Introduction to ThisForest, forest product traceability

 

The International Model Forest Network Secretariat talks to Daniel Arbour

IMFNS: Hi Daniel. Thank you for talking the time to talk to us today about your Model Forest experiences. To start, could you introduce yourself?
 
Daniel Arbour: My name is Daniel Arbour and I’m the Chair of the Canadian Model Forest Network. I've been working on the development of ThisForest, Ecotrust Canada’s forest traceability system, from its inception in 2011.
 
IMFNS: What is the forest traceability system?
 
DA: Traceability is really all about supporting consumers’ desire to make informed choices and judge for themselves whether a product is sustainable or not. Our version of traceability is for people to be able to go on their mobile device or computer and be able to really easily find out information about the forest of origin, about people who added value along the way, who processed it, who harvested the trees, and be able to really engage with the story of their product. It’s about letting people know exactly where their products come from, who made it, where it was harvested under which methods. There are so many businesses out there that have a great story to tell that have adopted sustainable practices, and our goal is to get that story to market.
 
IMFNS: Why is forest traceability important?
 
DA: In today’s world, there’s a growing disconnect between the product we purchase and the impact on the natural resources. Consumers are bombarded with information that can be either confusing or can be somewhat enlightening but often is overwhelming. The ability to tell a simple story, a true story about where the products are from, the points of origin, is increasingly important.
 
As consumers, I think we care deeply about the story of our products because that allows us to share that story with friends and family for years to come. If I buy a wonderful log home, a log that’s part of the value is really the story that’s tied to it.
 
The businesses that are interested in traceability feel that they have a great story to tell. They feel that getting that story to market is going to actually enhance their business, it’s going to help them grow their business. They don’t have anything to hide. They want to show to everyone the practices they’ve adopted and they tend to be very proud businesses.
 
IMFNS: What has been the value of working with the IMFN on traceability?
 
DA: The realities across the world are very different. In Africa, there is a huge push around illegal logging. In Canada, there is a huge sense that we have achieved some level of sustainable harvest but somehow the public is still not quite buying it. The realities are very different, but yet the common theme is how do we tell a better story, how do we tell our story.
 
The beauty about working with the International Model Forest Network is that we’re able to exchange knowledge around the emergence of traceability in different markets in different countries. Whether it would be in Spain with mushrooms or in Africa with wooden pens or in Canada with log homes and carvers, we all find that traceability can add tremendous value in all of those products.

For more information, visit: thisforest.info