Sustainable forestry and the fight against climate change

Sustainable forestry helps in the fight against climate change. Image credit: CHEP and the Bramble Group.

21 March 2021 – Sustainable forestry is non-negotiable in the international fight against climate change. Today is International Day of Forests. In a changing world, standards to ensure that forestry and other timber activities genuinely preserve biological diversity and benefits local communities, are more important than ever.

In South Africa, the Forestry Stewardship Council’s (FSC) forest management certification guarantees that a forest is managed to preserve biological diversity and benefit local people and workers, while ensuring it stays economically viable. Forests are required to adhere to 10 FSC principles, incorporating everything from management planning to environmental values and indigenous people’s rights.

“Timber has countless benefits as a raw material: it is renewable, reusable, recyclable, biodegradable and it captures carbon – but only if it comes from sustainable sources,” says Jed Krige, Forestry Senior Director at logistics company CHEP. “This is why we ensure 100% of the timber we use comes from sustainable timber farms, through FSC or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

“Global maintenance of both natural and man-made forests, and the related carbon sequestration that takes place, are an essential and major ally in our struggle against the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change. In support of this thinking, and as part of a number of 2025 Global Sustainability Targets, Brambles and CHEP, have committed to a Forest Positive goal, which incorporates growing two trees for every tree used in the business. We call it “one for our pallet, and one for our planet”. Global company Brambles specialises in the pooling of unit-load equipment and associated services, focusing on the outsourced management of pallets, crates, and containers. CHEP is part of the Brambles Group.

Increasing global forest cover will help Brambles and CHEP achieve their 2025 sustainability targets and its regenerative ambition, because sustainably managed forests:

  • Absorb carbon and produce oxygen.
  • Mitigate the impact of severe weather events, reducing wind speed and preventing soil erosion, helping to reduce climate-change related risks.
  • Contribute significantly to the maintenance of broad biodiversity in areas where they filter and hold moisture, providing base inflows for wetlands and waterways.
  • Offer jobs and sustainable livelihoods.
  • Can increase productivity of farmland through agroforestry.
  • Improve our mental and physical health by lowering heart rates, reducing stress and boosting our immune systems.

According to Krige, most of the CHEP forests now carry the FSC accreditation, with the latest new forest acquisitions currently being upgraded in compliance with the international FSC standards.

Last week CHEP, expanded its forestry portfolio in South Africa to 18 pine timber farms, effectively doubling its interests in timber plantations in South Africa.

Krige says this is another step towards building an independent, sustainable, and regenerative supply chain. “We are getting to a point where we will be putting more timber resources into the world than we take out,” says Krige.

The CHEP forestry holdings now cover an area of more than 7500ha of standing pine plantations. CHEP Forestry Manager Gordon McKenzie has won the SAPPI Forester of the Year Award several times and leads a team of six qualified foresters with a combined experience of more than 120 years. CHEP’s unique pooling system epitomises the circular economy, with CHEP pallets being shared and reused (not sold) by clients in FMCG, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and agricultural supply chains.

Today, CHEP’s pine pallet underpins many of the world’s supply chains. Third-party Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) has shown that CHEP pallets use 3,5 times less wood, generate 2,5 times less waste, and emit 2,3 times less CO2, compared with the main market alternative.

“The timber backward integration strategy in South Africa was initiated in 2006. It was as a result of ongoing shortages of industrial grade timber to be used in the local pallet market. The strategy was to secure standing sustainable timber plantations for supply to sawmills. The sawmills would then produce pallet repair timber to the exact CHEP dimensions, maximising timber yield. We are now in a position, with our plantations, to supply our own sawmill (on 22-year rotation) for up to 60% of CHEP’s current annual requirements”, says Krige.

Ownership of its own sustainable pine timber plantations has therefore mitigated against market shortages and largely mitigated against the risk of non-supply or inconsistent supply of locally provided timber. It has also removed the need to import timber, which is time-consuming, expensive, and environmentally unsustainable.

Another noteworthy contribution from CHEP owned plantations is the effect it has on surrounding communities. Employment opportunities are created for the locals on the CHEP farms as well as the opportunity to harvest reeds on the farms for the manufacture of reed mats. Alien timber is also supplied to the surrounding communities to be used as firewood.

“Ultimately, we want to restore, replenish and create more value for society and the environment than the business takes out,” says Krige. “As a pioneer in the circular economy, and with the support of our stakeholders, we are well positioned to succeed.”

CHEP pallets, crates and containers form the invisible backbone of the global supply chain and the world’s biggest brands trust CHEP to help them transport their goods more efficiently, sustainably, and safely. CHEP created one of the world’s most sustainable logistics businesses through the share and reuse of its platforms under a model known as ‘pooling’. CHEP primarily serves the fast-moving consumer goods ( dry food, grocery, and health and personal care), fresh produce, beverage, retail and general manufacturing industries. CHEP employs about 11 000 people and believes in the power of collective intelligence through diversity, inclusion, and teamwork. CHEP owns approximately 330 million pallets, crates and containers through a network of more than 750 service centres, supporting more than 500 000 customer touch-points for global brands such as Procter & Gamble, Sysco and Nestlé. CHEP is part of the Brambles Group and operates in approximately 60 countries with its largest operations in North America and Western Europe.

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