On June 10, 2021, WWF officially announced the termination of the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) and launched a new Forests Forward program on its basis. The new WWF global platform will bring together forest business and other stakeholders around the world to make the management of the world's forest resources even more sustainable and environmentally responsible.
Forests Forward Goal
The platform will consolidate the efforts of companies, investors, and local communities to ensure that 150 million hectares of the forests around the world are managed sustainably in 2030.
About THE platform
Forests Forward will allow companies to conduct business and implement promising, innovative projects to have a positive impact on forest landscapes, and will give investors the opportunity to contribute to the global sustainable development agenda. Forests Forward focuses on working with local communities and their participation in forest management, and calls for recognition of the important role of Indigenous people and local communities in forest conservation.
Forests Forward participants commit to work and implement projects in such areas as sustainable forest management and trade, reforestation, and ecosystem restoration, protection and restoration of biodiversity, preventing the entry of illegal timber into supply chains, reliable forest certification, investment in the key landscape and other environmental projects. The progress of all participants of the initiative can be monitored on the global interactive WWF portal, which will record all important milestones of the projects’ implementation and their results.
What is the difference fr om GFTN?
The principal difference between the Forests Forward program and GFTN and all the other WWF forest business-oriented programs is the requirement to have a joint, measurable project with the participating company to improve the forest management system, conserve valuable forests, biodiversity, and ecosystem services, and support the local population that depends on the use of forest resources. Prior to this, participants were only required to comply with certain WWF requirements for participation in the relevant program and to commit to achieving certain goals, the first of which was the FSC certification. The new program does not directly require participants to be certified. The company may not be certified, but then it will have to confirm its compliance with a number of fundamental principles of the sustainable forest management. This will be easier to do with an FSC certificate available. This involves careful preparation of the project, constant monitoring of its implementation, interim assessments for adjustments, if necessary, verification of the results achieved, and, of course, communication of the results.
The subject matter of the projects is not limited and is determined by the needs of WWF national offices. In the context of Russia, these can be innovative projects for the sustainable intensification of forestry, the introduction of the landscape approach to forestry management, pilot projects for the cultivation of wood on abandoned agricultural lands, the involvement of local communities into forest management and the allocation of social valuable forests, forest-climatic projects or classic projects for the certification of forest management and the development of FSC. There may also be projects that are not directly related to forest management, for example, the development of the market for responsibly produced products, the formation of demand for responsibly produced forest products, the reuse of wood products, training of local stakeholders in quality control certification, and many others that can contribute to achieving the goal of forest conservation and improvement of forestry.
Requirements for participants
As in GFTN, forest management companies are allowed to participate in Forests Forward (the goal is to improve forest management), that process raw materials harvested in the forest, primarily wood (the task is to transform the market), as well as a new group of companies that provide investment and innovation in the forest sector, not only financial, but also tangible, and infrastructure (the task is to promote effective and sustainable forest management), as well as forest management bodies, scientific society, and other stakeholders.
After submitting an application for participation in Forests Forward, the candidate is preliminary assessed, draft proposals for cooperation are prepared, and a public statement is made by the company about its wish to join Forests Forward and its readiness to assume certain obligations.
Next, a decision is made to accept the applicant as a candidate, a basic assessment is conducted, and an agreement on a joint project is drafted.
After that, the final decision on the acceptance of the candidate to Forests Forward is made and the main stage for the implementation of the drafted project begins, which includes monitoring of its implementation, necessary adjustments, regular reporting, and performance assessment with the preparation of the final report with the results of the project.
New communication opportunities
An important feature of Forests Forward will also be the new system of communication of participation in the association and the results achieved by joint projects. The WWF global interactive portal will provide detailed information on all projects carried out around the world within the framework of Forests Forward, will display various activities implemented by the program participants in a particular landscape/region, will show how each participant is moving towards the agreed goals and objectives, and the results achieved will be recorded. The portal provides excellent maps, video and photo images with an approximation from the small-scale level to the specific site wh ere the project is being implemented, and it will provide short explanations and descriptions of the tasks, stages, and results of the projects. It will be mandatory to demonstrate the environmental impact, both on the scale of individual participation and joint actions of various stakeholders in the landscape/region.
Participants will receive a good communication tool at the international level, which will allow them to tell the public, their buyers and suppliers about their environmental projects with WWF, various stages of their implementation and results, and in general about their social and environmental responsibility.
Alexander Voropaev, Forests Forward Coordinator in Russia