Sustainable forestry in practice

Sustainable forestry in practice – 

In Conversation with Muhtar Suhaili 

ARTICLE · Timber Trade Federation and Malaysian Timber Council  · 20 April 2021

Promoting through FLEGT activities that timber trading through sustainable forest management practices is one of the best ways to keep forests standing, TTF members led the way in the sustainable example. FLEGT Communications Executive, Lucy Bedry showcases this through an interview with the Malaysian Timber Council CEO Muhtar Suhaili.

The UK is one of the largest importers of timber in the world and Timber Trade Federation members account for around 85 per cent of this £10 billion UK Timber Industry. Supporting and promoting members’ interests, the TTF work to maintain and enhance timber’s sustainable reputation on a national, European and international level.

Evidence proves that timber trading through sustainable forest management practices is one of the best ways to keep trees and habitats standing, while also providing a viable income for local communities.

Through the TTF’s strict Code of Conduct, Responsible Purchasing Policy due diligence system and ongoing support to the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan – the TTF is well placed to influence the uptake of global sustainable forest management practices.

The recent collaboration event series Conversations about Climate Change encourages important climate discussions around areas of forestry, sustainable development and material provenance. Sustainable forest management is a theme explored directly through Tom Wilson’s Forest Dwellers installation and subliminally through all six designs. After all, timber production relies on trees to be standing for a continuation of the trade.

We believe that collaborations are important for industries and societies due to the interconnectivity and globalisation of the world. This is why we are proud to work closely with TTF members and drive, where possible, sustainable global agendas forward. Conversations about Climate Change was no exception. Working with TTF members, ensuring responsible sourcing and due diligence requirements, tropical hardwood timber was sourced for fabrication for the six conversationalists.

The Malaysian Timber Council

The Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) assisted with the sustainable sourcing for Conversations about Climate Change (Tree Whisperers project). Their ethos reflects a strong understanding of sustainable forest management, tropical timber and driving the sustainable timber industry forward.

Muhtar Suhaili is the CEO that the MTC, whose effective leadership and emotional intelligence styles reflecting his transformative business styles.

“There is no magic formula. I just place the well-being of my staff and those I am in contact with at the heart of everything I do”, said Muhtar. Behind this gentleness, lies a steely character determined to persevere and lead the MTC and industry out of the coronavirus pandemic and towards positivity.

The timber industry is Malaysia’s third-largest contributor in the commodities sector after palm oil and rubber. “People are still under the impression that it is bad to cut down trees…which is not true”, said Muhtar. “We need to keep our business going and how are we to do this if the industry is not sustainable. Imagine, if we were to cut everything down, where are we to go for raw materials? And Malaysian timber trees take anything between 40 and 60 years to mature…that is a lifetime.

Sustainable forest management has been utilised since 1901, Muhtar explained which “which stipulates that only certain trees can be harvested, leaving behind the mother trees, and giving room for the younger trees to mature”.

Malaysian timber products are held in high regard in countries including the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia for their strict certification standards and stringent production requirements. The Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) is certified through the MTC – the first tropical timber certification scheme endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), Muhtar explains.  Sustainable forest management ensures entire supply chain traceability, and the MTCS “tracks the entire journey of a product which begins at the log harvesting stage”, he said.

As of November 2020, 5.27 million hectares of forests have been certified under MTCS, twenty-two FMUs and eight forest plantation management units, while there is 389 Chain of Custody (CoC) holders nationwide.

“How can Malaysia continue to be a leading supplier of timber-based products worldwide if it not up to the mark? Sustainability has always been a key factor in our industry”.

“Since the ‘gestation period’ of Malaysian timbers are long, and in keeping with our pledge under the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 of having at least 50% of our land under forest cover, Malaysia has steadily reduced its annual coupe which makes the augmentation of raw material a necessity”.

Becoming the lead organisation to develop the Malaysian timber industry for the MTC involves: cultivating market access, enhancing the process of automation, uplifting the sources for raw materials, supporting business succession programmes, championing design and branding, spurring green initiatives and strengthening relationships with stakeholders are the key areas of importance for the MTC.

The Malaysian Timber Council are an incredible entity rightly concerned about the environment, and their place in the sustainability discussion. Find out more about their goals here, their involvement with Conversations about Climate Change here and engage with us on #ClimateConversations.