Corporate Social Responsibility Information

Initiating Regional Revitalization from Forestry

Underpopulation in rural areas is becoming a serious social issue in Japan, caused by the aging population and falling birthrate together with the concentration of population into urban areas.
One of the solutions to such an issue is regional revitalization where forestry plays a key role.
The Sumitomo Forestry Group is supporting regional forest and the forestry industry, making use of the knowledge and expertise it has acquired through many years of maintenance of Company-owned forests.

Using Experience Acquired through Business in Regional Revitalization

With forests covering about two thirds of its total land area, Japan is one of the most forest-rich countries in the world. However, the growth of forestry—an industry that uses forest resources—has been sluggish. Timber self-sufficiency remains at a low level after it finally recovered to above 30%.
In rural areas endowed with rich forests, the forestry industry plays a key role in creating sustainable employment and revitalizing local economies. Moreover, planted forests will become devastated if left neglected. They need regular thinning and appropriate logging from the perspectives of the natural environment and biodiversity. For these reasons, in recent years, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and other government agencies, as well as local municipalities, have started to support the forestry industry.
Since its foundation, Sumitomo Forestry has carried out sustainable forestry management in Company-owned forests and operated businesses that use the resource. In the belief that the experiences and expertise it has acquired through these businesses, including systematic reforestation and harvesting, and timber use for home building and biomass energy, would contribute to regional revitalization, Sumitomo Forestry is actively working with municipalities and forestry cooperatives to regenerate forests and restructure local forestry, introducing ICT into forest management and proposing efficient infrastructure maintenance and operating methods.

Screen of ICT system for forest management

Total number of forestry support projects contracted out by public offices

Plans to Make Full Use of Resources and Integration of New Technologies

Forest management by the Sumitomo Forestry Group starts with in-depth analysis of the conditions of forests. We collect basic data, such as the geography, vegetation and density of forest resources, and develop plans that take into account the convenience, environmental conservation and other functions of individual forests. Resources from forests can be used not only as timber and building materials but also as fuel for wood biomass power generation and other purposes. While considering plans to make full use of the resources, we also produce afforestation seedlings, which are central to the forestry industry. The Sumitomo Forestry Group has set up four facilities that produce seedlings primarily with greenhouse culture in Japan. Seedlings are an indispensable element for the future development of the forestry industry, and contribute to job creation, because compared with open-field culture, greenhouse seedling production requires less workload and can employ a wider range of human resources. In addition, with the goal of making forestry labor lighter and safer, we work with robot manufacturers and university research institutions to develop and introduce assist suits.

Seedling production facility growing seedlings efficiently

Number of seedling production facilities in operation in Japan

Nurturing Forestry and Satoyama in Maniwa, Okayama

A Model for Forestry in Hilly and Mountainous Areas

Forests occupy 80% of the total land area of Maniwa City in Okayama Prefecture in Japan. In August 2015, the city selected Sumitomo Forestry as its partner in its Satoyama Maniwa Forest Development Project. Together with the city and a local forestry cooperative, we developed a Forest and Forestry Master Plan to improve capacity to meet the city’s growing demand for timber. In developing a master plan, we focused on forest management that balances environmental conservation and forest maintenance and forestry promotion.
Hilly and mountainous areas, including Maniwa City, occupy nearly two thirds of Japan’s total land area. Forestry is particularly important in making the most of such areas because areas with a lot of sloping land cannot easily be used for other industries. The Maniwa City project is expected to become a model case for new forestry.

Developing Satoyama in collaboration with the local community

In fiscal 2015, we determined the forest resources of the 5,700-hectare model zone in Maniwa City, carried out zoning,*1 and prepared harvesting plans. We conducted fact-finding surveys on animal damage and developed measures to reduce feeding damage by deer. We also interviewed local forestry businesses to develop a plan focused on future trends in timber demand. Based on the information we obtained, we will develop forests as Satoyama (wooded areas linked to local communities) that citizens can actively use in their everyday lives.

  • *1 Classification of areas according to use
Introduced high performance tower yarder

Introduced high performance tower yarder

Workshop for local residents of Maniwa City

Workshop for local residents of Maniwa City

Introducing Leading-Edge Quantitative Analysis System for Forest Resources in Kyotamba, Kyoto

With forests occupying 80% of its total land, Kyotamba Town in Kyoto Prefecture intends to develop its forestry with the goal of creating employment, encouraging the settlement of forestry workers, and ensuring proper forest maintenance. Sumitomo Forestry contracted with the town to provide consultation on the development and operation of a quantitative analysis system for forestry resources, which serves as the basis of the town’s initiative. Operation of the system started in March 2016. Using the aerial surveying technology that combines aerial photographs and aerial laser surveying, the system helps to accurately determine forest conditions. Additionally, the introduction of a network system that links the municipal office and a local forestry cooperative allows information on forestry resources of privately-owned forests and state-owned forests to be shared within the target area. These systems are expected to help develop more viable plans for harvesting and forest road construction.

Illustration of aerial laser surveying

Illustration of aerial laser surveying

Professor Kazuhiro Tanaka, Vice President of Kyoto Prefectural University (Department of Forest Science)
Since the 2004 academic year, Kyoto Prefectural University has worked on a special study titled “Academic Contribution to the Region” (ACTR), with the goal of contributing to regional promotion and the development of industry and culture within Kyoto Prefecture. In the 2016 academic year, ACTR selected a study subject application submitted by Kyotamba Town on an empirical study for a sophisticated and streamlined forest management approach using IT data. The proposed study is to be conducted through industry-government-academia cooperation for the development of forest plans that take sustainability and biodiversity into consideration, as well as for forest management that can contribute to the forestry industry and regional revitalization, with the use of the quantitative analysis system for forestry resources that Sumitomo Forestry developed for the town. I hope the study will become a model case leading to forest regeneration and the restructuring of local forestry.

Kazuhiro Tanaka

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CSR Report 2016