Confederation of Forest Industries (UK) Ltd
59 George Street
Edinburgh EH2 2JG
Tel: 0131 240 1410
Every sector needs a professionally run organisation that can develop and
represent its views to politicians, civil servants, the media and others. Confor
was established to be that body and, starting from a low base, it has steadily
built its reputation in the corridors of power and is now regarded as the
primary source of strategic, high quality, information, representing the
interests of all players in the wood supply chain from nurseries and growers to
Confor has frequent meetings with ministers, key politicians and senior civil
servants across the UK – a vital function if the forest industry is to build and
maintain influence. This is no easy task as other interest groups, such as the
farming and large energy lobbies have established positions and considerably
deeper pockets. However, Confor is now seen as an effective body to consult
with and has been invited to participate in groups such as the England Expert
Panel and the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group in Scotland, as well as
briefing parliamentary select committees on subjects such as research and
CAP reform. Additionally, Confor inputs on behalf of its members on all
relevant Consultation processes initiated by Government.
Confor has raised awareness of key issues for the sector and leads on action,
including land use, loss of productive forest, the regulation Task Force,
gangmaster licensing, the merger of Forestry Commission Wales, and pests
Since the last business plan Confor’s successes include having:
facilitated the re-launch of Wood for Good;
developed a cross-industry policy on wood energy and secured support
from the Scottish and Welsh governments, though Westminster is
proving hard to persuade;
facilitated industry funding for research into the properties of the
domestic timber resource;
lobbied successfully for a grant in England to promote new wood
supply through investment in forestry;
lobbied successfully for ambitious new planting targets across the UK,
including of conifers;
secured coverage of forestry in party manifestos, many for the first
produced a well-received video and publications as part of increased
media coverage. Confor’s website receives thousands of unique ‘hits’
rebranded Confor to better reflect its role and the members it
established a safety, technical and compliance committee and a
woodfuel suppliers group;
joined the European Organisation of Sawmillers as part of networking
and influencing in Europe.
Of course, every trade association needs to deliver a range of direct benefits
to its members and Confor continues to offer a suite of services from legal
and pesticides helplines through to the magazine, Forestry and Timber News.
Our personnel based at our George Street offices are always ready, willing
and able to help with any assistance which can be given to members. In 2012
we also look forward to the APF with members receiving free entry.
Confor members operate in a vital low-carbon sector and it is imperative that
the sustainable management of forests and the responsible use of timber is
promoted to those who regulate our sector, develop policy on forests and
promote the use of wood. In this third business plan we examine the strategic
opportunities and challenges facing the sector and focus on the key targets
which Confor will promote throughout 2012. I commend this Business Plan to
1. Confor’s role
Confor: Promoting forestry and wood is a membership organisation that
promotes sustainable forestry and low-carbon businesses. Its strength is that
it represents the whole ‘supply chain’, including nurseries, contractors,
growers and professionals, sawmills, panel-board producers and wood supply
businesses. Confor focuses on the core strategic issues that are vital to the
success and sustainable future of individuals and businesses, but which they
cannot tackle alone.
Confor’s key areas of activity are:
Helping to build the market for wood, wood products and forest
Creating a supportive policy environment for forestry and wood-using
businesses across national and devolved boundaries;
Working with partners to secure business support and advice, and
ensure that members have access to relevant research and training.
This business plan assesses the current operating environment, looks forward
to identify the strategic challenges and opportunities facing the sector and
identifies actions that Confor will seek to deliver in 2012.
The Board of Confor has identified the top five challenges facing the sector
that Confor has a key role in tackling:
- wood supply in the short and longer term;
- promoting, and supporting, a ‘fit-for-purpose’ Forestry Commission;
- increasing awareness of, and changing attitudes towards, the sector
amongst politicians, civil servants and environmental NGOs;
- developing a wood energy sector that complements, not destroys,
- recruitment to the industry and training.
On wood supply, Confor has succeeded in raising political awareness and
securing support. It has successfully secured commitments on compensatory
planting for wind-farms in Scotland and Wales, and in England has secured
increased grant to replant areas affected by Phytopthera Ramorum as well as
rebuffed efforts to accelerate clearance for open habitat restoration. In
Scotland Confor has tackled administrative and IT barriers to new planting
and across the UK it has secured support for commercial softwood as well as
hardwood planting. Delivery of new planting on the ground has, however,
been frustratingly slow. Urgent action is required to secure future productive
softwood supply; without this security large scale investment will stagnate.
