- 3 min
Making a commitment to replanting French forests
With woodlands covering over a quarter of the country, France possesses some of the most extensive forest resources in Europe. But they are poorly exploited, and the country’s forested surface area could diminish due to the combined effects of several factors. It is a case of not seeing the wood for the trees. Crédit Agricole Assurances has decided to answer their cry for help by embarking on a vast reforestation initiative.
What is the purpose of forests?
Forests play an essential role for our planet by directly influencing the climate. By carrying outphotosynthesis*, they act as carbon sinks. In this way, forests absorb a proportion of the atmospheric CO2** and help to combat the greenhouse effect.
At the local level, forests contribute to reducing temperatures and stabilising fragile soils, while acting as windbreaks and natural purification plants for fresh water.
In addition to their major impact on the climate and the environment (as home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity), forests are also a major important driver of socio-economic development. In France, they are the source of 440,000 jobs. Forests – and timber in particular – are very important economic resources for many companies: logging, sawmills, wood-based manufacturing activities (furniture, paper, cardboard, cartons, etc.), timber-based construction activities (carpentry, joinery, fittings and finishings, housing), etc.
Are French forests in good health?
Forests cover approximately the same proportion of France as in Gallo-Roman times, i.e. over a quarter of the country. This amounts to nearly 15 million hectares of publicly owned and privately owned forests (4 million and 11 million hectares respectively). Although they provide numerous assets and are the source of many ecosystem services that benefit the French economy, our forests are facing several different challenges.
- Recurrent natural hazards: each year, 20% of forests in metropolitan France are affected by hazards such as storms and drought or attacked by insects and diseases.
- Global warming: continuous increase in the intensity of ground droughts through to 2100
- Disappearance of State subsidies for reforestation: 50% fewer trees are planted each year than during the 1990s. This is due to abolition of the National Forest Fund which used to support reforestation
- Mismatch between forests and the needs of wood-based industries: 72% of French forests are hardwood species (beech and oak) and only 28% are softwood species (Douglas fir, spruce or pine), which are widely used in the construction industry. Consequently, there is an ever-increasing demand for softwoods. Unless replanting is carried out, the supplies are likely to run out by 2050.
Crédit Agricole is committed to supporting French forests
Through its forestry & timber sector, the Crédit Agricole Group is currently a key player in the forest economy and is actively involved in efforts to ensure that the forests of the future can fulfil their the economic, ecological and social functions.
Florence Doucet, an expert in the forestry & timber sector at Crédit Agricole, considers that “the forestry & timber sector is at the heart of the Group’s Customer project, because it is present in the majority of societal issues.”
“French forests are facing numerous challenges: climate change, innovation (bio-sourced products, green chemistry, development of timber construction, etc.), the revitalisation of rural regions, industrial development and reduction of the trade deficit (paper-cardboard, furniture, etc.) […] For all these reasons, our Regional Banks are the natural point of contact for the sector at the local and regional level.”
Crédit Agricole Assurances also
In the framework of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, Crédit Agricole Assurances is taking up this commitment through two of its pillars. "Responsible Insurer": reforestation through a transaction related to the protection of the family "1 signed contract = 1 planted tree". And "Responsible Company" via a sponsorship action in favor of a neutralization of carbon emissions.
Its goal: to leave a positive footprint on the environment with an ambition of 500,000 trees planted per year.
In this respect, “Both parts of the Crédit Agricole Assurances operation will contribute to addressing the key issues of planting and ensuring the sustainability of wood-based industries. In this way, it is totally compatible with the Group’s actions”, explains Florence Doucet.
*A process in which green plants use light energy to synthesise organic substances by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen.
**Carbon dioxide is an inorganic compound whose chemical formula is CO₂.