We have come a long way in 20 years, but it’s time to look to the future

Ben Gunneberg, PEFC International CEO and Secretary General, delivered his reflections at the 24th PEFC General Assembly in Würzburg, Germany.

We have come a long way in 20 years, but it’s time to look to the future

26 November 2019 Event report

“It has been an interesting journey,” the words of Ben Gunneberg, PEFC International CEO and Secretary General, as he began his reflections at the 24th PEFC General Assembly last week in Würzburg, Germany.

This year’s PEFC General Assembly, part of PEFC Forest Certification Week, marked an important stage in our story, as we celebrated 20 years of PEFC. 

“Looking back to 1999, it was a time when we had no office, no staff and no money. All we had was enthusiasm and boundless optimism for the future. Now, we are the world’s largest forest certification system, with more than 300 million hectares of PEFC-certified forest area.”

“We have some fundamental values that we shared back then and we still share today: our focus on smallholders and indigenous people, the importance of property rights and working together, of raising the profile of the whole forestry sector.”

Working together has always been core to the PEFC family. We have grown from the 12 founding members, and with the addition of Guyana and Ukraine today, we now have over 80 members around the world. 

“Our members represent millions of stakeholders worldwide, from small family forest owners and community forest owners, through to forestry and processing workers and other social organizations, as well as companies and trade associations, to name a few. This means working together has never been more important,” Ben highlighted.

The PEFC alliance following the General Assembly

“In the Congo Basin, our members for Cameroon, Congo and Gabon have joined forces in developing a regional certification system. The shared language, the same forest and similar forest legislation in the three neighbouring countries enables them to share one system. This is ground-breaking innovation, and a solution we’re looking at for other regions, such as the Balkans.”

Photo exhibition in the PEFC Lounge

“We continue to harness the PEFC alliance in order to reach out to the public. This year our photo contest was run in 13 countries, with thousands of photos submitted – some of which you can see on display here. We look forward to running it again next year, as well as some other creative campaigns, yet to be revealed!”

“While our alliance is our core strength, collaboration with other partners and stakeholders is also vital in getting our message out to a wider audience. From partnerships with the World Architecture Festival in the construction sector, to the United Nations for the world of fashion, we never stand still.”

“The world is changing rapidly, from population growth to an increasing global middle class. We are well placed to help respond to many of society’s challenges, but we must be able to adapt. We have come a long way in 20 years, but together we can make even more progress in the next 20.”

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