Potomac Forum Examines Initiatives to Combat Illegal Logging

Nadine Block, Senior Director, Government Outreach

SFI sponsored the Fourth Potomac Forum on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade in Washington last week so stakeholders from around the world could talk about what is being done – and what more should be done – to combat illegal logging.

Hosted by Forest Trends, the Forum brought together more than 100 representatives from U.S. and foreign governments, NGOs, forest products manufacturers and buyers to share experiences and learn from one other. In addition to SFI Inc., the sponsors were the World Bank, PROFOR, USAID, the U.S. Forest Service and Forest Legality Alliance. SFI Inc., along with Forest Trends and the World Bank, issued a news release at the close of the one-day forum highlighting the successful outcomes.

We heard how markets are demanding and rewarding transparency and legality, gathered insights from U.S. government representatives tasked with implementing the amended Lacy Act, and learned about the new EU Timber Regulation and developing actions in Asia. I came away with a better understanding of the complexity of the issue – even organizations investing a lot of effort struggle to track down all the information they need to guarantee the legality of products. And participants gained appreciation for the role forest certification can play. One speaker closed his presentation on the new EU Timber Regulation with a slide that said: “When in doubt, ask for FSC/PEFC/SFI”.

Forest certification doesn’t replace the need to submit appropriate import declaration information, but it does show a company has taken proactive steps to keep illegal wood or plant material out of its supply chain. SFI standard requirements stipulate that program participants must comply with all appropriate laws in North America, and when they are buying products from offshore they must avoid controversial sources of supply such as illegal logging. As part of a panel on certification, I had an opportunity to talk about steps SFI takes to address the problem and the challenge we face since just 10 percent of the world’s forests are certified.

SFI Inc. sponsored the forum through our Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program, which is fostering partnerships to improve forest management in the United States and Canada, and responsible procurement globally. The Potomac Forum is just one of the many activities the SFI program is involved in as part of its efforts to thwart illegal logging. Through our conservation grant program, we are supporting the World Resources Institute (WRI) in their creation of an open access, map-based, global information hub so users can conduct due diligence on forest trade. We recently authored an article on How Certification Addresses Illegal Logging in the UK’s Timber in Construction magazine. And on June 14 we will co-host a public webinar with WRI on illegal logging.

Many others came away with positive impressions about the Potomac Forum and the critical need to work together to address this important global issue. We invite you to watch these videos featuring Michael Jenkins from Forest Trends, Joe Lawson from MWV, and James Griffiths from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development sharing their thoughts about the event:


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