Confor has led efforts to protect forestry in any merger of FC Wales with
environmental regulators and through Stuart Goodall’s presence on the
England expert panel is representing the industry at the highest level advising
on forestry policy and the role of the FC. In Scotland Confor has expressed its
support for common services, such as forest research, statistics and
standards that emerge from a GB forestry body. Work continues on changing
attitudes and Confor’s policy on renewable energy has been a robust position
for the sector as a whole to support. Recruitment and training has been
pursued through collaboration with other bodies.
2. Analysis of the operating environment
Confor members continue to be heavily affected and impacted by public
policy, positively and negatively, and by the international trade in timber.
Climate change and devolutionary/independence pressures provide an
additional set of opportunities and challenges. The sector has enjoyed a
relatively strong performance in 2011, sheltered as it has been from the
effects of severe economic headwinds by a weak currency.
Looking forward, economic growth remains soft in the UK and wider
developed countries, with little sign of real improvement. Public sector cuts
will add new downward pressures and deep levels of public debt restrict room
for government spending to stimulate growth.
The construction market, new build as well as Repair, Maintenance and
Improvement, remains weak as public sector spending contracts and
individuals’ confidence about the future remains low. The Construction
Products Association predicts a 3.6% contraction in 2012, followed by a flat
2013, before modest growth returns from 2014, though there are occasional
signs of improvement in the housing sector. Fencing markets have been
generally good, while the pallets sector is weak, reflecting its reliance on the
construction sector. Energy markets continue to grow, increasing the price of
small roundwood and encouraging smaller woodlands to come into active
management. Growth is steady here, except where a larger plant comes on
stream, and there continues to be a fear that Renewables Obligation
incentives will support new power plants out of scale with domestic wood
supply and dislocate existing rural jobs.
Domestic sawmillers and panel manufacturers have secured a record high
share of the UK market for timber products. However, the overall size of the
market remains worryingly small and a strengthening pound could prompt a
reversal in fortunes for UK mills. Misunderstanding about the sustainability
and suitability of wood undermines its increased use, though Wood for Good
(part-owned by Confor with Swedish industry) has sought to tackle this
through its re-launched campaign. Recent Quantitative Easing and predicted
low long-term interest rates are likely to mean Sterling will remain weak, but it
is a bold step to make any hard and fast predictions further ahead than a few
The fall-out from the cancelled consultation on England’s Public Forest Estate
and the establishment of an Independent Panel highlights the potential flux in
public policy and structures. In Wales the Government is moving forward with
plans to separate FC Wales and merge it with the Welsh arm of the
Environment Agency and Countryside Council for Wales, a move that would
almost certainly be very damaging to sustainable forestry and the wood-using
sector. It could also trigger the demise of the FC across Great Britain
threatening valued services. In Scotland the FC currently remains a distinct
entity within a new Environment and Forestry department, with a forester
heading it up.
While Confor has raised awareness of the decline in softwood resource in
Scotland and knocked down a series of barriers, bureaucracy and institutional
delays continue to thwart new planting, further hindered by farming concern
over the impact on its future. Engagement with farming groups and its media
are beginning to identify common ground, but the civil service and public
agencies are proving harder to move. Similar concerns about the softwood
resource exist in parts of England and in Wales, and Confor has raised these.
However, progress on many issues is stalled in England ahead of the Panel’s
report in May. While in Wales problems over Glastir and the distraction of
merger make meaningful progress difficult.
Regulation and bureaucracy continue to undermine the very outcomes they
seek to achieve - promoting beneficial management of woodland. The lack of
understanding of the benefits of management and the key role of timber in
providing for financial sustainability weighs on the sector. In Scotland, the
current process of approving large planting schemes is resulting in
compromised schemes that go beyond current forest standards and satisfy no
one, least of all investors.
The poor public understanding of active forest management and the negative
perception of production forests, in particular, continues to dog efforts to
protect softwoods from ENGO campaigning and to promote the key role of
wood production (both hardwood and softwood) in sustainable forestry.
