Environmental Guidelines

Why does the forestry industry need environmental guidelines?

All industries that use or replace natural resources will impact on the environment to some extent and the forestry industry is no different.

Forestry’s five major impacts are:

  1. Reduction of stream flow in a water course
  2. Impact on biodiversity
  3. Impact on ecosystem structure
  4. Impact on soil (soil loss and nutrient status)
  5. Impact on carbon storage

As a result the South African forestry industry is committed to ensure that:

  1. Plantation forest establishment and management takes place in the most socioeconomically and environmentally acceptable way.
  2. Natural resources are managed in a manner which will ensure the sustainability of the forestry enterprise and the biodiverse ecosystems around it.
  3. People on whom the industry depends may work in safety and live under conditions of acceptable quality. In order to do this a set of self-governing environmental guidelines have been drawn up.

Who are the environmental guidelines aimed at?

The environmental guidelines are aimed at the forestry industry as a whole, from the large corporate companies to the small-scale farmers, and have been produced to be accessible to all.

The role of the environmental guidelines

These guidelines are designed to reduce the potential negative impacts of timber plantations through the implementation of environmental best management practices and compliance with the environmental laws.

These are:

  • Mitigate the impacts on stream flow reduction, through the removal of all alien and invasive species and the withdrawal of timber plantations from within the wetland buffer zones.
  • Minimise the impacts on biodiversity, through the retention or establishment of natural vegetation corridors between the timber compartments and the management of such unplanted land for biodiversity conservation and functioning of ecosystem structures.
  • Reduce the impact on soil, particularly on recently harvested compartments and from roads, through the retention of timber residue on the harvested compartment and the proper construction and maintenance of gravel roads.

Unravelling the concepts of environmental management and forest certification

What is environmental management?

The primary objective of environmental management is to regulate the effects or impacts of our decisions, activities, products and services on the environment. These decisions and activities form part of everything we do in every aspect of our daily lives, be it the discarding of an empty bottle or the planning of a new plantation. The basic objective of environmental management is to:

  1. Be properly informed on the reaction to an action – i.e. what will happen if I harvest a tree and it falls into a watercourse?
  2. Assess what can be done (mitigatory measures) to minimise or negate the negative and enhance the positive impacts of such an action.
  3. Consider alternatives for the action or the location where the action will take place to minimise or negate the negative and enhance the positive impacts of such an action.

What are the legal requirements?

There are numerous pieces of environmental legislation that govern the forestry industry in South Africa:

  • National Forests Act 84 of 1998 – P7
  • National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998, as amended (including the EIA Regulations) – P9
  • National Water Act 36 of 1998 – P11
  • Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act – P16
  • National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 – P18
  • National Environmental Management: Waste Act – P22
  • National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act 24 of 2008 – P23
  • National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999 – P27

For more information on the legal requirements placed upon the forestry industry by each of the above acts, please refer to the environmental guidelines. The page numbers above will refer you to the correct page.

What is forest certification?

During the past few decades, governments, environmental groups, industry and the public have become increasingly aware that consumer demands and market forces have the potential to exert influence on the management and use of natural resources. As a result, there have been a number of international government initiatives and private sector efforts to promote the concept of sustainable development. Forest certification programmes are an extension of this and essentially comprise:

  1. Forest management certification:
    – Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®)
    – Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)
  2. Forest product certification:
    Although it should be noted that currently only the FSC Certification Standard is adopted in South Africa, there is a local initiative for an additional certification system (South African National Forestry Assurance Scheme).

Advantages of certification:

  • Internationally recognised and often required by end users.
  • Ensures acceptable environmental and social standards are upheld Can command an often superior price through product differentiation.
  • Promotes a green conscious market.

Disadvantages of certification:

  • Prohibitively expensive for medium and small growers.
  • Limit the management options available to growers.

Forest Management Certification

This process takes place at the level of the forest management unit (FMU) and is based on a set of forest management standards that have been developed by stakeholders and agreed by them to be acceptable and significant. Implementation of such standards should result in improved actions on the ground with measurable results over time, but initially requires:

  • Self-assessment against certification standard and the implantation of corrective actions.
  • Formal certification process, conducted by an accredited external auditor, which often entails a pre-assessment to identify deficiencies and then a main assessment evaluating all aspects of forest management practices.
  • Following certification regular surveillance visits are performed by an independent

Forest Product Certification

This process is used to identify the wood, or wood or paper product, in question as originating from a certified source the FMU. To do this a chain-of-custody assessment is carried out, which links the buyers and sellers from the forest to the point of sale and assures end-use markets that the product originates from a certified forest.

What does the environmental guidelines cover?

