Not only do forests provide the timber for buildings, the fibre used in fashion, and all paper and packaging needs, but healthy and resilient forests also reduce bushfire risk, improve soil and air quality and even protect water streams.
These added benefits amount to what scientists call ecosystem services.
Interest in ecosystem services is surging, with the Biden Administration announcing that ‘accounting for ecosystem services’ will be considered in all US Government cost-benefit decisions.
Almost half the world’s economic activity is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services.
In Australia, $896 Billion – or just under half of its total GDP – depends on ecosystem services.
That, for example, includes Australia’s $24 Billion timber framing industry, which is behind 80% of the country’s 200,000 plus houses under construction every year.
However, Australian businesses and financial institutions have failed to track how activities impact nature.
According to Madeline Combie, Megan Evans, and Nathaniel Pelle, this is a significant risk for investments and superannuation funds, with institutions exposed to hidden financial troubles because of nature loss.
Now, for the first time, Responsible Wood will allow ecosystem service certification under the joint Australian and New Zealand Standard for Sustainable Forest Management (AS/NZS 4708).
Announced Thursday, Responsible Wood certification holders can now claim “the full range of values and benefits which forests provide to society, not just responsibly sourced forest products.”
Responsible Wood spoke to the publisher of Wood Central and provided several examples of potential ecosystem services, which included:
- Biodiversity conservation (including migration and pollination)
- Carbon storage and sequestration
- Soil and nutrient conservation
- Water filtration and conservation and
- Recreational services (walking, camping, horse riding)
“However, the list is not exclusive.”
The joint Australian and New Zealand Standard, published in September 2021, “supports the responsible management of ecosystem services and allows for the verification, quantification and certification of such services.”
“The standard was developed as a management system standard for forest ecosystems as a whole and intended to allow the certification of the full range of values and benefits which forests provide to society, not just responsibly sourced forest products,” Responsible Wood said.
Responsible Wood has provided certificate holders and stakeholders with a guidance note that provides clarification to support certificate holders in claiming forest ecosystem services.
Significantly, “the Responsible Wood logo may be used in conjunction with ecosystem services claims.”
The push by Responsible Wood into ecosystem services is the latest push by the forest products industry in environmental, social and governance considerations (ESG).
In June, Wood Central reported that the Australian Government plans to implement mandatory climate-related financial disclosure requirements for companies and financial institutions.
In May 2023, Wood Cental’s publisher, Jason Ross, attended the Responsible Investment Australia 2023 conference, the main event for sustainable business and responsible investment in the southern hemisphere.
In a report published in Wood Central, the publisher noted that the ESG community largely misunderstood sustainable forestry and its benefits for carbon.
“This shows the need for the industry to communicate its role in the sustainability transition more effectively.”
“The industry needs to articulate better the benefits of carbon sequestration and the production of carbon-dense products.”
The push into ecosystem services is a push in the right direction.