We’re committed to sustainable and responsible forestry while developing the economy and improving living conditions for people living in and around our concessions.
Our forest concessions in the Republic of Congo cover around two million hectares (ha) which are managed by our subsidiary Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB). Around 1.8 million ha are FSC® certified (license numbers). CIB is the longest holder of FSC certification in the Congo Basin.
A quarter of the area of our certified concessions is permanently protected from forest operations, reserved for the communities and as protected areas. In the harvestable areas, we’re committed to strictly apply Reduced Impact Logging techniques and harvest at levels significantly below those permitted by national regulations. This approach to sustainable forest management is based on a selective harvesting model defined by the natural regeneration capacity of the forest. This means we cut approximately one tree per hectare every 30 years. CIB-Olam is the pioneer in RIL initiatives in the region.
Road development is important to support timber operations but we keep this to a minimum and ensure that temporary roads are closed after harvesting. To minimise the impact of constructing temporary access, we have developed a digital approach that uses GPS mapping and customised algorithms to identify the shortest route, protect indigenous trees and minimise damage to young growing trees. By removing the possibility of human error, the system saves time and fuel and is expected to reduce the total distance of trails built since implementation in the beginning of 2018 by 113 kilometres.
We support the eco-guards – employed by the government and other organisations – to protect against illegal logging and prevent poaching of animals, such as large apes and elephants. In partnership with the international NGO the Wildlife Conservation Society, we conduct sensitisation campaigns to educate employees and the community about the importance of protecting the environment and to explain the fauna legislation and their rights. We maintain dedicated areas within our concessions to enable indigenous people to continue their traditional subsistence hunting of small game in the region, excluding the buffer zones around the National Parks.
Due to the permanent semi-humid climate, the risk of fire in Congo's forests is low. However some forests in proximity to savannahs may pose a potential risk. As part of our forest management plans (last reviewed in May 2020), we’ve put in place a fire response and management procedure to prevent and respond to fire hazards in industrial sites. Through our continued engagement, we’re raising awareness of fire-risks, and we monitor for incidents of fire with the local communities, which in some instances means the burning for land preparation for subsistence agriculture.
Our sustainable management approach includes protecting and managing water quality. Our wastewater treatment plant ensures all water used at our sawmills and facilities meets water quality standards before being discharged. We analyse all water samples at our on-site laboratory, which are regularly independently analysed and verified. We don’t use any hazardous and prohibited chemicals, and we’re committed to minimising the usage of all chemicals across our timber operations.