  1. Reducing the visual footprint of forestry
  2. Protecting conservation areas
  3. Managing the risk of fire
  4. Integrated pest management (IPM)
  5. Addressing damage-causing animals
  6. Dealing with alien and invasive species
  7. Environmental aspects of silviculture
  8. Environmental aspects of forest harvesting
  9. Environmental aspects of roads and housing
  10. Environmental aspects of non-timber forest products
  11. Coping with climate change and green house gas reporting

For more detail about all of the above, make sure you download the guidelines below.

click here to download Full version of the Environmental Guidelines – 2019 updated version

Case study compiled: 2019
Source: Forestry Explained

Corporate Social Investment (CSI) by the sector

Sustainable development

The foundation of the forestry industry

Many businesses in the forestry industry have for decades been involved in the development and wellbeing of employees, their families and communities who form an integral part of the sector. However, the achievement of democracy and the introduction of legislation like the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Act and the sector-specific Forest Sector Code introduced heightened and structured requirements for how these initiatives should take place throughout the industry.

To assess the industry’s immense contribution to corporate social investment (CSI) and other empowerment initiatives as a whole, it is best to look at the Annual Status Report on transformation, produced by the Forest Sector Charter Council, which oversees B-BBEE in the industry. This provides a reasonable representation of the overall transformation performance of more than 24,000 timber growers in South Africa. Given the sheer number of industry-driven initiatives, it is impossible in that report to provide tangible and relatable examples of socio-economic transformation.

That said, we do need some way of looking beyond the scorecard and see how these activities are making a tangible contribution to peoples’ lives. For this reason, the forestry industry was encouraged to produce this report. The report is merely a glimpse into some of the tangible benefits which citizens derive from a vibrant and committed forestry and forest products sector, active in the most rural areas where State resources are often inadequate to fully serve its citizens.

This report is not intended to be comprehensive in describing activities of all of our members – there are simply too many growers who are making similar contributions. It is also not comprehensive in describing all the empowerment initiatives, even of those growers whose contributions are showcased in this report. The report serves to highlight just a few successful and enduring initiatives, which make a sustained contribution to the lives of people who live, work or interact with the forestry industry. You as the reader are encouraged to also think about the thousands of similar examples, albeit at a smaller scale, which are taking place on timber farms throughout the country. These unsung initiatives are making equally important contributions to the wellbeing of a great number of people in our rural areas and if space permitted, we would have listed every last one of them.

Michael Peter
Executive Director, Forestry South Africa (FSA)


Transforming sustainable development visions into achievable company goals

Being an industry that works with a natural, renewable resource, the concept of sustainable development (SD) is central to almost everything we do. It has become a cornerstone of corporate policy for most forestry companies and is certainly a central feature of the certification process to which the majority of our industry subscribes.

While approaches to SD differ, the fundamental core values remain remarkably similar, with most members of FSA taking a holistic approach: Transforming company SD visions into achievable company goals. For most companies their CSI programme is a way of formalising their SD visions, encapsulating SD in a series of meaningful programmes and initiatives that promote positive change.

Across the board, eight areas dominate the CSI programmes of FSA’s members:

  1. Education
  2. Health and welfare
  3. Community engagement & upliftment
  4. Food security
  5. Enterprise & supplier development
  6. Community infrastructure
  7. The environment
  8. Recreation

Identifying CSI programmes differs across the industry, but usually involves similar steps:

  1. Identification of initiatives or individual projects that build prosperity, benefit people and protect / promote the planet.
  2. Prioritize CSI spend on initiatives / projects that are in line with business objectives and serve the surrounding communities.
  3. Initiation of CSI initiatives / projects, pro-actively manage and monitor them, before reporting back to ensure the pre-established SD outcomes are achieved.

The eight CSI pillars


As an industry, we understand the importance of nurturing tomorrow’s talent pool. This is why we invest heavily in promoting education, particularly mathematics and science skills, as well as prioritizing funding at Early Childhood Development (ECD), which has been proven to be the most effective means of building capacity in youth from our communities.

Health and welfare - NCT Forestry EDIT 2

Health and welfare

The health and welfare of communities – the home base of our workforce and plantation neighbours – is high on all FSA member agendas. HIV and Aids in particular,takes a huge toll on communities, with the negative impacts associated with the disease stretching far beyond those living with the disease to their families, neighbours and the community at large. As an industry HIV/Aids awareness programmes are at the top of the list, with many FSA members running their own programmes to help raise awareness and manage this life-altering disease.

Community engagement and upliftment - Sappi

Upliftment and engagement

The industry plays a major economic role in many rural communities, with these communities looking to FSA members for support, guidance, and engagement on abroad spectrum of projects and initiatives, that aid in the development and growth of their communities. These projects build ties between communities, the private sector and government and will ultimately build stronger communities for future generations.

Food security

Sadly, food security is still a major issue in rural South Africa with adults and children still going to bed hungry at night. Hunger negatively impacts performance both at work and at school, their quality of life and long-term health. A number of companies run a variety of initiatives that look to address food security in rural communities.

