Ukrainian women, who lead FSC-certified woodworking companies in areas still vulnerable to armed conflict, are calling for more EU trading partners to alleviate the country's economic crisis and promote sustainable forestry.
Women leaders of woodworking companies in Ukraine offer European market participants the opportunity to import high-quality FSC-certified material now that traditional sources from Russia and Belarus have become unavailable, reports the FSC press service.
According to World Bank forecasts, Ukraine's economy will shrink by 45% this year due to Russia's invasion and humanitarian crisis. Blocked seaports in the Black Sea have already fallen by more than 75%, shifting logistics to road traffic.
Several managers and directors of the woodworking industry in the regions of Ukraine where certification continues to share shared their views on how the FSC helps them survive as companies and how EU market players can turn difficulties into new opportunities.
"Today, FSC certification remains not just relevant, but vital for supporting Ukraine's economy, providing jobs for non-migrant and internally displaced persons. Woodworking and furniture factories have almost lost local markets. Thus, there is an urgent need to find new ones. It is obvious that European consumers are ready to buy wood and furniture only with FSC certification, "said Natalia Pokinska, Managing Director of Kronospan UA, one of the largest wood panel companies in Ukraine.
Woodworking enterprises have lost timber suppliers from areas affected by the armed conflict and faced instability in the timber market, namely lower prices and demand for some products. This means that they need to find new customers abroad to maintain the level of production and teams. The value of export contracts and furniture customers focused on the EU market has increased significantly.
"FSC certification is extremely important for all supply and export chains. This shows that we work in a disciplined manner, meet all requirements and can be reliable partners even in such a difficult time," said Irina Matsepura, Director of HCVM.
Martial law has led to staff reductions through military mobilization, as well as increased discipline and accountability of all employees and organizations. Numerous roadside checkpoints have significantly reduced the risk of illegal logging, as the already difficult transportation of timber or timber products leads to their termination without proper documentation.
"In a state of war, maintaining the certified status of forestry enterprises is critical so that even with declining domestic demand, we can still sell our products abroad. We are in an area outside the military conflict and we manage to maintain high standards despite takes place in other regions of our country, "said Victoria Kuchmuk, manager of Tsunami LLC.
FSC certification plays an extremely important - and in some cases vital - role role for those companies in the Ukrainian forest sector that are considering reorienting to the EU market, which requires timber and timber products to be FSC-certified.
Establishing a trade partnership with these companies can not only help the Ukrainian economy, but also partially replace FSC-certified material from major supplier countries, such as Russia and Belarus, whose trade certificates have expired due to the FSC's decision to suspend them.
Given the remaining risks to the integrity of Ukraine's supply system, oversight bodies set the highest standards that go beyond international standards to address these risks. They are currently testing a risk-based approach to auditing FSC-certified companies.