The forest end of the sector faces the increasing challenge of an ageing
workforce. Research activity is strong in places, but lacks an overall industry
based strategy and is in places under-funded. These challenges are well
understood in the sector, but effective actions to address them remain
sporadic. Physical access to forests for wood extraction, and from there to
market, remains an important issue, particularly in light of increasing fuel
costs and pressures to reduce carbon emissions.
The increasing threat from damaging pests and diseases is of major concern
to all with an interest in forestry. For those reliant on productive forestry there
is a need to consider how best to maintain productive activity that has
relevance to the marketplace while addressing issues of risk to the growing
resource. Woodland owners need advice and support in order to help them
make an informed decision about future species and management.
The challenges facing the sector are clearly increasing, but the annual growth
in Confor’s resources has been modest. It is difficult to attract small,
dispersed, heterogeneous businesses cost-effectively. Staff resource has
been re-focused on ‘front-line’ activity, including a significant beefing up of
media and political influencing. Confor has the equivalent of seven full-time
staff covering a large geographical area and operating across a wide
spectrum of issues, parliaments, departments/agencies and wood promotion
activities. Consequently Confor has to focus on strategic issues that benefit
members as a whole, with personal services focused on membership benefits
such as the legal helpline and free entry to the APF.
Confor has built a flexible suite of tools - lobbying, partnerships, promotion,
media communication, research, etc, which can be tailored to each challenge.
The time-consuming and continuous nature of influencing and promotion is
poorly understood by many businesses in the sector and this can lead to
questioning of the resources Confor puts into these. An examination of the far
greater resource and time that environmental NGOs put into forestry would
demonstrate to doubters the seriousness with which they take lobbying as
well as the scale of the challenge for Confor. Going forward, Confor has to
continue to grow its membership if it is to significantly increase its
effectiveness in representing the sector’s interests.
3. The top five challenges
3.1 Wood supply
In recent years it has become clear that there is a strong market for increasing
supplies of wood, helping to grow low-carbon businesses. Rising prices have
also rekindled interest in the role of wood sales in supporting sustainable
forest management. Unfortunately the area of softwoods continues to decline
and too little is being done to ensure that new and existing hardwoods are
managed to produce quality wood – vital to support their future management
and a missed opportunity to expand low-carbon businesses.
Table 1: new planting (annex A for country breakdown)
With the supply from last century’s planting set to peak and the existing
softwood resource reducing, confidence in supply is declining. This is a major
threat to the wood processing sector, and consequently forest managers who
need a market for their wood. Wood energy is providing a market for
hardwoods, but the opportunity should be taken to promote quality hardwoods
Table 2: production forecast
The potential impact of climate change as well as pests and diseases is
prompting debate on what species to plant and on silvicultural systems. There
is a clear need to reduce the risk of losing a productive crop, but equally
productive planting needs to be aware of future markets and cost-effective
management and harvesting. Consideration should also be given to re-
thinking nativeness and, particularly in England, including softwoods in larger
‘native woodland’. An acceptance of more mixed forestry could be a big step
forward in delivering more enduring benefits.
Action 3.1.1: the new production forecast, due March 2012, will provide an
insight into future wood availability. Confor will press for an early examination
of future wood requirements regionally and for this information to be used to
inform policy making and funding for existing and new forestry with the aim of
protecting and expanding productive capacity.
Action 3.1.2: in Scotland, Confor will continue to press for planting grants for
productive forestry that are financially attractive, as well as a defined
timeframe for processing applications. It will continue to work with farmers to
identify how attitudes to integrating forestry and farming can be fundamentally
Action 3.1.3: Stuart Goodall will use his participation in the Woodland
Expansion Advisory Group, alongside Confor members Hamish MacLeod and
George McRobbie to press for a report that sets out how new planting can be
Action 3.1.4: in England, Confor will continue to press for a more balanced
response to the loss of larch and for new planting of mixed and predominantly
softwood forests alongside ‘native’ planting and restoration. See Confor
Action 3.1.5: Stuart Goodall’s membership of the expert panel in England
provides an excellent opportunity to press the importance of the mutually
beneficial relationship between the market and sustainable forestry as well as
the importance of confidence in future wood supply to maintain and expand
Action 3.1.6: in Wales, Confor will continue to press hard for a workable grant
scheme for new planting.
