Almost half of the Earth's original forest cover has been converted to other land uses (Bryant et al., 1997). Although estimated rates of net loss seem to indicate a slowdown, the total forest area continues to decrease; today forests extend over an estimated 30% of the total land area (FAO, 2006).
Interest in procurement of wood and paper-based goods produced in a sustainable manner is growing. Concerned consumers, retailers, investors, communities, governments, and other groups increasingly want to know that in buying and consuming these products they are making positive social and environmental contributions.
In what is often described as "sustainable procurement", organizations are looking beyond price, quality, availability and functionality to consider other factors in their procurement decisions including environmental (the effects that the products and/or services have on the environment) and social aspects (labor conditions, indigenous peoples' and workers' rights, etc.) (Environmentally and Socially Responsible Procurement Working Group, 2007).
Sustainable procurement can help maintain a company's social license to operate (Kemp, 2001). It can help reduce reputation risks and, ultimately, help secure sustainable supplies (Kennard, 2006). Sustainable procurement can also be used to align companies with their stakeholders' values and make organizations along the supply chain (from forest owners and producers to retailers) more resilient to changing business conditions.
The growing demand for sustainably produced wood and paper-based goods can lead to improved forest management. Sustainably managed forests are a renewable source of raw materials; these forests also provide services such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and sometimes recreation opportunities.
Sustainably produced wood and paper-based goods can be a wise choice compared to other materials, because:
- They come from a renewable resource - trees, the product of sunlight, soil nutrients and water.
- They capture carbon - through photosynthesis, most trees take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and replace it with oxygen, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. In sustainably managed forests, the carbon released through harvesting is offset by that which is taken up through regeneration and regrowth, making these forests carbon neutral.
- They store carbon over the long term - solid wood and paper-based products can effectively store carbon for decades or even centuries.
- They are recyclable - they can be reused, or converted into other products, extending their useful life and adding to the available resource pool of wood fiber.