event that has taken place on 9-10 August in Port Moresby, gathered over 70 participants, including PNG’s government officials from the APEC economies, corporate businesses, representatives from forest certification schemes and certification bodies, NGOs and other stakeholders interested in sharing their experiences and further enhancing their capacities to develop and apply strong CSR practices in their economies to promote legal wood trade.
“I am encouraged that the CSR dialogue is taking place here in Port Moresby, as we do have challenges that need to be better addressed moving forward in relation to Corporate Social Responsibility in the trade of legal and responsible wood products”, said Mr. Tunou Sabuin, Managing Director of the PNG Forest Authority.
RAFT also supported the organization of half a day training session that was facilitated by Richard Welford, Chairman of CSR-Asia on the theme of CSR and Best Practices in the Forestry Sector. In the Asia Pacific region, few trainings or guidance of this kind have been provided to this sector. Hence, this activity was timely and welcomed by participants.
“CSR is a big business opportunity, it is not just about businesses doing good things, but saving costs, improving efficiency, keeping talents and making profits…It is not philanthropy, it is a company’s strategic planning and risks management tool,” specified Richard Welford.
Moreover, businesses cannot address CSR by themselves. They have to reach out to multiple stakeholders, identify their needs, and then define their corporate social responsibilities. For example, talking to small land owners and receiving their consent before land is leased should be part of the CSR for a concession.
Towards the end of the Dialogue, participants agreed that achieving responsible timber trade can only be accomplished by the public and private sector joining efforts and establishing effective partnerships.
“This CSR dialogue was very important in the context of APEC EGILAT because we have been able to share and learn from each other about how the private sector and governments can better collaborate in realizing legal and responsible timber trade in the region, and how to duplicate best practices in one economy to others”, said Mr. Putera Parthama, EGILAT Chair and Director General of Watershed Management and Protected Forest of Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry. An APEC CSR Best Practice Document will also be produced as an outcome of this event and shared on APEC website.