Action 3.1.7: in Northern Ireland, Confor will press DARD for action to deliver
a real increase in new planting.
Action 3.1.8: CAP reform will be a major influence on future new planting and
support for forestry. Confor has taken the initiative in engaging with the reform
process domestically and in Brussels. A list of industry key asks has been
developed and will form the core of Confor influencing. One of these will
reiterate Confor’s request (first raised and acknowledged over a year ago) to
the EU and UK/country governments to ensure there is continuity in grant
support for forestry during any transition to new rural development
Action 3.1.9: Confor will press for government, especially in England, to take
greater action on strategic threats to growing quality trees, in particular
through squirrel and deer control, and action on pests and diseases. Confor
will also lobby for more research into quality hardwoods.
Action 3.1.10: Confor will take the initiative to develop a strand of activity with
FC and Forest Research to assess, in the light of climate change and pests
and disease, how best to identify species suitability as well as silvicultural
systems that will produce robust forests and deliver wood for the market.
Action 3.1.11: to help overcome prejudice against softwoods and address a
lack of scientific understanding about multi-purpose commercial forestry,
Confor will press for research into how 20th century softwood plantations can
play a key role in supporting carbon storage, biodiversity and recreation.
3.2 A fit-for-purpose Forestry Commission (FC)
The FC has always played a particularly important role in the forestry sector
supporting new planting and forestry management, undertaking research,
producing production forecasts and statistical information, operating plant
health and pest/disease prevention, as well as developing standards and
regulating the sector. In Scotland and Wales it is still responsible for forestry
policy, while in England that has been taken on by Defra. As the biggest
single supplier of wood it has underpinned the investment in, and growth of,
the wood processing sector.
Current developments in Wales and England, plus the desire by the Scottish
Government to ‘have full responsibility for all forestry issues’, mean there is a
real possibility that the GB FC will be broken up and its constituent parts
merged with environmental regulators/agencies.
It is difficult to be precise about the impact of such a breaking up, but it is
likely that the highly respected Forest Research would be lost, alongside the
production forecasting/statistical resource and support for the UK Forestry
Standard – a vital tool that also underpins certification through UKWAS. Plant
health would potentially be compromised, which alongside an inevitable
extended period of distraction as people and structures are re-organised, is
extremely worrying at a time of increased danger from pests and disease.
The likelihood is that forestry would be consumed within larger
environmentally focused bodies who do not understand that the challenge in
forestry is to make it economic so that it can deliver environmental and social
goods – forestry is not an inherently profitable sector, it does not receive
ongoing subsidy like agriculture, and consequently it requires a fundamentally
different approach. There is no confidence that this is understood or would be
practised resulting in an undermining of sustainable forestry and the tens of
thousands of jobs that rely on it.
Confor’s assessment is, that while the FC has its faults, for example in not
standing up for financially sustainable forest management in the face of
narrow lobbying and for promoting itself rather than the sector (whether
publicising environmental, social or business benefits), the sector is better for
having a body that can deliver devolved agendas and shared GB functions
that are of real benefit and significant importance. On that basis it is vital that
previous frustrations with FC do not cloud the objective analysis that Confor
should fight for the FC to continue largely in its current form, while addressing
the need to adapt to cuts in resources. The loss of one part will likely mean
the loss of all.
Action 3.2.1: Confor has put significant effort into, and effectively led, sector
opposition to the merger of FC Wales with CCW and a devolved EA with
numerous meetings with key civil servants, politicians, other interested parties
and the media. The support of other organisations in the sector has helped
display a common front, but the role of Confor has been absolutely
fundamental in questioning the benefit of including FCW in the merger. While
the minister has announced his intention to press ahead, Confor will continue
to campaign to protect forestry interests, seeking to gain support with
politicians and promote awareness of its case through the media.
Action 3.2.2: Stuart Goodall is a member of the independent panel in
England and Confor has been very active in meeting with other stakeholders
and politicians to understand their concerns and explain Confor’s views on
key issues that the panel is considering. Recognising the need to create
space to deal with huge issues around financially sustainable forestry, the role
of markets for wood, etc, Confor pushed for recognition that fundamental
change to state ownership of the Public Forest Estate is politically settled for
the foreseeable future and that instead the panel should consider wider issues
and develop a sustainable model for the FC. Confor will continue to engage in
this process seeking panel recommendations that will provide a sustainable
future for England’s forests and the FC, and help address the lack of a
woodland culture in England.
