The Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance
U.S. Agency for International Development (retired)
The Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance (SFPGA) was established, via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), in July 2002 as a partnership of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Certified Forest Products Council (CFPC). CFPC later became Metafore.
USAID is the (non-military) foreign assistance agency of the U.S. government. It maintains a worldwide presence through its resident “Missions,” primarily in developing countries. WWF is a global non-profit organization committed to the conservation of nature. In 1991 WWF established the Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), the entity of WWF responsible for implementing the SFPGA. With its corporate partners GFTN promotes and facilitates trade in forest products from certified and well-managed forests. Metafore is a small non-profit organization, established in 1997 (as the CFPC) to promote purchasing practices in North America that support the conservation, protection, and restoration of forests globally.
The goal of SFPGA, through a partnership of government, NGOs, and the private sector, is to reduce the scope of destructive and illegal forestry practices worldwide by expanding the proportion of internationally traded forest products sourced from forests certified as sustainably managed. Although the founding partners were governmental and NGO, from the outset, potential partners in the for-profit private sector were consulted since SFPGPA was envisioned as a public–private partnership involving,
and influencing the behavior of major private sector producers, exporters and consumers of forest products. Early private sector actors targeted included Ikea, Home Depot, Time-Warner, Staples, and Anderson Windows among others.
An explicit incentive to aggressively pursue public–private partnerships was created in USAID in 2001 under the leadership of a Global Development Alliance Secretariat, empowered to provide matching funds to successful USAID technical staff proposals in which public–private partnerships were integral to the proposed programmatic initiative. The incentives for WWF/GFTN and Metafore to join the SFPGA included additional financial resources flowing from USAID, a global partnership with USAID/Washington headquarters that might increase the stature of their programs in the eyes of the large private sector firms whose cooperation they needed to achieve their sustainable forest management goals, and in the case of WWF/GFTN enhanced access to USAID missions and American embassies. The large private sector firms sought lessons learned in the movement toward sustainability in management of forests, a resource upon which their future depends, green branding, improved supply chain efficiency, and linkages with other firms concerned with sustainability and good legal standing.
USAID and WWF had a long history of collaboration. Both NGOs had in place significant, established partnerships with major private sector firms in the forest products industry. USAID provided $3 million the first year and committed to maintaining that level of funding, although financial support has drifted downward to $1.4 million in FY 2007. USAID total funding, through FY 2007 was $10.7 million, WWF has contributed $34.2 million, Metafore $1.6 million.
The NGO partnerships with the large for-profit firms are not formally part of the SFPGA although essential to its on-the-ground success. Private sector firms early on found USAID’s pace and bureaucratic requirements did not match their work style; USAID had no legal mechanism suitable for establishing a “partnership” with the private firms anyway. It did have in place and utilized donor–grantee mechanisms to cement relationships with the two NGOs, thus establishing USAID in the role of funder, not partner.
The SFPGA partnership has had a significant market-driven impact on improved management of forests. The value of forest product sales from well-managed forests associated with the GFTN rose from $5.9 billion in Sept. 2003 to $42 billion in Sept. 2007. The area of forest managed by GFTN participant companies increased from 10.4 to 26.6 million hectares over the same period and the number of GFTN participants that own or manage forests increased from 23 to 78 companies.
Market forces are now much more supportive and encouraging of legal, sustainable, and certified forestry than was the case pre-SFPGA. But these market forces are not yet genuinely self-supporting. The technical chal-
lenges are complex and the market does not yet fully reimburse the costs of seeking, or even accomplishing biological sustainability. It appears unlikely that certified forest management will be sustainable purely by market forces in the near term.
No funds are generated by SFPGA activities that then flow back to the SFPGA to sustain it and its activities. Decisions on its future are made in USAID, and the value-added (except for money) to USAID or to the WWF and Metafore by USAID’s continuing participation is being questioned.
USAID, WWF, and Metafore managers agree that the SFPGA is not a true partnership of the three organizations. It is not really even a partnership of WWF and Metafore. The two NGOs have virtually no relationship whatsoever, except that of sharing a funding source—USAID.
The true partnerships are those linking WWF/GFTN and Metafore with the private sector. USAID has not partnered with any for-profit firm for three reasons. First, USAID was unable to identify a funding mechanism that was appropriate for a partnership even with a longtime “partner” such as WWF, let alone with a for-profit firm. Second, potential for-profit partners found USAID’s processes slow and onerous. Third, the NGOs tried consciously to keep distance between USAID and their private sector partners. The NGOs saw these as very separate relationships rather than part of a broad public–private sector partnership. The NGOs’ relationships with the private sector relied on a high degree of mutual trust and with a great deal of proprietary information on the table during discussions. Neither the NGOs nor the firms were comfortable having the government in the room and neither felt USAID had much to offer in the pragmatic, nuts and bolts discussions typically carried out when forging a partnership.
SFPGA has had a significant, positive environmental impact on the global trade in forest products by employing market forces. As a public–private partnership, in the view of all three “partners,” it has left much to be desired. Nevertheless, the rhetoric of partnership which surrounded its launch, and which justified the SFPGA in USAID policy terms, freed significant resources in support of what were undeniably partnerships among NGOs and the private sector, thus making possible the substantive impacts and forest product market reforms which the SFPGA was conceived to address.