Forest Products Marketing Unit

Marketing Forest Products

For over 100 years, the Forest Products Laboratory has been at the forefront of optimized forestry. Their research, which started with the preservation of railroad ties, now spans hundreds of areas.

They develop technologies for wood products to maximize their economic potential. Their research is also key to combating deforestation and climate change while making the most of every harvested tree.

The Forest Products Laboratory does not exist in a vacuum. Its research is meant to be shared and used throughout the industry. Wise and efficient use of forest products results in healthy, sustainable forests and widespread economic opportunity.

Purpose

So why do they need a marketing unit? Marketing for FPL isn’t about advertising or image management. The U.S. Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU) is about establishing relationships with public and private entities.

These partnerships allow the research done at the FPL to benefit the forest products industry, the public, and the environment.

Organizing the distribution of information, innovation, and technology to the vast and complex forestry and forest products industries is no small task. But without these efforts, the FPL’s exhaustive research would be widely under-used and its technologies would go largely un-implemented.

The FPMU helps share and assist in the use of beneficial forest product practices across the country. With the help of federal funding, they pursue initiatives to promote smarter, better forest products, and processes.

History

Begun in 1992 and expanded in 1996, a formal relationship was established between the FPL and the forestry industry. To transfer research and technology from the lab to the outside world, the new joint Technology Marketing Unit had an ambitious goal. They would create a national framework that balanced the environmental and economic use of the nation’s forests.

That meant establishing strong cooperative partnerships with state and private industry leaders. The research and development being done at the FPL needed an organized way to reach the entities it could most benefit.

The new unit reached out to other technology marketers and diverse public and private forestry organizations to create a team. This team was dedicated to planning projects, identifying customer needs, and implementing technology to meet those needs.

When the 1996 agreement was written, a primary goal was to administer woody biomass grants. The focus of this program was using wood for energy.

In the years since its formal founding, the FPMU has expanded in scope. Their cooperative projects now include initiatives from nanotechnology to the reduction of the size and rate of forest fires.

Objectives

The FPMU has a set of objectives that cover a lot of ground. They focus on new and existing partnerships, coordination of services, and bringing the experts at the FPL to outside institutions.

For the FPL to have the greatest impact, it needs a strong core of cooperation among a large number of external entities. The FPMU establishes, grows, and maintains that vital core to extend the reach of the FPL.

The overarching objective of the Forest Products Marketing Unit is to provide coordination and assistance on a national level. This collaborative commitment is designed to maximize the economic and environmental use of FPL research and technologies.

Current objectives include incentives for increased use of biomass, accelerating reforestation, market creation, technical assistance, administration of grant programs, and more.

Managing resources nationally is a complex task. Focusing on innovative marketing and technological advances, the FPMU extends opportunities for forest product use and management across urban and rural landscapes.

Governance

The governance of the Forest Product Marketing Unit is a little bit complicated. The national scope and coordination with other entities make program direction and oversight key to its success.

Here’s a top-down look at the basic governing structure:

  • The Forest Products Laboratory Director serves as the overall program director. They provide direction for the FPMU to achieve its yearly goals.
  • Forest Service Deputy Chiefs provide broad oversight of the FPMU. They are also tasked with the important job of approving major planning elements for the FPMU. These elements include the Implementation Plan, the yearly Plan of Work, and the yearly operating budget.
  • FPMU staff includes a program manager, forest products technologist, natural resource specialist, research forest product technologist, research forester, partnership coordinator, IT specialist, and program support. This group is tasked with the day-to-day implementation of projects and programs.

This small but mighty team allows the FPL to work at a national level to guide both efficient economic use of all forest products and conserve and promote healthy forests.

Green Supply Chain Practices

There are multiple ways to implement sustainability practices in a supply chain. Choosing which areas to tackle first can seem complicated. But some common practices cross industries and apply to most companies.

Materials

Choose recycled or sustainably produced materials (like wood pallets). This is one of the most basic applications of the reduce-reuse-recycle framework. Every business can choose green materials at some level.

If shipping products, then choose wood pallets. Wood pallets are less expensive and 95% are reused and recycled. Shipping is already very energy-intensive. You can help reduce its impact with your choice of materials.

Purchasing

Companies make procurement choices every day. Take the time to choose suppliers in your industry that are already using green materials and processes. Try to find suppliers that incorporate sustainable practices already.

Purchasing from an environmentally responsible established supplier strengthens their position in the market and provides an incentive for other suppliers to follow the lead.

