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Interview: compliance and sustainability

Michael Proschek-Hauptmann is Head of Compliance and Sustainability at the Schweighofer Group and has been responsible for the compliance and sustainability agendas since March 2017. Prior to his appointment at the Schweighofer Group, Michael Proschek-Hauptmann was managing director of the Austrian Umbrella Association of Environmental NGOs (Umweltdachverband) for more than eight years and also served as a long-standing member of the board of directors of the PEFCTM International forest certification label. He is a biologist by training and has been actively involved in the environmental, NGO and sustainability fields right from the very beginning of his career.

Mr. Proschek-Hauptmann, what exactly are your responsibilities in the company?
My responsibilities focus on ensuring that we do not receive any wood from controversial sources in our supply chain and that our employees adhere to all internal and external regulations. The objective therefore is to become a pioneer in sustainable forestry in Romania. Open dialogue and transparency are essential in my work. My guiding principle is to listen to external arguments and to take them seriously.

What is the action plan for Romania?
We don't just talk the talk, we walk the walk. Our action plan for sustainable forestry in Romania by far surpasses all legal requirements, but we nonetheless want to keep on improving. We don't just want to achieve perfection in timber processing; we also want to ahndle other demands that go beyond industrial processing perfectly. We must ensure that only sustainably harvested wood is used in our production processes. Strict controls and audits must ensure complete transparency in our wood supply chain. We are willing to pay for this. Only in 2017, the company invested about €1 million to further enhance its security procedures.

What measures have been taken so far to best ensure sustainable forestry in Romania?
Before we process any wood that we receive from our suppliers, it is subject to intense quality controls. Our modern GPS-supported wood tracking system Timflow - which is unique in the European timber industry - ensures full supply chain transparency. Every truck that supplies round wood to our plants or our warehouses must be equipped with the Timflow system. The origin of the wood that we process can therefore be tracked all the way from the loading place to the mill. All our suppliers are contractually required to design the supply chain as transparently and clearly traceable as possible. If we suspect that these requirements are not being met or the origin of the supplies cannot be clearly traced, we do not accept the wood delivery. Thus, Holzindustrie Schweighofer has a system of control which goes far beyond the strict Romanian legal requirements.

What role do NGOs play in this regard?
Regular contact and exchange with NGOs is very important for our work and to ensure sustainable forestry in Romania. I have always been very closely associated with NGO work in my previous professional career, most recently as managing director of the Austrian Umbrella Organisation of Environmental NGOs. I am therefore personally convinced of the fact that we must take the arguments of the environmental groups seriously. I am however also very confident that the strict standards in our action plan are already having an impact and are showing that these concerns are important to us. We are in dialogue with the different environmental protection groups and want to use suggestions from this sector to improve our measures. Finally, it is in the interests of bothHolzindustrie Schweighofer itself and the entire industry to support sustainable forestry, which allows for long-term planning.