Star industry communicator Ross Hampton, who is stepping down as CEO of the Australian Forest Products Association, will take up a new position as counsellor, international affairs, for AFPA, based in London.
The part-time role will assist Mr Hampton to contribute even more as chair of the FAO Advisory Committee on Sustainable Forest-Based Industries, which is headquartered in Rome.
Chair Diana Gibbs said the AFPA board was very aware that decisions which affected Australia’s forest industry were strongly influenced by global developments.
“In 2021, the Morrison Coalition government, for example, signed us up to the Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use,” Ms Gibbs said.
“Likewise, the Albanese government signed the Forests and Climate Leaders Partnership at COP27 in Egypt.”
She added: “What is very apparent, however, is that mere mentions of sustainable forestry need to be moved to centre stage. Growing sustainable, ‘climate-smart’ forestry is absolutely critical to achieving broader climate and deforestation goals. “This is the sort of forestry we do in Australia. This is not a discussion we can have just among ourselves in Australia.
“For this reason, we are pleased that Ross will be able to add our voice to the global conversations from his new base in London.
“Ross has overseen the growth of our association from modest beginnings to being truly the influential, pan-industry, advocacy body the founders envisaged. He has led AFPA into a deep and mutually supportive relationship with agriculture and helped place forest industries in the centre of the vital work of climate mitigation.”
Ms Gibbs said under his guidance, AFPA helped secure more than $300 million in new commitments for forest industries in the last election, including $100 million for a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation in partnership with UTAS.
Mr Hampton was applauded at the recent AFPA members’ dinner in Canberra – addressed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – for his long and outstanding service to the Australian forest and wood products industries.
As CEO for the last 10 years, Mr Hampton, 57, has provided strategic leadership to AFPA from the beginnings of the organisation. He was instrumental in helping create mutually beneficial ties between agriculture and forestry and continues to promote forestry’s capacity in the fight against climate change, enhancing the industry’s positive impact.
Andrew Leighton, FWPA CEO and former vice-chair at AFPA, remarked on Mr Hampton’s contribution to the wider industry.
“Having worked closely with Ross, his deep passion for and commitment to the forest and wood products industry is hard to miss, and his legacy will leave an indelible mark on our community,” Mr Leighton said.
“We wish him all the best on his new chapter in the UK and the next stage of his career.”
Prior to joining AFPA, Mr Hampton worked in advisory and leadership positions in the federal government and private sector. He currently sits on the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations board and will continue in the role of AFPA CEO until early next year as the world search for his successor gets under way.
Former MP and AFPA director Joel Fitzgibbon will act as interim CEO.
Ross Hampton said it had been a great honour and privilege to work with the AFPA team, its dedicated directors and the hundreds he had met in the AFPA’s member companies.
“To a woman and man, they believe passionately in the place for sustainable forest industries in the environmental, social and economic life of our nation,” he said.
“There are some 80,000 people employed across the full value chain of forest industries from the truck drivers and machine operators to the scientists in their lab coats.
“Every morning I have gone to work thinking of them and how we can better their lives and help secure their futures.”
Mr Hampton said that if the past decade had one overriding theme it had been that Australia’s national leadership, processes and systems needed to better recognise the “miracle of forestry”.
“Done sustainably, as we do in Australia – with every tree we use replanted or regrown – our nation and the world has access to the ultimate renewable and a big part of the solution to the greatest environmental challenge of our generation in climate change.”
He said his work had necessarily involved deep and ongoing connections with federal politicians and he was indebted to all of them as they listened to the AFPA’s arguments and helped co-create outcomes which were for the good of Australia.
“AFPA and the whole industry was very fortunate to secure Ross 10 years ago when AFPA was less than two years old,” chair Diana Gibbs said.
“Ross has overseen the growth of our association from modest beginnings to being truly the influential, pan-industry, advocacy body the founders envisaged.
“Ross has led AFPA into a deep and mutually supportive relationship with agriculture and helped place forest industries in the centre of the vital work of climate mitigation,” she said.
“Under his guidance, AFPA helped secure more than $300 million in new commitments for forest industries in the last election, including $100 million for a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation in partnership with UTAS.”
The writer recalls getting the first interview with Ross in Canberra in May 2013 on his appointment as new AFPA CEO.
He joined AFPA from the position as a senior manager of global networking giant Cisco Systems. He was general manager of Australian and New Zealand public sector business development for the company, a role he held for six years.
Before joining Cisco Systems, Ross was chief of staff to the federal Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Heritage. In that role he was one of the lead advisers in the Australian government’s response to climate change at United Nations meetings in New York, London, Buenos Aires and Zurich.
Ross took over the AFPA role from Dr David Pollard, the inaugural CEO appointed in July 2011 under chair Linda Sewell.
AFPA was formed in April that year through the merger of the Australian Plantation Products and Paper Industry Council (A3P) and the National Association of Forest Industries (NAFI). As a result of the merger, AFPA has become the national body representing the range of businesses which make up the forest products industry, including tree growers, wood processors and pulp and paper manufacturers.
At the time, Linda Sewell said David Pollard had done a great job bringing together NAFI and A3P as a single national association “and producing our roadmap of key issues for public policy makers and industry leaders”.
Dr Pollard arrived at AFPA after seven years heading VicForests, the commercial timber corporation of the Victorian government. Prior to working with VicForests, he held a number of senior management positions with the Victorian and federal governments in the areas of industry development, economic policy and finance. These roles included Victorian Commissioner of State Revenue and Assistant Commissioner of the Productivity Commission.