The real heroes are those who buy hardwood from smallholders in the global South! The concept Fair Wood gives forest communities and Indigenous groups the opportunity to sell timber on the global market and receive fair pay, while FSC certification ensures that their forests are managed in a responsible manner.
We met up with Aaron Kaplan, one of the founders of the Fair Wood project, at United Spaces’ new Fair Wood bar in Stockholm. Fair Wood is a FSC Swedish member initiative seeking to bring market access to forest smallholders in the global South, while contributing to responsible forest management in areas that are threatened by deforestation.
Many of the world's forests are facing major challenges. Peoples dependent on these forests for their livelihoods are often treated unfairly, including having no secure rights to their land. Forests are being degraded as a result of this poverty and corruption. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) 13 million hectares are being deforested every year, corresponding to half of Sweden's overall forest area. Almost all of the deforestation taking place in the global South is on land that belongs to forest communities, Indigenous groups and smallholders.
Is it too late? Can we make a difference?
Fair Wood is a concept that includes many different ways of how we can make a difference. Basically it is about strengthening the local community's right to use their forests, giving them access to the global market and fair pay.
- What distinguishes Fair Wood from other wood from the global South is that the wood comes from forests that are controlled by smallholders and whose value increases both ecologically and economically due to being FSC certified, says Aaron Kaplan, CEO of Sense Group and founder of Eco Innovation Foundation. We apply the ‘Swedish model’ of commercial forestry as an incentive to plant trees and restore forests. It is perhaps something which we in Sweden see as obvious, but is not in these areas, Aaron continues.
Today extensive research gives us a clear picture of the status of our planet and forests. Deforestation is the main cause of loss of biodiversity and by itself contributes to as much climate change as the entire transport sector. But despite this collective knowledge and all the good initiatives we are not responding fast enough. Aaron says that many solutions put forward today are pseudo solutions and are just not good enough:
- We have to go from the perspective of "destroying a little less" to create markets that supports the restoration of healthy ecosystems. We have partially done this in Sweden; we have stand-ing forests and large timber volumes as a result of our market access. But we have issues here in Sweden as well, for example how we value and manage the biodiversity in Swedish forests and other ecosystem services. We need to value the forest for more than just the timber volumes that it provides.
The Fair Wood concept is also about to bringing back the value of wood as a material in the market, instead of laminate, metal, plastic, etc. and it is imperative that it is wood from respon-sible forest management practices.
How is the Fair Wood bar a part in this?
Sense Group and Eco Innovation Foundation are members of the Workspace United Spaces and have worked together with the owners in creating the bar.
- It was the owners who contacted us in the process of opening up a second floor in the Waterfront Building and were inspired to build a bar out of wood from Fair Wood. It's a refreshing step forward that the owners are eager to be a part of this and support a more sustainable and inviting working space.
Aaron says that they want to be a force in the sustainable transformation by working with Fair Wood and the bar is a great way to show what is possible.
Fair Wood is sprung out of a pilot project from 2008 that gave Chilean forest communities and Indigenous groups in the Caracautin valley forests the possibility to develop responsible forestry in the previously overexploited forests. The consultancy SSC Forestry started a sawmill which was run by local people and supported the local forest associations in order to become FSC certified.
Aaron Kaplan, CEO of Sense Group and founder of Eco Innovation Foundation. Previous founder of the business network Stockholm Cleantech Business Network and CEO of a consulting firm specializing in sales and business coaching, plus strategy director of a media and e-learning company in the crazy dotcom bubble.
Sense Group is a company focused on supporting ecosystem innovation. In recent years, they have worked to develop a platform to scale up the establishment of value chains for wood from natural forests from smallholders in the global South to reach responsible buyers in developed markets.
United Space's new Fair Wood bar is located in the Waterfront Building at Klarabergsviadukten in Stockholm.
Aaron Kaplan aaron.kaplan at sensegroup point se
+46 (0)70-406 67 20