Forestry Voices – The U.S. Forest Products Industry: Dynamic History, Bright Future

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When I joined the U.S. forest products industry nearly 30 years ago, business structures were different than they are today. However, the foundational principles of the industry have and will continue to stand the test of time.

For starters, many paper and wood products companies owned their own forestland in the 1980s. Owning their own wood fiber gave companies oversight and control of their fiber sourcing, but changes in tax laws and pressure from Wall Street caused a big shift in the industry’s ownership structure and supply chain. Today, U.S. paper and wood products manufacturing companies typically do not grow trees; they buy them.

Privately-owned forests—many of them held by family tree farmers—now supply 90 percent of the wood used by the U.S. forest products industry. Two to three percent of the wood used by the industry comes from Federal lands; six percent comes from state and municipal lands; and one percent comes from Native lands (source: U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis).

Another big shift in the supply chain was the initiative to establish voluntary third-party forest certification. This was an industry response to customer concerns about forest management and illegal logging and to the sustainable development vision established by the 1992 United Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro on Environment and Development.

In 1994, the industry provided leadership to launch the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI), bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to establish a solutions-based approach to meet economic, social and environmental needs. The SFI has grown to be the largest single forest certification standard in the world by area. It is also internationally endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFCTM).

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The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) promotes sustainable forest management practices, requiring all of our members to formally agree to adhere to the association’s sustainable procurement principles. AF&PA’s current sustainability initiative, Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 (, was established in 2011 and includes a goal to increase the amount of wood fiber procured from certified forestlands or through certified wood fiber sourcing programs in the U.S. and work to decrease illegal logging.

AF&PA’s 2018 sustainability report ( showed that our members increased the amount of wood fiber they procured from certified forestlands to 29.1 percent and the amount of wood fiber they procured through certified sourcing programs to 99.1 percent. They also continue their efforts to combat illegal logging by safeguarding against procurement from illegally-logged sources. This includes documenting wood fiber sources; requiring suppliers to sign agreements; and using third-party certification of chain-of-custody systems.

In addition, AF&PA actively supports the implementation and enforcement of the Lacey Act to ensure the U.S. does not become a market for illegally-logged wood. The 2008 Lacey Act amendments are an important tool in the fight against illegal logging and associated trade around the world.

While U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers have seen many public and marketplace policy changes over the past 30 years, their core principles to be good stewards of resources have guided them to make good decisions that will stand the test of time.

What I know for certain: Demand for paper and wood products will continue to keep forests as forests; the industry will continue to be a leader in sustainable manufacturing, using innovation to improve existing products and develop new ones; and the industry’s products will always be ones that make people’s lives better.

My confidence in the industry’s future comes from the many people I have had the pleasure of working with throughout my career. It has been my privilege to serve the U.S. forest products industry, and I am proud of what we have achieved together.

About Donna Harman:
Donna Harman is president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA). She previously served as AF&PA’s senior vice president for policy and government affairs. After working on Capitol Hill and at the Dow Chemical Company, she started her career in the forest products industry with Champion International Corporation, which was acquired by International Paper in 2000. A nearly 30-year veteran of the forest products industry, Harman has announced her intention to retire in 2019.

About the AF&PA:
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance a sustainable U.S. pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and wood products manufacturing industry through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. AF&PA member companies make products essential for everyday life from renewable and recyclable resources and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative—Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 ( The forest products industry accounts for approximately four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures nearly $300 billion in products annually and employs approximately 950,000 men and women. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $55 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper.

*This article was written by Donna Harman, CEO of the AF&PA