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Kim Carstensen - "There is a lot to gain in telling the stories of cork"


At the helm of the Forest Stewardship Council since 2012, the Danish sociologist, Kim Carstensen, has a proven track record in the area of sustainability and development. In an exclusive interview, he highlights the crucial role played by cork and the cork oak forest in protecting biodiversity and fighting climate change.

150 years ago, sustainability wasn’t really an issue. But a lot of things have happened since then, and now we are seeing the growth of environmental awareness.

What, in your opinion, can FSC do to improve this awareness?

Well I think FSC has very much been established as part of the growing global environmental awareness that has happened over the past 40 or 50 years. When FSC came into existence, it was very much a time when there was a global concern about the world’s tropical forest, about deforestation, about loss of biological diversity around the world and I think that at that time it also became clear that the environment was not only something that would be a political issue, it was also something that was also linked to our consumption and the very way that we conduct our daily lives. So FSC came in as a possible solution for everyone in the world who was buying products that came from the forest. And that was very important because it created a solution in a context where you could either not buy the product and therefore you protect the forest, or you buy the product and you are part of the destruction. FSC created a solution in-between where you could actually be part of the solution, where you could be part of helping the forest by using the responsibly produced forest products.

I think that in the world today FSC will continue to play that role and I think one of the things that we want to do - and I think Amorim is a very good example of that - is to be able to tell the stories even more strongly and more clearly - to companies, but also to consumers about how these products are actually helping the biological diversity, the life in the forest. I think cork is a very good example of that.


When we received the FSC certification for cork stoppers, we felt that this resulted in an increase in demand. So, in the future what do you think should FSC’s approach be, in order to influence the big retailers to follow its rules?

Since 2018, we at FSC International have incorporated cork as one of four non-timber forest products as we call them – distinct from the wood itself - that we work with our national network partners to support and promote globally. Products such as bamboo, rubber, nuts, and cork. What that does, I think, it gives us a new potential. Up until 2018 it was mainly FSC Portugal and FSC Spain who were working on the issue of cork, because that’s where the cork production is. But since 2018 we are developing a programme where we want to work together with FSC Portugal and FSC Spain to promote the use of cork also internationally. 

And we think also that telling the stories of the benefits, by showing the pictures of the beautiful forest areas that cork comes from there is a lot to gain. I think that raising the awareness or retailers and with other importers of cork stoppers or importers of wine, we think there is a lot to gain.


It’s also true that recycling, global warming and CO2 emissions are some of the big words in everybody’s minds. But that isn’t the case of the word deforestation. Why do you think this happens? Why doesn’t the media put the same emphasis on this issue? For example, we can think of the situation in the Amazonian forest. Why is this happening?

Well, I think the urgency of the climate crisis has been very compelling in terms of discussions of what we need to do to improve the environmental situation in the world. And I think the issue of plastic pollution which has come up very strongly within the past couple of years is also very potent in the discussion. Part of the reason for that is that these issues are close us, climate change is something that we feel on a daily basis. This winter is not even a winter, in Europe at least. With heat waves in Germany which are way beyond what they should be. So, these things are quite close to us, whereas deforestation is something that happens quite far away. However, I think the discussion is changing. I think there is in fact a big recognition that forests are part of the solution of the climate crisis. And I think there is a growing recognition that the other big crises of the world’s biological diversity are as important and is as urgent as the climate crisis.


What can FSC and its certified partners, such as Amorim, do to put this theme on the agenda?

I think we can tell our story and I think we can do that more than we have done so far. I think there are fantastic stories to tell about cork. Both about the properties of the cork and the quality that it has, and about the place it comes from – the cork forest. Pictures of the cork forest are very beautiful. I think it’s a spectacular environment. It has a very big role to play for biological diversity. I think there are some very important stories to tell there, which it would not be possible to tell about a screw cap or about a plastic stopper or anything like that. I think we need to develop and spread those stories and I think that is something we would be very happy to do together with Amorim and other players in the industry.


Do you think there is a bit more awareness right now only among citizens and consumers but also in the forest industry? Can we dare to say that in 150 years all the corporations that work in the forest industry will work with this certificate? Can we say that this is going to happen?

I think we can say that in 150 years we will have a situation where forests are sustainably managed around the world. If all forests are sustainably managed, I do not know whether we’ll still need FSC. My success criterion would actually be that FSC becomes redundant; that all forests are so well managed that we don’t need a specific forest management certification scheme to check it. We would have to see about that. But our objective is to be part of a movement together with our certificate holders, together with our members, to be part of a movement that makes sure that the value of the world’s forests, the value in terms of biodiversity, the value for the people who live in them, the value for the world in terms of the climate is recognised by society and society therefore through legislation, through corporate engagement, makes sure the forests are well managed.


Let’s talk about the Amorim group. Amorim Cork Composites was the first company to obtain an FSC certificate. Nowadays, all our companies are FSC-certified. What can you tell us about our contribution to the sector, the contribution of a group of our size and importance, to reach this ideal scenario. What would you highlight?

I’m very impressed with what the Amorim group has done over the past years. I think you are a very good example for others to follow and I’m very happy that you can now celebrate your 150 years, as an FSC-certified company. Inside that, there are some very good and relevant stories to tell. We would be very happy to work with Amorim for the next 150 years to make sure that the stories about the quality of the forest, the quality of the cork, and the quality of the company, get known by a wider public, because I think they deserve it.


Kim Carstensen
Director General, Forest Stewardship Council

Kim Carstensen has been the Director General of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) since October 2012. His strategic approach comes from a long history of global leadership - most recently as the leader of WWF International’s Global Climate Initiative, and as CEO of WWF Denmark - making him well-suited to consolidate FSC’s position as a global leader in responsible forest certification.