The year 2020 has been rather unusual for all of us and in the history of mankind. The Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has caught us completely off guard, forcing us clueless souls to mask up and adhere to movement control order and SOPs, as well as embrace new norms in our daily lives.
Apart from changed consumer behaviours, the catastrophic malady has affected many industries across the globe, bringing us to reset and adopt new, innovative ways in doing business. Remote working arrangement and webinars are becoming a norm, with WFH (Work from Home) and Zoom being the buzzwords.
The prize-giving ceremony of the MTCC Photography Contest, for instance, was set to the tone of the new normal in event-organising and conducted as a live-streamed affair on 22 August. The hybrid event saw the 49 winners receiving their prizes virtually from the new MTCC Chairman, Kamaruzaman Mohamad.
Restrictions due to the pandemic has resulted in the extension of the date of entry into force of the Malaysian Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management (MC&I SFM). Launched on 1 April, the MC&I SFM is the outcome of the review of the MC&I(Natural Forest) and incorporates the requirements of the MC&I Forest Plantation.v2 into a single document. The MTCC Board of Trustees on 1 October approved the extension of the date of entry into force of the MC&I SFM from 1 January 2021 to 1 September 2021 taking into account the delay in a number of planned activities including scheduling of training and audit, as well as feedback from the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) on a longer time needed for the endorsement process.
The pandemic, however, has brought to the forefront new studies on the importance of conserving forest in cushioning its effects on livelihoods and the overall wellbeing of Mother Earth in the future. For instance, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in its UN/DESA Policy Brief #80 on 11 June has reported that forests are the answer to the crisis as “healthy forests can build resilience against future pandemics”, and has pinpointed to the global community on the pressing need to reassert commitment to managing forests sustainably.
MTCC and certification efforts in general seem to be already aligned with such a development. Thanks to the synergistic effort and hard work from the forest managers and stakeholders in managing the forests under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS), MTCC was awarded the Certificate of Appreciation from PEFC for the greatest increase in PEFC-certified forest area on 12 November. The recognition was given to MTCC for the marked increase of MTCS/PEFC-certified forest area from 4,315,151 ha in September 2019 to 5,272,734 ha in September 2020. This covers the certification of 10 forest management units (FMUs) in Johor, Sabah and Sarawak, in addition to the existing 20 FMUs, many of which have been maintaining their certification for over 10 years such as the FMU for the states of Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Selangor and Terengganu, Anap-Muput FMU in Sarawak and Segaliud Lokan FMU in Sabah.
Just like icing on the cake, MTCC’s achievement echoes with PEFC’s accomplishment of receiving the highest rating against the 10 ASEAN Guidelines on Promoting Responsible Investment in Food, Agriculture and Forestry (ASEAN RAI) on 3 November. ASEAN RAI, which is linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, steers investors and industry players on investments to an existing landscape of voluntary sustainability standards and certifications that implement responsible practices along value chains in ASEAN’s growing food, agriculture and forestry sectors. The rating is definitely a boost with regard to raising the profiles and international market presence of MTCC and the MTCS, especially during this challenging time. With the rating, organisations which are already adhering to PEFC could easily demonstrate alignment with the ASEAN RAI.
In addition, we are pleased to note that the re-endorsement process of the MTCS by PEFC is currently underway. The revision ensures that latest development in PEFC requirements, new scientific information, practical experience gained in the field, expectations as well as aspirations of the society towards sustainable forest management are considered by the national scheme and implemented as part of PEFC’s commitment to continuous improvement.
The year 2020 has been a bumpy roller coaster ride for everyone. Our journey in riding and surviving the pandemic waves might be different, but one thing for sure, the year has taught us many valuable life lessons. It prompts us that health should take precedence over everything else. It drives us to stay resilient by accepting and adapting to change. Last but not least, it reminds us to value what we have and keep close to what matters, especially our family and loved ones.
The pandemic is not over yet. Nevertheless, let’s start off 2021 on a positive note. I wish all of you a wonderful year ahead. Until then, stay safe, healthy and blessed!
Yong Teng Koon