Action 3.2.3: Confor will continue to meet with ministers to discuss their
intentions for the FC in Scotland, explaining the sector’s concerns about
losing forestry expertise and focus, as well as vital shared functions. Confor
will make reference to the fundamental failure that has occurred with the
SRDP where forestry’s interests were subsumed within a larger, in this case
Action 3.2.4: As the UK struggles to grow the economy and public sector cuts
continue, it is clear that the FC will struggle to secure the resources it needs
to operate across its various activities. Confor will continue to press for
prioritisation on key services such as research, statistics and pests/diseases,
and will also explore how the private sector can be utilised more to deliver
activity, including in supporting management of the state forests.
3.3 Changing attitudes
Sustainable forestry and wood-using businesses have suffered from a
fundamental lack of understanding of the need for a financial underpinning to
forestry, from prejudice against softwoods and, especially in the case of the
public, from a mistaken belief that harvesting wood or other activities such as
sporting, is incompatible with securing environmental and recreational
benefits from forestry. This has led to public policy and delivery that does not
support long-term sustainable forestry, that has damaged confidence in
forestry based businesses and which, perversely, has often been bad for the
Part of the difficulty is that some environmental NGOs appear to see forestry
as an easy target for the campaigns they need to run to raise their own
funding. These bodies are hugely influential with governments and civil
servants, and can press, successfully, for single-issue policy priorities in
Table 3: Reasons woodlands and forests are important to the public (FC
Percent of respondents who agree
or strongly agree - Reason UK
They are important places for
wildlife 97 97
They are places where people can
relax and de-stress 95 95
People can have fun and enjoy
themselves 94 95
They are places where people can
exercise and keep fit .. 94
They make areas nicer places to live 96 90
People can learn about the
environment 91 90
People can learn about local culture
or history 69 71
They contribute to the local
economy 59 60
They get people involved in local
issues 63 57
They bring the community together 50 54
Confor has made progress in standing up to campaigns such as on
uncontrolled heathland restoration in England and has gained greater
newspaper coverage. It produced a film explaining productive forestry,
updated its website (which receives many thousands of hits) to include
information about the sector, produced well-received published material and
secured television coverage in Scotland. However, it is difficult to assess how
much progress has been made with the public.
Given the limited and over-stretched resource within Confor more effort
should be targeted at key influencers and decision makers. This would
include: expanding the programme of visits by ministers and politicians to
learn about forestry; engaging with key civil servants, such as the highly
successful visit by Defra forestry staff to an estate; and engaging directly with
ENGOs. There has been some liaison in recent years with the latter group,
but this could be stepped up.
Wood for Good provides a mechanism to communicate with builders,
architects, engineers and specifiers, and this could also help in
communicating with the wider public – perhaps helping to make wood more
‘personal’ by relating it to people’s emotions through toys and innovative
products rather than just highlighting functional products.
Action 3.3.1: Confor will develop and deliver a programme of engagements
with key politicians, influencers and ENGOs in each country.
Action 3.3.2: Confor will hold annual or biannual meetings with key ENGOs
to discuss ongoing campaigning and topical issues in forestry with the aim of
finding more common ground and avoiding damaging and time-consuming
Action 3.3.3: Confor will continue to develop resources targeted at the public,
primarily using the web and twitter, and exploit opportunities for media
Action 3.3.4: Wood for Good is a fantastic asset for the sector, and its
promotion of wood provides reputational and financial benefits along the
supply chain. Its latest campaign – challenging perceptions, fits well with
Confor’s own activities and, as a joint owner of WfG, Confor will continue to
provide resource and direction to its activities.
3.4 Renewable energy to grow the sector
Renewable energy from wood is a classic double-edged sword. Appropriately
scaled, it has obvious benefits for forest owning/managing interests. It is
stimulating thinning, which will support quality forestry, and it is promoting
more management, helping to bring greater supplies of wood to market – in
England Confor successfully argued for new financial support to tackle under-
management and increase supplies of wood. On-site generation is providing
an opportunity for wood processors to reduce their energy costs.