Remember hidden costs. You may pay more with a green supplier, but do you save in responsible waste disposal and/or recycling of more materials? Audit the product lifecycle and determine where costs can be re-distributed or eliminated.

Transportation

Transportation is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. As energy-saving options come on the market, take a closer look at your transportation suppliers. Choose those who are investing in clean-energy options. Just like all other purchasing, balance the cost of choosing greener transportation with the overall benefit to the communities you serve, your reputation, and the stability of your supply chain.

Packaging

Packaging can be one of the largest contributors to product wastefulness. Look at the entire lifespan of your packaging. How much of it ends up in the landfill, and how much of it can be reused or recycled?

Consumers are looking for less packaging. They’re also looking for innovative disposal methods. Can you use compostable packaging? Give your customers an easy choice with clear and visible instructions for environmentally friendly disposal.

First Steps-Greening the Supply Chain

No matter how big the company, the first steps in greening the supply chain is to understand that it is complex endeavor that will require time and resources to be truly effective. A green supply chain is intentional. The strategies come from the top down and involve every part of the chain. Build a plan and tackle each issue comprehensively.

Examine each step, from the acquisition of raw materials to the last mile of delivery. The key is to make incremental changes in daily operations that are part of a larger strategic plan. Identify the weakest points and work to strengthen them.

Talk to suppliers about sustainability practices. Some will have implemented strategies that lend themselves easily to the effort. A company’s vision and plan for sustainability is part of a larger strategic plan and supplier partners that can help by virtue of their own sustainability practices are essential.

A great benefit to investing in the green supply chain is that the effects can be larger than the intended scope of the initial investment. Helping a supplier/partner to improve its sustainability practices can create a stronger, more resilient supply chain overall.

That goodwill becomes a part of your company’s legacy and reflects positively on the reputation in the business community as a good partner.

The goodwill is a small, but essential, step in creating sustainable industries that become the standard.

The pandemic has exposed the fragility of supply chain problems as a worldwide issue. We are also realizing that greening supply chains makes them both more environmentally responsible and more resilient. Taking the first steps in greening the supply chain may seem daunting, but the small steps that a company takes can make a difference.

Every company that invests in sustainable practices, like using recycled wood pallets, is contributing to a greener global business environment. Those contributions will add up collectively to help lower costs and reduce waste.

Examining the company’s environmental footprint might seem troublesome, but seeing it as an opportunity to make positive, eco-friendly changes is good for business.

 

Wood Pallets: An Eco-Friendly Choice

Sustainability is an ongoing challenge for industry supply chains. Consumers often don’t recognize the enormous complexity of a reliable supply chain. According to the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, nearly two billion pallets are in use every day in the United States.

Within the industry, there are staunch advocates for both wood pallets and plastic pallets. Each group claims their choice is the most environmentally friendly.

Researchers at Penn State University decided to take an unbiased look at the debate. They found that wooden pallets are more eco-friendly and sustainable than plastic.

Top 3 Eco-Friendly Benefits of Wood Pallets

Renewable Resource

Wood pallets are made using sustainably sourced wood. The timber is often cut for other uses and the by-products are used for pallet construction. Pallet wood does not come from old-growth forests.

The forest products industry has worked hard over the decades to become a model of sustainability. In 2020, the NWPCA and Pallet Foundation put together an Environmental Product Declaration for wood pallets.

Working with the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Lab, the UL-certified document is a testament to the positive environmental impact of wood pallet construction. Two new trees are planted for each one harvested, and 1.7 billion trees are planted in the United States every year.

In 2007 there were over twice as many hardwood trees in the U.S. than there were 50 years earlier. Trees are a naturally renewable resource, and responsible management creates more carbon-capturing trees than it harvests.

Plastic pallets are made with petroleum products. The extraction of these non-renewable fossil fuels produces air and water pollution as well as soil contamination. The Penn State study found that plastic pallets create far more aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicity and contribute much more to global warming than their wooden counterparts.

The simple fact is that wood pallets are made of trees, not oil. They are less harmful to the environment at every step, and they contribute to a more environmentally sustainable supply chain.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The most eco-friendly products are those that can be reused. Wood pallets can be used multiple times for their main purpose and be repurposed repeatedly. Damaged pallets can be repaired or made into other shipping materials.

When a pallet is no longer viable for shipping, the wood becomes everything from furniture and home décor to mulch and biofuel. A simple search for pallet wood on Pinterest reveals hundreds and hundreds of projects that use wooden pallets that have been retired from active use.

Reusing pallet wood for home projects reduces the use of new hardwood timber, reduces the purchase and consumption of materials that are not sustainably sourced, and decreases our reliance on plastic.

Recycling pallet wood into products like mulch and animal bedding saves newly harvested timber for other uses.

Estimates are that about 93% of pallets in the United States are made of wood and that 95% of those pallets are recycled by companies, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.

Wood Pallets are Biodegradable

The recycling of wood pallets has grown tremendously over the past 20 years. That alone made wood pallets increasingly environmentally friendly and extended their useful lives.

But at some point, pallet wood is not going to be useful anymore. When it reaches the end of its lifespan, a wood pallet does the most eco-friendly thing of all: it biodegrades.

Properly treated and disposed of pallet wood decomposes. It adds nutrients to the soil, provides homes for plant and animal life, and leaves nothing behind but the fertile ground for new trees.

The small percentage of pallet wood that ends up being disposed of does exactly what we want our trash to do, it benefits the environment. After being recycled, reused, and repurposed for years, responsibly discarded wooden pallets nourish the environment rather than disrupting ecosystems and clogging our waterways.

Proponents of plastic pallets point to their durability and longevity. And they certainly can be strong and make many trips as pallets. But they’re not sustainably sourced, they’re not easily reused or recycled, and they don’t biodegrade.

Wooden pallets are an integral part of a reliable, environmentally friendly, sustainable supply chain. As consumers become aware of their complicated environmental footprint, they will be looking for companies that use wood pallets in their supply chains.

Hearne Hardwooods web homepage

Wood on the Web: Hearne Hardwoods

It’s time for the Nature’s Packaging – Wood on the Web series. In these posts, we explore interesting and unique web resources all about wood. In this blog post we look at Hearne Hardwoods, a specialty lumber yard with some very unique offerings.

Have you ever seen a beautiful piece of wood furniture and said to yourself, ‘Wow! Look at that beautiful wood grain. Where do they find pieces like that’?

Well, in some cases they find those beautiful pieces of wood at Hearne Hardwoods.

Hearne Hardwooods web homepage

About Hearne Hardwoods

Hearne Hardwoods Inc. was started in 1997 by Rick and Pat Hearne as a small, family-owned, specialty hardwood lumber company located in Oxford Pennsylvania on a historic 18th century homestead. From their simple beginning, the family grew it from a four person company with eight thousand square foot of usable space to a thriving business with eighteen employees and over fifty thousand square feet of manufacturing, storage, and a marvelous showroom. As the company has grown, so has their ability to provide unique wood products for new markets. Originally they were strictly a raw material yard providing exotic woods from around the world. Now, they have “branched” out to include manufacturing musical instrument blanks and this side of their business has grown significantly.

Hearne hardwoods strives to offer selections of some of the world’s most unique and gorgeous wood pieces from sustainably managed forests delivered to customers in a friendly, welcoming manner. All Hearne Hardwoods customers are treated with respect and warmth. The staff onsite are very knowledgeable about their inventory and are ready to help every customer with their project, big or small.

Today, Rick Hearne and his son, Brian, travel across the globe in search of the wonderful treasures of nature that inspire woodworkers and instill a sense of awe in their customers.

Hearne Hardwood Products

Hearne offers several different categories of products:

  • Raw lumber – rough sawn, random width and length with wide selection of species from Apple to Ziricote.

  • Live edge slabs – most kiln dried, some air dried. Sawn and sold as flitches (sawn from a single log and sold together). Available bookmatched.

  • Tonewoods – high quality guitar and ukele parts.

  • Lumber piles – basically means what it says. Raw materials sold as a unit.

  • Burls and Blocks – these are used for inlays, furniture pieces, gun stocks, turned pieces, etc.

  • Veneers – used to cover large areas. Great for paneling, doors, and cabinets.

  • Hardwood flooring – custom made to fit your personal style and taste.

  • You Name It! – unique pieces ideal for art, sculpture, and table bases.

Sustainability

Sustainable forest management is vital to preserving forests in general and especially when dealing with unique and exotic hardwoods from around the world. Hearne Hardwoods is pledged to procure forest products from legal sources who practice sustainable forest management.

They have invested in a rosewood plantation based in Central America that includes a nursery and a sawmill. They are committed to building a renewable resource that benefits the local populace as well. The plantations are diversified ecosystems of indigenous trees and plants that allow the local communities to prosper from the land. They have also mahogany, cedar, avocado, mango, and orange trees within the tracks of the plantation.

As part of sustainable management, the trees initially grow among corn stalks and when they grow tall enough they will provide shade for organic coffee bushes.

Another part of their commitment to sustainable management and renewable the resources is their project to replant fifteen saplings for every tree harvested. The trees are GPS tagged in a forest management plan and their positions are provided to the local government for tracking and so that future members of the community are aware of the resources and can take part in their growth and harvesting.

 

What is Supply Chain Sustainability? – Part 2

Why is Supply Chain Sustainability Important?

The increasing concern about climate change by consumers and businesses alike has pointed to supply chain sustainability as a strategic goal for all participants in the chain. Supply chain operations, from sourcing, to distribution, to end-user, are an energy-intensive process.

Nations, governments, and business leaders have recognized the after-effects of these processes and have called for dramatic improvements in various worldwide climate summits like the Paris Agreement and the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. The medium-term goal within these actions is to reduce GHG emissions on a global scale.

Many industries, like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), logistics, and supply chain; are being scrutinized and called upon to provide plans and goals for sustainability in their operations. The new business leaders of these industries understand that their operations can have significant impact on the environment, which then flows through the social, political, and economic landscapes where they do business.

In example, Coca-Cola, who is a giant in the fast-moving consumer goods industry, utilizes its market reach to promote awareness of sustainability values and engage meaningfully with suppliers across its supply chain respectively. The 2020 Coca-Cola Business & Environmental, Social and Governance Report demonstrates the initiatives it is implementing within packaging, processes, and advocacy to redress its supply chain and communicate company-wide social responsibility and supply chain sustainability. In sustainable packaging, Coca-Cola’s goal is to make 100% of their packaging recyclable globally by 2025 and use at least 50% recycled material in all packaging by 2030.

For industries and companies like this example, it is up to the wooden pallet and packaging industry, as a service provider in their supply chains, to demonstrate the value of our products in achieving our customer’s goals for sustainability. Recycled wooden products do this by presenting sound, proven data that provides factual information for a customer’s sustainability initiatives.

Making a Supply Chain Sustainable with Wood Packaging

The goal of attaining a sustainable supply chain is to incorporate eco-friendly business practices in everyday operations, these include the use of recycled packaging and/or packaging derived from renewable resources. Achievement of a customer’s sustainability goals begins with important pillars that validate their goals and set up their operations for success with minimal disruption to any process:

Identification – companies identify areas of improvement along their supply chain from sourcing to packaging, to warehousing, to transportation. As operations are evaluated. The “low-hanging fruit” will highlight where the quickest positive environmental impacts will happen. This will help them jumpstart their development toward sustainability. As an expert in recycling processes and renewable wood products, you can guide them to quick wins that are identified at a granular level (read: pallet) and quickly coalesce into a significantly positive data point systemwide.

Collection – developing key performance indicators (KPIs) to use as a benchmark to track progress are integral to success. This helps businesses focus on their environmental goals. As an expert in recycling processes and renewable wood products, your input into those KPI’s will be critical. Luckily, all of this data is collected as a regular part of the services provided.

Commitment – service providers (like pallet companies) gain commitment from their customers by incorporating business practices that mirror the sustainability goals of their customers. This can include facility and yard tours that demonstrate real recycling processes in action and set expectations correctly with customers. Customers must understand that your services amplify their effort toward achieving their sustainability goals and contribute to their bottom line.

Connection – customers want to build on their successes in sustainability and engage with suppliers who understand this concept. Collaboration among businesses units within a customer’s business organization is compounded with optimization of their processes that reduces cost, waste, and environmental risks in the business operation. Wood pallets and packaging touches just about every business unit in some way, whether it be data, actual products, or services provided at the dock. Connecting those dots for the customer are crucial.

Evaluation – beyond KPI metrics there will always be the need to review and re-align with customer sustainability goals. These points of communication must be more than numbers in a spreadsheet or nice-looking reports with colorful infographics. An evaluation of service performance that is done regularly, whether quarterly or semi-annually, is integral to the progress of any sustainability initiatives. It will also help you as a service provider to address any concerns with the customer and help you achieve credibility as the invaluable sustainability expert that you really are.

Navigating successfully through these points to help a customer attain supply chain sustainability is complicated. Nonetheless, every wood packaging business in the industry should adopt these pillars to help promote our industry as sustainable, renewable, and recycling pioneers.

© 2022 Nature's Packaging® is federally registered with the U.S. Copyright Office by the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association. All rights reserved.