Enterprise and supplier development - Sappi

Enterprise development

The forestry industry was one of the few industries that quickly realized and embraced the mutual benefits of enterprise and supplier development and that remaining healthy in business required a deliberate investment in smaller suppliers. As early as 1983, well before the promulgation of the B-BBEE Act in 2005 which led to the development of the Forestry Sector Transformation Charter, forestry companies started assisting communities to establish their tree-farming businesses. This was mainly done to increase the timber basket feeding the processing plants. Up to today the process continues and has evolved to create all forms of enterprises ranging from silviculture, harvesting and transport contractors servicing timber growers, to enterprises that deliver numerous products and services to forestry companies and neighbouring communities.

Community infrastructure - Sappi

Community infrastructure

Forestry is associated with the maintenance of public roads, the construction, and maintenance of low profile bridges in the rural landscape, a service offered at no cost to local municipalities. The construction of educational facilities like classrooms, laboratories and libraries in the deep rural spaces and afforested areas is normally accepted as the role played by corporate forestry. However, even private timber farmers support the development of community and residential infrastructure like permanent housing and churches.

Environment - Sappi


About 30% of plantation forestry-owned land in South Africa remains permanently unplanted and well-managed for the conservation of natural ecosystems and important species. These ecosystems forming a critical network of indigenous vegetation and biodiversity areas make up slightly more than 300,000 ha of the commercial plantation forestry areas in South Africa. In addition to protecting 25% of South Africa’s remaining protected forests, the forestry industry goes an extra mile towards being environmental custodians of their own land and, in certain circumstances, that of their neighbours.

Recreation - SAFCOL


Forestry spaces provide many forms of outdoor recreation including hiking trails, mountain bike trails, camping and accommodation as well as environmental education among schools and other interest groups. The facilities and services provided are too numerous to list here but below is a small sample of some initiatives of some of the companies.

Final thought

The South African Forestry Industry has gone beyond the normal corporate social responsibility or mere philanthropy but is generating economic benefit in a way that also creates value for the society and communities neighboring its plantations and processing plants. This is achieved by addressing some of their needs and challenges. The industry has re-engineered their markets, products, and the entire value chain to benefit local economic development by creating new businesses owned and managed by locals. The mindset of Shared Value has enabled forestry companies to focus on the profits that create societal benefits whilst at the same time nurturing the environment rather than waning it

Norman Dlamini
Business Development Director, Forestry South Africa

click here: CSI part one
click here: CSI part two

Case study compiled: 2018
Source: Forestry Explained

Forestry South Africa Annual Report 2018

The excitement of the political changes we witnessed at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 were dampened a little, as the extent of the damage which had been done to society and the economy by the previous administration, was revealed daily in the media during 2018. That being said, we were relieved to see that action was finally being taken in some areas, like State-owned enterprises and the establishment of Commissions of Enquiry to hear evidence of any malfeasance by the previous administration. We hope that this momentum for cleaner administration and proper services, will continue to grow.

Our hope was further strengthened when we learnt mid-way through 2018, that FSA had managed to have engagements with the Office of the Deputy- President and subsequently with the President himself. All throughout this Report, the reader will see reference to the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI). This is a first for FSA and the entire Sector, as it is a Presidential-led initiative which has already started to bear fruit for our Industry. Through it, the Industry has made conditional investment commitments to the Presidency and the President in turn, has committed to removing all of the inhibitors which have plagued the growth and transformation of our Industry. FSA’s staff, our participating members and our partners in other Industry Associations are sincerely thanked for this major achievement, as it offers the greatest hope for our Sector since 1994.

There were a great many additional highlights for FSA and Industry in 2018, including the securing of another R11m from the DST for a continuation of the Sector Innovation Fund, the re-stated commitment from DAFF to making CASP funding available to small-scale growers, the ongoing suspension of potentially devastating water and environmental regulations, the suspension of proposed wealth and property taxes, the introduction of a more accessible and affordable timber certification scheme and some big improvements in the education, training and sector promotion arenas.

This being said, we still have to resolve many historical challenges and some new ones like the policy of expropriation without compensation, which continues to dampen business confidence. Because of the credibility and passion of FSA and its genuine commitment to making South Africa better for all who live in it, FSA’s Executive Director was invited early in the process, to be part of a select team dealing with EWC. I am sure our members will be pleased to read the sections of this Report dealing with the subject but the chapter is not yet closed on this issue. We are very fortunate to be part of an Association which represents black and white and larger and smaller timber growers. Since becoming part of FSA, I have seen for myself how hard the staff and the members of FSA work to protect the interests of all of our members. I have also seen how a State administration has been forced, nonetheless, to engage with FSA, whereas in other sectors which are not united, they can use that fact to justify their lack of responsiveness.

Enoch Maponya
Chairperson, Forestry South Africa

click here: FSA Annual Report 2018

Source: Forestry Explained