On the other hand, inappropriately scaled, renewable energy has the potential
to be a threat similar to that of pests and disease or declining supply. This is
certainly true of wind-farms which have prompted significant loss of
commercial forestry, including immature crops. Confor has succeeded in
pushing for a policy of compensatory planting in Scotland, which has been
followed by Wales. However, this policy only applies to new applications and
there are considerable affected areas in the pipeline.
Confor has championed a comprehensive policy position promoting local
scale, primarily heat generation and strong resistance to large-scale
generation. This considered, practical policy position, supported by evidence
of how it best delivers government policies has been influential in Scotland
and Wales. However, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has
tenaciously stuck to supporting large-scale biomass, actively seeking to
dismiss arguments about impact on the sector from ‘tesco-isation’ of forestry
and the damage to manufacturing and local energy businesses that deliver
more jobs and carbon savings. It may be that the need for base-load power
generation before the new round of nuclear power plants come on stream is
forcing a determination to pursue big biomass.
The sector has formed a shared-view around Confor’s lobbying position, but
this does not always appear to be getting across to ministers and civil
servants in London. With time running out, the Renewables Obligation
consultation appears to provide an opportunity for the sector to put over a
very simple message and attack the issue at source – do not incentivise the
burning of UK wood in large-scale energy generation.
Action 3.4.1: Confor will continue to lobby Westminster, using the
Renewables Obligation consultation and seeking to promote a shared, simple
message, including reflecting the concern of members in Confor’s Woodfuel
Suppliers Group that new large biomass electricity will damage their business
Action 3.4.2: Confor will continue to promote the development of local scale
and on-site generation, and press for investment to develop more supplies of
3.5 Recruitment and training
It is well known that there is an ageing workforce in forestry contracting and
harvesting. This is becoming an increasing problem as establishment,
management and harvesting increases. Mills have issues around recruitment
though they can often pull in generic expertise from other manufacturing
sectors and retrain. Napier continues to provide quality timber engineering
provision and some further education facilities, notably the National and
Scottish schools of forestry are expanding activity. However, there is concern
over degree level provision at institutions like Aberdeen. Adequate and
appropriate training is also key to reducing accidents and fatalities in a sector
that operates dangerous machinery from the forest to the mill.
Previous attempts have been made to promote recruitment into the sector, but
these have been one-off and localised. Previous problems over industry
liaison with skills bodies, especially UK Woodchain, have largely been
overcome. The publication of a Skills Action Plan in England is a welcome
step forward, though resources to deliver training in a sector where taking
time away from work or training new people can involve significant loss of
production, is a real challenge.
The impact of the Gangmaster Licensing Authority has been very damaging to
small businesses operating on low margins. Focused initially on Scotland the
GLA has begun to expand its activity in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
In response to pressure from Confor the GLA established a light-touch pilot,
but this still does not address the negative impact on a sector where there is
no evidence of exploitative behaviour. The Forest Regulation Task Force in
England, requested by Confor has identified this as a key issue and Confor
has liaised with politicians and the forest unions to press for forestry
businesses to be excluded from the need to be licensed.
Action 3.5.1: Confor will continue to support the England Skills Action Plan
and work to support apprenticeships. It will also continue to engage with
Proskills and Lantra in identifying industry skills’ needs.
Action 3.5.2: Confor will seek to work with Scottish Enterprise to identify
particular training requirements in Scotland, and hopefully secure public
funding to help address these.
Action 3.5.3: Confor will work with others to identify a strategy for
recruitment. This should include universities and colleges to promote careers
in forestry and wood processing.
Action 3.5.4: Confor will continue to lead the fight for forestry businesses to
be excluded from GLA licensing.
3.6 Other key activities
The threat from pests and diseases is increasing and activities above involve
dealing with this. While it is not a specific activity area, Confor will continue to
press for effective action by government and facilitate awareness raising,
detection and response through the private sector.
Building the value and size of the markets for wood is a key strategic aim of
Confor and Wood for Good provides an excellent vehicle for this. Through
considerable effort by Confor and a willingness by key businesses to stick
with, and fund, WfG it has been successfully restructured and re-launched.
