More use of wood = increased climate protection: The wood value chain appeals for understanding

Wood products without cutting trees. That, in a nutshell, is the social attitude that threatens the expansion of green jobs in Europe and the secure supply of raw materials to feed the trend toward wood (construction) – one that is relevant to the achievement of climate goals. At the latest Pfeifer Talk, experts discussed the importance of active, sustainable forest management and climatic, economic and social developments that affect forests.

Timber fans face an ecological conflict

Timber buildings, furniture, biofuels & co. are on trend. The number and variety of green jobs along the entire wood value chain are growing. At the same time, the size of forested land is also increasing. In Austria, it’s currently 4 million hectares, 160 million throughout the EU. Despite extreme weather and bark beetles, more wood is growing back than is harvested. A fact that should make everyone feel confident when it comes to expanding the use of wood in the context of the climate turnaround. But there is one problem: Active forest management – the base for all downstream industries and companies – faces scepticism and even rejection across wide sections of the population. Contrary to its downstream products, timber harvesting has an image problem.

Due to the climate, the classic forest composition is changing towards mixed forest and more drought-resistant conifers.

Modern urban development projects are already relying on the many benefits of timber construction. The availability of this raw material will significantly affect this trend.

Usage conflicts and large-scale shut-downs

Secondly, the 16 million families that own forests in Europe do not pursue the same interests. Forest owners from the cities, in particular, have long operated independently of log markets and prices. “Up to 50 percent of forest owners don’t even hear our call for forest management,“ Rosenstatter laments. Adding to this are other groups such as investors that sit on this “green gold“ waiting for better credit conditions and NGOs that aim for untouched forests by buying up forests. All these trends together exclude large parts of Europe's forests from utilisation – and the trend is increasing.

Good relations between forest owners, forestry and the timber industry are the prerequisite for sustainable forest management.

Rudolf Rosenstatter, Federal Chairman of the Austrian Forestry Association, Chairman of the Forestry Association of Salzburg and Chairman of proHolz Salzburg, explained why this is in his lecture at the invitation of the Pfeifer Group. “Not only the classic forests themselves, but also the forest owners and the entire society are changing,” stated the convinced advocate of the use of wood. Extensive sports and recreational activities as well as nature conservation efforts, some of which are radical, collide with harvesting activities directly on site.

Economic factor for rural areas

Committed forest owners, some of whom have managed their property responsibly and in accordance with strict forestry laws for generations, view this development just as critically as the processing companies. Convinced that wood is the only raw material that combines economy, ecology and social issues, they are jointly demanding increased forestry for better climate protection, but also more jobs in rural areas. “If ten percent of current logging is suspended, 1.75 billion Euros of added value and 15,000 jobs will be lost in Austria alone. In turn, 100 cubic metres of forest use lead to the creation of one more all-year job,” Rosenstatter does the maths. In order to (re)activate fallow forest areas, the forest associations are looking to talk with the new forest owners, provide them with service catalogues and all kinds of support. Forest conversion, which is necessary due to climate change, is also being actively pursued. In addition to hardwoods, alternative coniferous species such as Douglas fir, larch and pine, as well as more drought-resistant types of spruce, are increasingly being planted.

Rosenstatter on adaptation:

“We work for the preservation of the forest and are looking for scientifically sound solutions. However, to push reforestation for the next generation, we have to tell today's people: Please use more wood!”

Information as the order of the day

To raise awareness and create understanding among the population, the forest associations are planning a series of information campaigns and events, focussing on urban areas. Together with proHolz and the PEFC seal, which guarantees careful and climate-friendly forest management and wood processing, the aim is to actively communicate the advantages of domestic wood use and the positive effects of active sustainable forest management. This message requires a united front from the forest owner to the processor to the finished product, says Rosenstatter: “We all need to actively promote the use of wood as a way to protect our climate. It's not about biodiversity or raw material, it’s about both! Using this sustainable raw material in the best way possible and keeping it affordable to the general public must be our goal.”

Talk host Pfeifer as a partner

With this topic as part of its online talk series, Pfeifer touched upon the root of its strength as a business: “Secure log supply is the basis of our production,” Managing Director Michael Pfeifer, who has a long-standing partnership with the forest associations under Chairman Rudolf Rosenstatter, stressed. In order to fuel the trend towards wood and to be able to meet the high future demand in the wood construction sector, the growth-oriented Group intends to further expand its sawmill capacities.


Pfeifer Talk with Forestry Expert Rudolf Rosenstatter

Everything hinges on wood as a raw material

Pfeifer in Motion

About the Pfeifer Group

The Pfeifer Group is one of the most venerable and competitive companies in the European timber industry, employing some 2,100 employees at 8 locations in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. The family-run company is based in Imst (Tyrol/Austria). At the Group’s fully integrated saw mills, some 4 million cubic metres of timber are processed into sawn timber and profiled timber, concrete formwork panels, formwork beams, cross laminated timber (CLT), glulam, glued solid timber boards as well as pallet blocks, briquettes, pellets and bio power. Customers are served in 90 countries around the world. However, Pfeifer generates some 90 % of its turnover in its European core markets.