While EU forest owners estimate their number at 16 million, about 350.000 people are directly employed in forest management. The main income from most forest holdings depends on wood production. Primary forest-based industries (FBI) provide sawn wood, wood-based panels, pulp for paper, firewood as well as forest chips and bark for bio-energy, accounting for more than 2 million jobs, often in rural small and medium enterprises, and a €300 billion turnover.*
Wood supports a large downstream value chain including industries such as furniture, construction, printing and packaging. The forest sector provides around 8 % of the total added value from manufacturing. The economic importance of the sector in rural areas is very high as sustainably managed forests build the backbone of the provision of wood to the FBI. Forest based raw materials, goods and services can also be one of the most important bases for economic recovery and "green growth" in rural areas.
Forests also play important social and cultural functions, including through recreation, inspiration for the arts and for mythology, and through religion.
Forests as Carbon Sinks
Forests are an essential link in the global carbon cycle because of their capacity to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and to store it in their biomass and soil thus acting as a sink. Their growth counteracts rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere.
In addition to mitigating climate change, biologically diverse forests also provide important ecosystem services, protecting soils, preventing erosion, and regulating freshwater supplies.
Benefits of integrating biodiversity in business operations
Forests, and the biodiversity in them, provide businesses with numerous benefits or "ecosystem services". Failing to make the connection between biodiversity and the bottom line poses several risks:
- Operational, e.g. logging operations can be stopped if the habitat of species protected by law is disturbed
- Regulatory and legal, e.g. companies and staff members can be prosecuted if laws or regulations relating to biodiversity are broken
- Reputation, e.g. campaigns
- Product sales and marketing, e.g. the loss of the right to use eco-labels or forest certification labels such as FSC and PEFC on products if operations do not meet requirements, including for biodiversity
- Business financing, e.g. investor analyses nowadays often include biodiversity questions, the Dow Jones sustainability index questionnaire is one example, where active companies receive higher ratings.
Conversely, companies who make that link can create real business opportunities, such as market access or price premiums for products of a defined high environmental quality. This is especially true for the pulp and paper industry, the building industry and the cork industry.
Through developing forest management and wood harvesting practices, the industry has a unique possibility to make a significant positive impact on biodiversity by promoting it as part of every-day operations. There are also possibilities in forest plantations (8% of Europe's forest area) through good design (increase species and structural diversity, developing native woodland along riparian zones) and management practices (control of invasive species, protecting valuable habitats) that support the habitats of natural biodiversity.
Biodiversity is the basis for our business. The European pulp and paper industry depends on forests to deliver the raw material for pulp and paper products1. Magnus Hall, Chairman of CEPI (Confederation of European Paper Industries)
* Ref: COM (2010), Green paper on forest protection and information in Europe.