Now in its second year of renewed operation it continues to have impact and
is seeking to grow in effectiveness with increased support and engagement
from the timber trading sector. WfG has co-ordinated the first pan-industry
manifesto for the sector, which is being promoted across the UK. Confor will
continue to view WfG as a key tool in its activities.
Timber transport remains a key issue, and it is welcome that the Scottish
Government has recently committed £3m a year for three years. Confor part
funds the GB Timber Transport Officer’s post, as well as supporting activity in
Wales with funding for Kath McNulty’s time by FC Wales. Confor raised the
need for action on timber transport in England as part of the regulation task
The Biennial ‘APF’ is a fantastic showcase for the sector, as well as for
suppliers to the industry, and a huge networking opportunity. School visits and
the opening out of the show on the Saturday to the wider public provide
valuable educational opportunities. Confor provides significant support for the
APF and this will continue. It is also an excellent retention and recruitment
opportunity for Confor.
4. Building a strong Confor
A successful sector needs a successful trade association. Confor has
reversed a history of decline to secure year-on-year growth in membership. It
now provides a flexible suite of services to a varied membership.
It is always a challenge to explain the difficult and time-consuming nature of
influencing and generally representing the sector’s interests. It is easy for
others to claim some credit for Confor’s successes without having to explain
what their actual contribution was. Confor has sought to increase engagement
by members in its activities to improve member input and, crucially, drive
greater understanding of its activity and successes. This will continue, not
least through a revitalised and more participatory Board.
Membership amongst forest owners and small businesses is relatively stable
and experience has shown the difficulty of increasing membership levels
amongst this community. The establishment of the Woodfuel Suppliers Group
has driven some modest growth in membership, with many businesses
already members of Confor. Increasing the resource devoted to recruitment of
small businesses has not produced comparable increased membership
income. The establishment of a Safety, Technical and Compliance committee
has been a welcome addition to Confor’s service provision and benefits from
the particular influence and expertise of the participating businesses.
Building on previous experience and reflecting on the current situation in the
sector, the focus for 2012 will be to target larger companies with additional
activity to engage larger woodland owners.
Action 4.1: Confor will invest in a technical resource capable of representing
the interests of member businesses and engaging in key areas, such as
harvesting and wood-use matters, wood standards, and safety and training.
Individual members will still have access to country managers to raise issues
of concern to them and the Nurseries and Woodfuel Suppliers groups will still
benefit from particular support.
Action 4.2: Confor will engage with larger woodland owners to establish
whether a forum for their engagement would be of benefit.
5. Investors In People
Confor will continue to utilise Investors in People to develop staff and the
wider business, focusing on staff learning and development.
6.1 The table below presents indicative budgets for the Plan period, showing
the main sources of income and the main categories of expenditure.
INCOME (£000) 2012 2013 2014
Growing sector subscriptions 5% 270 284 298
Processing sector contributions 336 352 370
Project and other income 3% 188 194 200
TOTAL INCOME 794 830 868
Staff costs 449 458 467
Office running costs 99 101 103
Postage and stationery 8 8 8
Subscriptions 8 8 8
Management expenditure 36 37 38
Promotion/sponsorship 50 68 90
Project expenses 62 63 65
Professional and consultancy fees 60 61 62
VAT, deprec. and contingency 25 26 26
TOTAL EXPENDITURE 794 830 868
7. Risk assessment
7.1 Regular risk assessments will be undertaken as a routine element of
management and board meetings. The main external risks that might affect
negative change in the overall economic climate or in exchange rates,
that materially affects demand for member’s product in the main
construction and energy markets
more aggressive marketing by competing materials
climate change impacts on species selection, timber production and
lack of recognition within Government of the importance of commercial
forestry and of increased planting levels
7.2 The main internal risks to be monitored include:
reversal of membership numbers and income
loss of support from larger subscribers or mergers and acquisitions
failure to communicate activity and successes to members
insufficient participation from members
lack of coherence and evidence in policy influence work
dilution of effort away from core objectives
Country new planting
Annual rates of Planting 1979 - 2008
15 NP Blvs
1979- 1989- 1994- 1995- 1996- 1997- 1998- 1 -
999- 2000- 2001 2002- 2003- 2004- 2005- 2006- 2007- 2008-
80 90 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09