12 Chinese Forestry Companies Commit to Responsible Forest Management in Gabon

Posted on June, 22 2016

Companies made commitment at launch of the "Sustainable Forest Management Declaration."
Libreville, Gabon, June 22 – 12 Chinese forestry companies managing about 5 million hectares of forest concessions in Gabon committed to responsibly manage their operations at the launch of the "Sustainable Forest Management Declaration." The event was hosted by WWF and the Center for International Trade of Forest Products under China's State Forestry Administration (SFA) in Libreville, with the support of SFA and Gabon’s Ministry in charge of forestry.

The area these companies manage represents more than 80% of total forest concessions under Chinese operations in Gabon. The commitment follows the pledge companies made in June 2014 "to protect wildlife and improve the living conditions of forest workers."

"Gabon’s forests are rich in biodiversity and sustainable management is key to maintaining their biological diversity and ecological integrity,” said Ms. Marthe Mapangou, WWF’s Gabon Country Director. “We will continue to work with Gabon’s Ministry in charge of Forestry, and China's State Forestry Administration, as well as our WWF China colleagues to create a paragon of Chinese overseas companies taking a responsible path toward sustainable development.”

Companies participating in the initiative have jointly pledged to comply with the requirements of The Guide on Sustainable Management and Utilization of Overseas Forests by Chinese Enterprises issued by SFA and with relevant laws, regulations and international conventions. They also committed to introduce a product traceability system, eliminate and prevent the risk of illegal logging and forest degradation, jointly protect the forest ecological environment, respect local culture and customs, participate in community development, poverty alleviation, creation of educational opportunities and other public welfare and charitable activities, and practice corporate social responsibility.

“We are still faced with many challenges,” said Mr. Jin Zhonghao, Director of Market Transformation Initiative at WWF China. “In addition to cultural differences and language barriers, issues such as legally harvesting timber, deep processing and trade compliance still need be resolved between the Chinese companies and the Gabonese government. Not only do companies need to honor their commitments, but all key stakeholders have to continue to communicate effectively and act with integrity and pragmatism.”

The Declaration intends to provide strategies and pathways for the sustainable development of the local forestry sector and pushes "Chinese overseas companies to implement responsible forest management and trade in forest products."

A representative of the 12 companies, Mr. Xu Jie said: "This commitment and call for action help convey our willingness to abide by the law, ensure integrity, contribute to the well-being of local communities as well as to global sustainable development."

Ms. Zhang Yanhong, Deputy Director of the Department of Development Planning and Assets Management with SFA, said: "As a responsible developing country, China plays a pivotal role in maintaining global forest ecological integrity. We insist on resolutely combating illegal logging, promoting companies to legally and sustainably manage forests and related businesses. We are very pleased to see and are willing to continue to support the Chinese forestry companies’ commitments and actions in Gabon.”

Globally, about 30 percent of the main terrestrial ecosystem is taken up by forests. Illegal logging and other unsustainable forestry management practices cause nearly 13 million hectares of forests to disappear every year, and there are more forests at risk of degradation. Gabon, with 85% rainforest coverage, has become an important destination for Chinese investment. At present, Chinese companies have concessional rights to about 6 million hectares of timber forest, accounting for about half of Gabon's timber forest.

“Gabon is rich in forest resources. Chinese companies in Gabon have become a driving force in building the ‘Industrial Gabon’ and ‘Green Gabon,’” said Mr. Maurille Nicaise N’zao Mabika, Head of Cabinet of Gabon’s Ministry in charge of forestry.

Since 2010, WWF has been supporting SFA in implementing the Guide on Sustainable Management and Utilization of Overseas Forests by Chinese Enterprises in Gabon, jointly issued by the SFA and the Ministry of Commerce. Forestry administrations of both sides have organized several bilateral meetings and are actively negotiating a memorandum of understanding to formalize cooperation, in order to foster an investment and policy environment conducive to responsible operations, and to gradually embark on a sustainable path. According to WWF’s monitoring data, the area managed by Chinese that meet CFAD (i.e. concessions with government approved forest management plans) increased by 384%, from 818,932 hectares in 2010 to nearly 4 million hectares in 2015. Furthermore, one Chinese company has 330,000 hectares of forest in progress of being certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Representatives of the 12 Chinese forestry companies that have committed to responsible forest management in Gabon, with the General Secretary of Asian Timber Association holding the declaration.
© Wang Le / WWF-China