Internationally Compliant: Traceable, Legal, and Sustainable Raw Material - Mr. Naresh Chaudhary, Country Head, Earthworm India

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Earthworm is a global non-profit organisation experience in finding solutions to the major social and environmental problems that our world is facing today. Its vision is for future generations to not simply survive, but to thrive. It wants to build a world where the balance between people and the environment, value and profit, people’s beliefs and actions is maintained and where human, natural and capital resources become a force for good. For which the organisation believe, we must change and heal the nature of our relationships, ensuring we respect each other and the very elements that allow us to live. Talking with The Ply Reporter, Mr. Naresh Chaudhary, Country Head, Earthworm India has explained about his activities for Indian wood panel industry.

Q - What does Earthworm Foundation do?

A - We were earlier known as TFT (The Forest Trust), and last year we rebranded ourselves as Earthworm. Earthworm is a global non-profit organisation focused on transforming supply chains for the benefit of nature and people. We work with supply chain, social and environmental experts in over 16 countries to ensure that commodities are sourced with respect for people and planet.

We see a world where forests are a boundless source of materials and a home for biodiversity; communities see their rights respected and have opportunities to develop; workers are seen as productive partners, and agriculture becomes the instrument to feed a hungry planet and keep our climate stable. We envision a global society that respects itself and the needs of nature. To achieve our vision, we partner with businesses and others with the same goal of solving the social and environmental challenges our world faces, working in a pragmatic way from boardrooms to farms, boots on the ground.

Q -  How do you serve Indian wooden sector?

A -  We’ve been working for the last ten years to help furniture exporters establish transparent wood supply chains linked to responsible forestry operations in India. Our member companies, sourcing furniture in Vietnam and India, were the first to achieve this and inspired many other companies in the region to take the same approach. We continue to partner with companies to source wood products responsibly. We support community-based projects to improve timber production and gain access to international markets. We help retailers to comply with the European Timber Regulation (EUTR) and other global market compliances.

The demand for wooden products is growing with each passing day, putting the extra burden of our forests and farmlands. It's reasonable to understand if we keep taking out of nature without giving it back, very soon we'll finish our reserves and reach the stage of a crisis. That will be a massive dent to the wood fed industries. We know what happened with "Sheesham" when the trade restrictions were imposed. We need to put collective efforts to address the issues to the core Today, the International buyers are putting much emphasising on traceability, legality, and sustainability of the imported wooden goods arriving in their respective countries. And Indian exporters are happy to full fill these regulatory obligations to increase their sales.

We envisage a day when the same concept will be taken up seriously by our domestic, Indian, market. It will put an end to illegal logging, deforestation, and corruption. It will bring more benefits for the farmers as the payment system will become transparent, bringing more revenue generation for the government with adequate sustainability measures in place.

Q -  How can companies benefit from your services on traceability, legality, and sustainability for their raw material?

A - Currently, the Indian wooden exporters are struggling to get traceable raw material. Despite having the certification, there is an acute shortage of said material. Our approach is beyond certification, and we work on the ground to physically verify the facts in all the nodes of business supply chains. We provide reports in the form of QR codes with each verification lot, which have a chain of custody documents (COC) along with other legal compliances. Our verified reports are well accepted in different global markets.

At present, we are providing our services for hard and engineered wood comprising of Sheesham, mango, Acacia and Medium Density Fibre (MDF) boards. We bring the complete visibility from harvest till the final product in terms of traceability and legality. Further, we verify that saplings per harvest are sown to ensure sustainability. These saplings are closely monitored for initial three years to ensure healthy survival rate by maintaining the soil health.

We think our approach brings ease for the business houses and ensure perineal supply of responsible raw material in years to come.

Q - What are your programs for Indian ‘MDF’ industries?

A - We have rolled out this program about a couple of years ago. Our furniture exporters are dependent on the imported MDF, coming mainly from New Zealand, the USA and Brazil.

Now, they have a choice where the traceable, legal and sustainable MDF can be sourced from Indian manufacturer. An ideal way to supplement govt’s “Make in India” campaign and making a meaningful contribution to the nation's GDP. The product is available in the market, and I think better visibility and marketing will help in scaling up its local demand. We are in talks with its manufacturers and are hopeful of an exciting year.

Here, I would like to reiterate that we don’t compromise on our values and don’t think twice, come what may, from withdrawing our endorsement if the entire production process doesn’t fulfil our standards. We owe the considerable responsibility of International trust and are committed to achieving it by every means.

Q - What are your plans in other related wood panel industry such as plywood, veneer, laminates?

A - Engineered wood is the future. And the industry is making a rapid shift to it from conventional hardwood. After MDF, we are aiming to scale up in plywood, veneer, particle boards, and laminates. We will start exploring the possibilities with a few Indian manufacturers in the coming months. We think our dependence on imported goods should do down, and Indian business should strengthen the local economy.

FOR MORE DETAIL ABOUT THE EARTHWORM INDIA, CONTACT

Mr. Gaurav Kaushik and Mr. Sanket Bondre at g.kaushik@ earthworm.org; s.bondre@earthworm.org respectively. They can also be reached at +91-9958170242, +91-8696011888.

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