The state-owned Paiyangshan Forest Farm in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region received Forest Stewardship Council certification in November 2010 because it was asked to by a timber manufacturer client, which sells into Germany. The direct and indirect costs were about 4 million yuan ($655,000).
But “there is almost no demand for certified timber in the domestic market,” manager Chen Qinglai said, with few Chinese consumers willing to pay the higher price for sustainable forestry products.
Pan Zhenyue, a senior manager at flooring company Liheng Timber Manufacturer in Guangzhou, said using certified timber adds 25 percent to product costs. The company’s percentage of certified timber fell from 26 percent in 2010 to 3 percent this year.
China is the world’s second-largest importer of industrial timber, pulp and paper, behind the US, China Daily reports.
The two countries’ approaches to forestry differ in a number of respects. The US’s Lacey Act requires companies to take prudential measures to exclude illegally cut wood from their supply chains, but China has no comparable regulations, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency.
But could foreign companies operating in China represent an opportunity for certified wood and paper products? In one high-profile example in 2012, Disney announced plans to maximize FSC-certified fiber and recycled content across its global operations. Disney is the world’s biggest publisher of children’s books and magazines, and of the 25,000 factories producing Disney products, 10,000 are in China.
Takeaway: Chinese forestry and timber companies are finding low appetite for certified sustainable products in their home market.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.