Discover the testimony of Tancrède Neveu, Director of the "Plant for the Future" endowment fund

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Who are you? 

I have worked for Coopératives Forestières for the past 30 years. This career has allowed me to gain experience in the fields of forest management, silviculture, consulting and management, as well as in territorial development and management of the Landes de Gascogne, Limousin, Dordogne and Charentes forests. It has also enabled me to embody humanitarian values through a cooperation and reforestation program in Haiti. In 2016, I was chosen to head the forestry cooperative that founded the “Plant for the Future” Endowment Fund.

 How did the “Plant for the Future” Fund come about?

The “Plant for the Future” Endowment Fund was founded in 2014 by the forestry cooperative I was working for. This innovative, non-profit initiative responds to major reforestation issues and sustainable forest management. Its system is based on the skills of professionals and organizations in the forest-wood industry and takes into account the broad strategic outlines of this sector. The financial resources of the Endowment Fund come from the huge patronage potential in France. Indeed, patronage enables companies and individuals to address major environmental, social and economic challenges with the general interest in mind, seeing as the public authorities cannot solve everything.

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What are the major issues at stake for the sustainable management of French forests?

Today, the forest covers almost a third of the national territory. But this "abundance" hides other realities: logging and maintenance are on the decline, certain timber stands are no longer adapted to the needs of the wood industry and are suffering from climate change.

Three-quarters of France's forests are privately owned and belong to more than 3 million owners, most of which own only a few hectares and are incapable of ensuring the renewal of dying forest stands, victims of bad weather or ill adapted to climate change.

70 million trees are planted each year in our forests, compared to 130 million in 1990. Natural regeneration of forests alone will not suffice to ensure their renewal, and planting allows us to introduce species adapted to climate changes and the economic needs of tomorrow.

Wood is the recyclable and renewable material of the future. However, cutting down trees is still frowned upon. What message would you like to address to the general public?

Since the beginning of this millennium, there has been a growing awareness of the virtues and the need to use bio-sourced materials for the energy transition and the circular, low-carbon economy. Wood is the material of the 21st century and has been recognized as an opportunity for innovation. The forest-wood sector is the sector of the future, a cornerstone of French green growth. Oddly enough in the forest-tree-wood relationship, the reality of production-logging-harvesting is poorly understood or not at all.

The challenge remains to educate a misinformed general public on the urgent need to sequester more carbon and make our forests more resilient to climate change. Also, it is of utmost importance to pave the way for an increase in productivity, by ensuring that wood stays competitive compared to fossil fuels it claims to replace.

In other words, we need to explain to those, who are in favor of wood and against logging, that cutting down a tree is part of the cycle of the forest. We also need to emphasize that part of our forests must be developed and managed, with the main goal of producing wood that meets the needs of our businesses and industries in terms of quality, quantity and cost.

Some will argue that our businesses and industries must adapt to the wood resource of our forests, while others will insist that it is up to our forests to adapt to the needs of our businesses and industries.

There is no point in opposing the two points of view. The French forest is large and diverse enough for these two approaches to co-exist and "stimulate" one other. Companies will continue to open and operate on French soil if they can count on raw materials that satisfy their needs (type, size, cost, availability, etc.) and come from "planted" forests. And this industrial fabric will spur innovative solutions for promoting a more diverse and costly resource, which comes from a more “extensive” management than another part of our forests.

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6.8 billion euros: this is the trade deficit for the timber sector in 2018, with forests covering 31% of our territory. How can we make better use of our resources?

This is another paradox of the forest-wood sector. Although the surface area of French forests has doubled over the last two centuries, due to agricultural decline and the major reforestation campaigns of the 19th century (Landes, Sologne, Alps...) and with only 60% of natural growth being logged each year, the trade balance of our forest-wood sector is in chronic deficit. The main causes being the imports of sawn softwood, pulp and paper, as well as wood furniture.

Over the last two decades, the downstream sector of the industry has proven itself capable of innovation and investment in areas as varied as construction, furniture, energy and green chemistry.

However, on the upstream end, a significant part of the French forest accumulates standing timber and its under-exploitation shows a lack of momentum which affects not only its renewal, but also the confidence of timber-using companies which either revert to imports or outsourcing.

By providing the necessary support for the renewal and sustainability of forest production on our soil, “Plant for the Future” is a catalyst for the mobilization and development of French forest resources. We are calling on all companies and professional organizations in the timber industry to help us strengthen this national sponsorship structure.

How do you want us to remember your work?

Since its creation, the Fund has collected more than €3.7 million from 140 companies such as Smurfit Kappa, PiveteauBois, Archimbaud, Siat-Braun, Les Manufactures Février, etc. for the industry, as well as Nestlé, Dalkia, EngieCofely and Crédit Agricole, which have made a commitment to Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility.

Thanks to our patrons, 248 owners have already benefited from 1,460 hectares of reforestation throughout France. But a great deal remains to be done and the aim of the endowment fund is to be able to initiate and support several thousands of hectares of reforestation per year in France.

Many forests in France suffer from a lack of maintenance and/or climate change. The proliferation of bark beetles on spruce or Chalara fraxinea on ash are typical examples. Even if many questions and doubts arise regarding the choice of wood type and reforestation techniques, many owners want to renew their plots. Accompanied by certified forest advisors, who provide technical and legal support, owners increasingly request financial support from “Plant for the Future”, because it’s a straightforward approach which empowers aid recipients.

In order to be able to continue helping all these owners, we need to get more and more companies involved which share our environmental, social and economic values, and believe in a dynamic management of our forests.

Finally, I would like to thank Les Manufactures Février for their support for “Plant for the Future”. Les Manufactures Février is proud to sponsor this initiative precisely because this commitment is neither a commercial impulse nor a “greenwashing” intention to buy a good conscience or image, but simply a responsible, altruistic and supportive approach.

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