Rainforest Alliance Announces Milestone of Certifying More Than 100 Million Acres of Forestland Worldwide to Forest Stewardship Council Standards
In the year of our 20th anniversary, the Rainforest Alliance is pleased to announce another exciting milestone: Our SmartWood program has certified more than 100 million acres (40.7 million hectares) of forestland in 58 countries to the rigorous environmental and social standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
This accomplishment reinforces the role of the Rainforest Alliance, an international non-profit conservation organization, as the world's leading FSC certifier of forestlands. It represents a nearly 50 percent increase in the area we had certified by the same time last year, from 68.1 million acres (27.5 million hectares) at the end of 2005 to 100.7 million acres (40.7 million hectares) at the end of 2006.
"We are working hard to support a global transition to more sustainable forest management for social, environmental and economic reasons," said Richard Donovan, chief of forestry at the Rainforest Alliance. "These numbers reflect the impacts we are having on a broad scale in different types of forests, from an area of tropical rainforest managed by indigenous people in Brazil to multi-million acre industrial forestry operations in the boreal forests of Canada and Russia. Ultimately, this increase in the area of certified forests means consumers will have more choices in the marketplace, in products ranging from flooring to maple syrup, that encourage ecologically and socially responsible forest management."
This leap in the number of FSC-certified acres of land also means a growing supply of wood products from responsibly managed forests is becoming available to companies and consumers. Leading retailers including ABC Carpet & Home, Lowe's, Home Depot and IKEA and paper giants like Domtar and Tembec all use wood from FSC-certified forests. Increasing consumer interest in FSC-certified products ensures that forest operations have economic incentives to manage their lands responsibly.
Nearly half of the more than 208.3 million acres (84.3 million hectares) that are certified to the FSC's global standards in 76 countries around the world were certified by SmartWood. We have certified three percent of the world's forest area that is designated primarily for production. FSC standards require compliance with laws and international treaties; the definition and establishment of rights in relation to land-use, tenure, indigenous groups and workers; biodiversity conservation; and practical use of management plans; among other things.
"Certification is not a panacea, and we have to keep improving our approaches," Donovan continued. "However, it is a functional model for practical change in a world increasingly concerned about the negative effects of globalization. And though we celebrate this achievement, we should not focus too much on only the big numbers. Each and every operation, whether small or large, makes a critical contribution."
SmartWood was founded in 1989 and helped establish the FSC in 1993. We are accredited by the FSC to conduct audits and ensure certified forest operations meet FSC standards. We certify forests of all types and sizes, from community forests to large commercial operations. These forests produce a variety of goods we use every day, including paper, lumber, furniture, flooring, musical instruments, and products like maple syrup and Brazil nuts. Our international offices and the work of our partner organizations, including the Institute for Agricultural and Forestry Management and Certification (IMAFLORA) in Brazil and Nature, Ecology and People Consult (NEPCon) in Denmark, allow us to offer certification services around the world.
Additional successes of our forestry program in 2006 include:
In collaboration with our partner organization in Brazil, IMAFLORA, we certified 3.7 million acres (1.5 million hectares) of rainforest in the central Amazon that is owned and managed by a group of Kayapó indigenous people. It is the largest area of FSC-certified tropical forest in the world and the largest FSC-certified forest owned and managed by an indigenous group in the world. The certification will allow the Kayapó to connect with new markets and sell the oil produced from the Brazil nuts they harvest as a certified sustainable product.
We launched a program called SmartStep that helps forest operations that have difficulties meeting FSC requirements by working out a step-by-step plan so they can eventually meet the standard within five years. The program is a tool to encourage challenged forest operations in the tropics and developing countries to work toward certification.
We received a $3.6 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for our work in forestry, agriculture and tourism in Nicaragua over three years. Our Training Research Extension Education Systems (TREES) program has been working with indigenous communities in Nicaragua on sustainable forest management so they can conserve biodiversity and support their communities while taking advantage of forest resources in a responsible manner.
- Our TREES program also helped lay the groundwork for establishing a new non-profit industry group called the Sustainable Furniture Council, which will officially launch in 2007. The group comprises furniture manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and non-profit groups that want to promote responsibly produced furniture, raise awareness among consumers and increase demand for certified sustainable furniture.