Twenty years ago the South African Forestry Company SOC Limited, (SAFCOL), did something ground breaking and incredibly brave. They approached the then newly formed Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) and asked to be audited.
“[At the time] we were under huge pressure about [the environmental implications of ] plantation forestry. We simply did not have much credibility and were trying to put the record straight. I had heard about FSC, that they were an independent source able to look at what we were doing and make a judgement on our environmental performance.” – Pieter Odendaal, SAFCOL’s then Divisional Director of Forestry.
The first meeting for the SAFCOL representatives was not a particularly comfortable one, with FSC who were barely a year old asking “some questions that were very uncomfortable at that time.”- Pieter. One of the biggest challenges was changing mindsets, “we had to accept that social and stakeholder issues are important”, Pieter explains, “we were now assessed not only on our operational performance, but also on social aspects.”
One of the major changes brought by the FSC evaluation was the paradigm shift, “that the environment was everywhere and not just in protected areas”, Gerrit Marais SAFCOL’s then Environmental Manager explains. Prior to this, “forestry’s approach to conservation had been to conserve protected areas and do whatever it wanted elsewhere.” As a result of FSC compliance, every aspect of forestry is now tightly monitored. This was a huge mental shift back then but now “these are things we don’t even think about today” – Gerrit.
This new way of being evaluated left many in the industry initially feeling uncomfortable, making SAFCOL one of the early FSC pioneers. Three years later SAFCOL obtained one of the earliest FSC certificates in the world for its Komatiland Forests (KLF) operations.
Fast forward 20 years and all 16 KLF business units, covering a huge 187,000ha, have maintained certification and FSC principles are incorporated into KLF’s day-to-day forestry operations. “It’s the way we do business”, explains Klaas Mokobane, SAFCOL’s acting Chief Operating Officer. As a result a third of KLF’s landholdings are classified as protected areas, including indigenous forests, grasslands, riparian zones and “areas of special interest” like caves and rock art.
click here to read more about SAFCOL’s certification journey: SAFCOL 20 years FSC certified
Case study compiled 2018
Source: Forestry Explained