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A cut above: building the market for fair trade timber

Duncan Macqueen

Briefing, 2 pages

Unlike coffee and cotton, timber has yet to become a fair trade commodity. But now its time has come. Rights over forest resources are increasingly ceded to small-scale community forest enterprises (CFEs), as large-scale industrial logging is now largely discredited in the sustainable development context. The fair trade emphasis on just pricing for poorer producers is exactly what CFEs need as incentive to invest in sustainable forest management — and secure environmental and poverty reduction benefits at one stroke.
With fair trade timber, CFEs could boost their entrepreneurial capacity using democratic business models with in-built social and
environmental responsibility. The Fair Trade Labelling Organizations International and Forest Stewardship Council are exploring the ways and means through a new partnership, but more
is needed. Consumers must be made aware of why paying higher prices is key to creating CFE incentives for sustainable forest management
and poverty reduction. Time and money are needed for consumer education and installing fair trade timber in producer country forest policies, market segregation and procurement policies at all levels.

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Fair trade has done much to help community enterprises – but mainly in agriculture, not forestry. It is now time to examine the demand and potential of a mechanism, such as fair trade, that can both empower and distinguish community forest products in the market place – opening up new market niches through which ethical consumers can channel their purchasing power.

More at www.iied.org:
Exploring fair trade timber