A union official has been elected as Chairman of a global forest certification organisation for the first time. William Street accepted the position following a vote at the General Assembly of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) (1), the largest organization of this kind in the world.
"PEFC has always been supportive of family forestry and vibrant forest dependent communities. Having a union leader as Chairman signals the beginning of the next phase in the global development of forest certification," emphasised Ben Gunneberg, Secretary General of PEFC. "The association with global trade union federations, such as Builders and Woodworkers International, BWI, with its more than 8 million members, is a great asset as forest certification expands its efforts to assist small forest owners in the Global South to combat deforestation."
"I would expect to see us expand our efforts to protect forests and the sustainable livelihoods they provide to local communities and families in the Global South, building on our successes doing so in the Global North," Mr. Gunneberg continued.
Mr. Street, who is Director of the Woodworkers Department for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, one of the largest industrial unions in North America, highlighted the pivotal role played by BWI in lobbying for the development of stronger social standards and the integration of forestry unions into the certification process, and expressed gratitude for the support of President R. T. Buffenbarger, President of the Machinists Union in this endeavour.
"It is a reality that the places where social standards are least enforced and where the benefits and wealth of forestry activity are least shared, are also the places where illegal forest activity and deforestation are often rampant," Mr. Street commented.
He stressed that to reduce deforestation in the tropics, "we need to strengthen responsible forest management practices that are economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially just."
"This requires that there is a market for certified tropical wood - otherwise, economic viability is difficult to achieve," Mr. Street said. "Thus, boycotting products from sustainably managed, certified tropical forests is the quickest and most effective way to contribute to deforestation, community disruption, and social hardship."
"I am looking forward to working with global forest leaders to promote forest certification to support our common efforts to safeguard these important ecosystems, the biodiversity they sustain, and the livelihoods that depend on them," he concluded.
Biography: William Street, Chairman, PEFC Council
William Street was born in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, USA and holds degrees in political science from Mansfield State University and the University of Oregon. He currently resides in Milwaukie, Oregon, USA with his wife Bridget Downey.
• Director of the Global Wood and Forestry Program, Builders and Woodworkers International, 2003-2007
• Focal Point for Workers and Union, United National Forum on Forests Sessions 3-7
• Steering Committee, the Forest Dialogue, an international multi-stakeholder process housed at Yale University
• Director of Research and Education, International Woodworkers of America, 1989-1999