I spent the first week of November in China as a guest of the Timber Trade Federation and the China Timber and Wood Products Distribution Association (CTWPDA) who, together with other organizations, hosted a conference on legality training specific for the wood flooring industry.
The first day was mostly presentations by associations and companies and various governmental agencies and I think we’ll just skip discussions of that part and move right into Day Two, which was a small interactive workshop on legality and due diligence techniques and tools. It was very inspirational—companies coming together to both learn and share ideas.
The morning was lectures and presentations. I did a brief presentation on supply chain management and one of my mills reviewed how there were using my previous training on building SOPs based on “Evaluate, Mitigate and Justify.” We had presentations from several associations and third party suppliers of tools and resources to the industry. There was an outline of how to buy Chinese timber legally—a walk through the entire process which I’ve asked get translated into English as soon as possible. Bo Li of the WRI China office did a nice review of conditions and Cindy Squires of the IWPA provided information on TSCA compliance and procedures.
The afternoon was very interesting—we broke the attendees into two groups and rotated between the teams to talk about different specific issues such as how to identify the scientific name of the species being traded and how to track recovery. The topics ranged from the broad conceptual issues like building SOPs and employee training to very specific issues like “how do I know which Birch is this?” and “how to I work to verify purchases of Walnut logs from a private logger?” The depth of knowledge by the attendees and their serious approach to compliance and legal purchasing would stun any critic of the Chinese supply chain who tosses out casually “they don’t care.” These people did.
What I like most about these types of meetings, and a large reason why I agreed to participate, is because it gets into the real world and it is cooperative in nature. It was people with real life experience helping others trying to do right. It wasn’t theoretical—it was “I have a problem trying to do X? Who can help?” And people then offered ideas and answers. It wasn’t a government or an ENGO saying “you need to do X,” rather it was business people talking about HOW to do X.
It is an encouraging situation to see not just the desire to learn but how far along many of these companies and individuals are—they understand the rules and the flow of material and they are trying to figure out how to really evaluate and mitigate risk and secure their supply chains.
They were serious people trying to do serious work. In fact, you might say there was only one clown there: