08 Sep

CHEP Expands Forestry Practices to Help Build a Regenerative Supply Chain


On the eve of the International Day of Forests, CHEP, one of the world’s most sustainable logistics businesses, has expanded its forestry portfolio in South Africa to 18 pine timber farms, effectively doubling its interests in timber plantations in South Africa.

“We’re really excited by our new acquisitions,” said CHEP Forestry Senior Director Jed Krige. “It’s another step towards building an independent, sustainable and regenerative supply chain. We are getting to a point where we will be putting more timber resources into the world than we take out.”

The CHEP forestry holdings now cover an area in excess of 7 500ha of standing pine plantations. Most of the existing forests carry the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation, with the latest new forest acquisitions currently being upgraded in compliance with the international FSC standards. CHEP Forestry Manager Gordon McKenzie has won the SAPPI Forester of the Year Award a number of times and leads a team of six qualified foresters with a combined experience of more than 120 years. 

FSC forest management certification guarantees that a forest is managed to preserve biological diversity and benefit local people and workers, while ensuring it stays economically viable. Forests are required to adhere to 10 FSC principles, incorporating everything from management planning to environmental values and indigenous people’s rights.

“Timber has countless benefits as a raw material: it’s renewable, reusable, recyclable, biodegradable and it captures carbon – but only if it comes from sustainable sources,” said Krige. “This is why we ensure 100% of the timber we use globally comes from sustainable timber farms, through FSC or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

“Global maintenance of both natural and man-made forests, and the related carbon sequestration that takes place, are an essential and major ally in our struggle against the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change. In support of this thinking, and as part of a number of 2025 Global Sustainability Targets, Brambles and CHEP, have committed to a Forest Positive goal, which incorporates growing two trees for every tree used in the business. We call it “one for our pallet, and one for our planet”.

Increasing global forest cover will help Brambles and CHEP achieve their 2025 sustainability targets and its regenerative ambition, because sustainably managed forests:

  • absorb carbon and produce oxygen
  • mitigate the impact of severe weather events, reducing wind speed and preventing soil erosion, helping to reduce climate-change related risks
  • contribute significantly to the maintenance of broad biodiversity in areas where they

filter and hold moisture, providing base inflows for wetlands and waterways

  • offer jobs and sustainable livelihoods
  • can increase productivity of farmland through agroforestry
  • improve our mental and physical health by lowering heart rates, reducing stress and boosting our immune systems

CHEP’s unique pooling system epitomises the circular economy, with CHEP pallets being shared and reused (not sold) by clients in FMCG, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and agricultural supply chains.

Today, CHEP’s humble pine pallet underpins many of the world’s supply chains. Third-party Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) has shown that CHEP pallets use 3,5 times less wood, generate 2,5 times less waste, and emit 2,3 times less CO2, compared with the main market alternative.

“The timber backward integration strategy in South Africa was initiated in 2006. It was as a result of ongoing shortages of industrial grade timber to be used in the local pallet market. The strategy was to secure standing sustainable timber plantations for supply to sawmills. The sawmills would then produce pallet repair timber to the exact CHEP dimensions, maximizing timber yield. We are now in a position, with our plantations, to supply our own sawmill (on 22-year rotation) for up to 60% of CHEP’s current annual requirements”, said Krige.

Ownership of its own sustainable pine timber plantations has therefore mitigated against market shortages and largely mitigated against the risk of non-supply or inconsistent supply of locally provided timber. It has also removed the need to import timber, which is time-consuming, expensive and environmentally unsustainable.

Another noteworthy contribution from CHEP owned plantations is the effect it has on surrounding communities. Employment opportunities are created for the locals on the CHEP farms as well as the opportunity to harvest reeds on the farms for the manufacture of reed mats. Alien timber is also supplied to the surrounding communities to be used as firewood.

“Ultimately, we want to restore, replenish and create more value for society and the environment than the business takes out,” said Krige. “As a pioneer in the circular economy, and with the support of our stakeholders, we are well positioned to succeed.”

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