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. We will contribute to the targets laid out by the government of Japan while expanding our managed forest area, developing and introducing forestry machinery compatible with Japanese terrain and other such conditions, increasing the cultivation of fast-growing trees, spearheading planting and cultivation technologies, pioneering container seedling businesses, and promoting business solutions that leverage ICT.

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, and the surrounding forest. 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 51 countries have joined PEFC of which 44 have been mutually recognized as forest certification systems.

Distribution and Area of Company-Owned Forests (as of December 31, 2020)

Distribution and Area of Company-Owned Forests (as of December 31, 2020)

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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 as well as in Minamiaizu, Fukushima Prefecture in fiscal 2019 to establish a system capable of cultivating 1.9 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 a growth comparison with Japanese cedar 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

Development of Forestry Drones to Transport Seedlings to Reduce the Labor of Planting Work

Workers are currently carrying seedlings weighing roughly 10 kg on their back when planting Japanese cedar, cypress and other tree species. Particularly in Japan, the terrain is quite hilly and places a huge physical burden on workers, which makes it difficult to secure a labor force.

That is why Sumitomo Forestry has been advancing the development of drones to transport these seedlings jointly with drone manufacturers and distribution companies that have proven themselves in the agricultural field. This project has conducted repetitive proof-of-concept tests in company-owned forests by flying drones safely over complex terrain and in harsh weather to deliver the seedlings safely. Based on these tests and various improvements, sales of the Morito Forestry Drone to transport seedlings began throughout Japan in fiscal 2020.

Morito Forestry Drone to Transport Seedlings

Morito Forestry Drone to Transport Seedlings

Launch of FRD Forestry Roadway Design Support System

Forests in Japan often have insufficient forest roads or strip roads in place which prevent smooth management of forests and transport of the timber that is harvested. Currently, when constructing forest roads or strip roads, 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 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, we have devised a way for software to recognize dangerous terrain. This 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)

Development of Power Assist Suits for the Forestry Industry to Reduce the Physical Burden of Planting Work

The Forestry Assist Suit Research and Development Consortium led by Sumitomo Forestry is comprised of four institutes each with specialized knowledge in the forestry and engineering fields (Sumitomo Forestry, Forest Research and Management Organization, ATOUN Inc. and the Nara Institute of Science and Technology). The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan provides a budget to the Consortium for research and development of power assist suits in the forestry industry to reduce the physical labor of planting work. Proof-of-concept testing using a prototype produced in fiscal 2020 verified the benefits from a 20% reduction in the physical labor (energy metabolism) needed to transport seedlings to a 10% to 20% improvement in work efficiency. Development is moving forward with the aim of practical application by 2025.

In addition to assisting operators while they walk when traversing up and down slopes, this forestry power suit can also reduce the load on the shoulders and feet of workers when carrying heavy seedling packs and planting tools for several dozen kilometers. Practical applications of the power assist suit for the forestry industry would reduce the physical burden on workers and improve work efficiency by alleviating concerns about exhaustion on steep slopes while allow each person to carry a larger amount of seedlings and tools.

Prototype Testing

Prototype Testing

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Sustainability Report