Why timber certification matters

By Danielle Sendou Ringgit


THE NEXT TIME YOU GO to your favourite bookstore to buy a book, you might want to look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo or any other logos that show the product is produced from a responsibly managed forest.

FSC is an international non-profit, multi stakeholder organisation established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests.

Just like ‘Halal’ certification for food, or ‘SIRIM’ certificates for electrical goods, FSC certification lets you know whether your furniture, paper or even cotton clothes are from sustainably produced resources.


Sapuan (far left) and Dr. Sundari (picture source from WWF-Malaysia)

Sapuan (far left) and Dr. Sundari (picture source from WWF-Malaysia)


“All are recorded at each stage leaving the forest, going into the mill, coming from the mill, sent to the operator, and then supplied to someone else. So, each of these different stages of the supply chain is documented and you can verify this.

“Certification enables the social equity, the efficiency of the resources from where it is extracted and is done in a proper responsible manner,” said Director of Conservation WWF-Malaysia Dr. Sundari Ramakrishna at the recent Market Requirements for Timber and Timber Products Legality Affecting Sarawak Workshop.

Held from July 23rd till 24th, it was jointly organised by Forest Department of Sarawak, Nature Ecology and People Consult (NEPCon) Malaysia and WWF-Malaysia.

The workshop, attended by 50 people comprising policy makers, top management and key staff responsible for certification processes from timber companies, NGOs and Forest Department Sarawak focused on giving participants an understanding on the market trends, market requirements and timber legality and were informed on what a company needs to do in order to obtain forest management certification.

Since the state government first announced that concession areas within the Heart of Borneo (HoB) had to obtain Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) certification by 2017, Zedtee Sdn Bhd which belongs to Shin Yang Group has been the first in Sarawak to be certified, while the other ‘Big Six” timber corporations in Sarawak have requested certification from the Forest Department.

“Our CM agrees that most areas must be certified especially those in HoB, which is our water tower that supplies water to all the band rivers in Sarawak. This is to ensure we can have clean water supply,” said Director of Forest Department Sarawak Sapuan Ahmad who was present for the officiating of the workshop.

While certification is important for timber companies to be in line with the state government’s initiative towards sustainable forest management, how does certification affect normal people such as consumers and the indigenous people living within the forest?

According to WWF-Malaysia head of conservation for Sarawak Dr. Henry Chan, through certification, there are principles and conditions that the companies need to follow which include high conservation value and the rights of the local community living within that area.


WWF Manager, Community Engagement and Education, Cynthia Chin (left) and Dr. Henry

WWF Manager, Community Engagement and Education, Cynthia Chin (left) and Dr. Henry


“There are things that should be looked into. So first you need to assess whether there are people living there, who are these people, what kind of life do they live, how dependent are they on forest resources, are they hunters and so on,” said Dr. Henry.

“After going through the assessment, you have a system to engage them in discussion,’ he added.

“An example would be, let’s say Penan living there. You do assessment, what kind of Penan livelihood are there. So there, you find out the list of things the Penans need such as rattan and sago. You find out where they are and work with the community, how can we manage resources for you, how do we protect the resources,” explained Dr. Henry.

By obtaining certification, important attributes such as High Conservation Value Areas, right of indigenous people and wildlife will be addressed and taken care of.

“Globally, there have been constant pressure from the market to ensure that timber that enters into the supply chain which ends up in consumers’ homes, are produced in a sustainable manner and legally sourced,” said Dr. Sundari.

For certification, Dr. Sundari explained that the community, the social angle, and land right were all taken into consideration, and looked at.

“So, all these concerns are taken in when doing certification and you see, when you buy a product, you know exactly which forest it came from, you can trace it to a legal source, the traceability is there,” she said.

For normal consumers, it is important to make sure what we use and buy are from sustainably produce resources as if there is such a demand for certified products, so we can be sure that the products we use and purchase will not cause any effect on the environment, the people and species.


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