Basic Policy

In recent years, the degradation across Japan of artificial forest plantations of cedar, Japanese cypress and other species has resulted in the alarming loss of the multifaceted functions of forests, such as water source recharge. The reasons for this devastation include the stagnation of timber value and worsening profitability as well as the inability for proper thinning or other management of the forests. In order to prevent further devastation of forests by revitalizing the forestry industry, the government of Japan has set a goal of raising Japan's timber self-sufficiency rate to roughly 50% by 2025.

Breakdown of Company-Owned Forests

Breakdown of Company-Owned Forests

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Preserving and Increasing Forest Resources Through Management of Company-Owned Forests

The Sumitomo Forestry Group owns a total of approximately 48,000 hectares (about 1/800 of the national land area) of forest land area. Company-owned forests are categorized as either “commercial forests,” where the production of timber is the priority, or “environmental forests,” where conservation of the environment is the focus.

Sumitomo Forestry acquired a forestry certification from Japan’s Sustainable Green Ecosystem Council (SGEC)*1 for all company-owned forests*2 in 2006 and third-party evaluations have confirmed that the forests are being properly managed, including with regard to measures to conserve biodiversity. New forest purchases after the acquisition of the forest certification have each been under evaluation for certification and our certification rate is 100%.

Forest operations include appropriate thinning, which helps to preserve and increase forest resources, while taking into consideration the surrounding environment including the ecosystem. Sumitomo Forestry also aims for highly productive management of its forests based on operational plans that follow the principle of performing the appropriate management for the appropriate tree species on the suited land.

*1 Japan's own forestry certification system through which forest management is verified as sustainable by third parties. Certification is based on seven criteria that include the preservation of biodiversity and the conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources. Due to the June 2016 approval of mutual recognition of the PEFC*3 international forest certification system, international recognition has increased.

*2 The forests owned by Sumitomo Forestry exclude the lands leased to Kawanokita Development Co., Ltd., which is a Group company responsible for operating a golf course. Newly purchased forests are excluded because they underwent expanded inspections during the subsequent fiscal year.

*3 The programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes is an international NGO that mutually authenticates certification standards created in each country and region as criteria to be shared internationally. Forest certification systems in 49 countries have joined PEFC of which 44 have been mutually recognized as forest certification systems.

Distribution and Area of Company-Owned Forests (as of March 31, 2019)

Distribution and Area of Company-Owned Forests (as of March 31, 2019)

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Forest Revitalization Initiatives

Seedling Production for Regional Revitalization

Increasing number of municipalities are working to foster forest resources that are not yet effectively utilized as one part of regional revitalization measures. Areas of clear cutting is expected to increase in the future as the harvesting period approaches for cedar and Japanese cypress planted after World War II, and a stable supply of seedlings is desired for reforestation. However, due to circumstances such as a lower number of producers, it is expected that the resources will be insufficient.

Sumitomo Forestry was the first to modernize seedling production. We are contributing to the sustainability of forest resources and active resource production through efforts such as the construction of greenhouse-type cultivation facilities with proper environmental management using proprietary production technology for seedling containers.

More specifically, starting from the development of an environmental control greenhouse facility in Hyuga City, Miyazaki in 2012, we established the know-how for production in Mombetsu City, Hokkaido as well. The production per unit of area significantly increased by controlling the temperature and humidity and allowing cultivation throughout the year compared to conventionally raising seedlings in the open. We opened greenhouse facilities in Gero City, Gifu Prefecture in fiscal 2016, in Motoyama City, Kochi Prefecture in May 2017, and in Midori City, Gunma Prefecture in fiscal 2018 to establish a system capable of cultivating 1.6 million seedlings a year throughout Japan.

We are also linking to local municipalities to contribute to the revitalization of the region by establishing greenhouses with local employment as well as the development and standardization of new technology related to seedling cultivation in addition to as well.

Cultivating Sumitomo Forestry Seedlings Throughout Japan

Cultivating Sumitomo Forestry Seedlings Throughout Japan

Efforts in Fast-Growing Trees

Sumitomo Forestry has begun efforts in fast-growing tree forests that are gaining more attention in recent years. Fast-growing trees are trees such as Chine fir, chinaberry, willow and white birch that grow quickly and allow harvests in a short cutting cycle compared to Japanese cedar or Japanese cypress.

The Hyuga Forestry Office is conducting a test harvest of Chinese fir in the Hitoyoshi company-owned forest in Kumamoto prefecture. This test monitors aspects that include the reduction in weeding and tolerance against elements like wild animals through growth surveys and other research to examine the potential as a new tree species for garden vegetation.

In addition, Sumitomo forestry is also advancing the implementation of plans for test harvesting these fast-growing trees with the Forest and Landscape Research Center.

Chinese fir

Chinese fir

Launch of FRD Forestry Roadway Design Support System

Forests in Japan often have insufficient roads or strip roads in place which prevent smooth management of forests and transport of the timber that is harvested. Currently, when constructing roads or strip roads in forests, lines are drawn by hand over a paper topographical map before visiting the site to see if that plan for the road network can be executed as is. This process of examination is usually done over and over again. The work to create these line drawn plans as well as check and verify the site rely heavily on individual intuition and experience as well as cost a vast amount of time and labor.

This software takes advantage of precise topographical data obtained from aerial laser and other measurements to design forestry road networks such as forest roads and strip roads. The main feature is a function for automatic design able to automatically create the line drawings by inputting the site of departure and destination in the operation screen. This feature creates low-cost line drawn plans based on parameters, including requirements such as longitudinal slope and the curvature radius, width, and operation costs specified in advance. In addition, the software packs more features than necessary for the job, such as allowing the design of safety lines that reflect areas which should be avoided due to potential collapse and other circumstances when creating a plan. The on-site exploration of the line drawn plans for roadways designed in the software offers efficient on-site verification.

Automatic Design Screen (Image)

Automatic Design Screen (Image)

Spearheading Forest Revitalization and Developing Power Assist Suits for the Forestry Industry

Sumitomo Forestry exhibited the TABITO-03 prototype at the International Robot Exhibition 2017 to demonstrate the first power assist suit for the forestry industry able to reduce physical labor by 17%. In fiscal 2018, we tested the improved TABITO-04, featuring improvements making it easier to put on and take off, as well as more effective functionality. This consortium is comprised of the Forest Research and Management Organization, ATOUN Inc. and the Nara Institute of Science and Technology. Development is moving forward with the aim of practical application by 2025.

The power assist suit for forestry work now under development can reduce manual labor done by forestry workers by 17%. This is the first time a reduction in the physical load has been broken down into data in the forestry industry. The load on the shoulders and feet of works can also be reduced by wearing this assist suit when carrying heavy seedling packs and planting tools for several dozen kilometers. Forestry workers make their way to worksites by climbing up sudden slopes on mountain routes that zig-zag through the landscape when working in steep mountain forests. Practical applications of the power assist suit for the forestry industry would dramatically improve work efficiency in the shortest climbs and descents without worry of exhaustion.

During Evaluation of the TABITO-03

During Evaluation of the TABITO-03

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Sustainability Report