One year after the first edition of the Forum, the event gathered twenty-five forestry sector participants, including seven SPOTT-assessed companies, and industry bodies such as the Groupement de la Filière Bois au Cameroun, (GFBC) and the Interprofession de la Filière Forêt-Bois du Cameroun (IFFB). In addition, the event was attended by the Cameroon Ministry of Forests and Fauna (MINFOF), the Central African States Development Bank (BDEAC) and NGO representatives, including independent observers (IOs) to the ongoing FLEGT process in Cameroon and voluntary certification bodies.
As concerns about the climate crisis and the impact of unsustainable products continue to grow, public awareness of the need to protect forests to mitigate climate change and halt biodiversity loss has never been higher. Timber concessions often cover vast areas of natural forest in tropical countries. It is crucial that these companies adopt the most rigorous standards of sustainable practice in order to minimise forest degradation and potential negative impacts on people and wildlife.
ZSL’s Forestry Technical Advisor, Charlie Hammans, who led the workshop, said: ‘The Cameroonian Forestry sector still lacks transparency and a clear commitment to sustainable practice. Many of the companies assessed by SPOTT in the country already have internal policies that cover ESG issues but still score less than 20% in SPOTT assessments. It is crucial that companies publish their existing policies and start to put them into practice at a crucial time for our climate and biodiversity.’
The Congo Basin houses the second largest tropical forest on earth, and covers Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Gabon. It plays a critical role in carbon storage, the provision of ecosystem services and regulating weather patterns, as well as providing homes and livelihoods to a large number of indigenous peoples and local communities.
The global importance of the forests of the Congo Basin and their sustainable management was at the heart of the Forum’s opening speech, given by M. Marcel Ondele, Vice President of the BDEAC.
Marcel Ondele, Vice-President of BDEAC.
The bank’s expectations for the sector – aligned with its sustainability strategy – were also highlighted to the attendees for the Forum.
Building on the previous year’s Forums and their focus on the benefits of transparency, this year the Forum’s objective was to support Cameroonian forest sector companies in meeting increased expectations in relation to sustainability through their disclosures.
Presentations from ZSL and participant organisations throughout the day aimed to:
- Raise awareness of increased scrutiny with regards to legality and sustainability in various markets, especially in China and Vietnam
- Provide evidence to Cameroonian companies that pursuing sustainable practice can reap considerable financial benefits, such as efficiencies gained through reduced impact logging, staff performance and access to more stringent markets such as Europe and the US
- Outline expectations related to Environmental, Social and Governance issues in the context of access to finance for forest sector companies
- Foster good practice for the design and disclosure of robust policies, and highlight the synergies between SPOTT and the Open Timber Portal platform developed by World Resources Institute on legality assurance
As participants raised the need for continued dialogue at the end of the proceedings, ZSL will continue to engage with forestry sector stakeholders through dialogue with the in-country ZSL Responsible Sourcing Specialist, Armstrong Mba. As all SPOTT assessments from 2020 onwards focus increasingly on how company’s policies are put into practice on the ground, ZSL increasingly aims to provide technical assistance and training for companies to implement their ESG policies within their concessions and beyond
A workshop report summarising presentations and capturing discussions between Forum participants will soon be made available on the SPOTT website.