CMO pioneers FSC certification around the world

CMO International, a diverse forestry company founded in South Africa, is making waves internationally by successfully achieving FSC chain of custody certification for 56 smallholder rubber tree farmers in the Sabah district of Malaysia. This is the first time that smallholder rubber farmers in Malaysia have achieved FSC certification which ensures their products comply with the European Union Deforestation-free regulations as well as other similar policies and market requirements around the world.

The successful outcome of this project was made possible with extensive collaboration between FSC Malaysia’s sustainable natural rubber project, CMO International, Control Union (M) Sdn Bhd and WWF-Malaysia.

“I am happy and grateful to be part of this project and I have learned about the importance and benefits of getting certified. I hope the rubber industry is sustainable for our future generation,” said Sylvester Dani, one of the smallholders from Tuaran in the FSC group scheme.

Sabdil Bin Tanjong, the General Manager of Sabah Rubber Industry Board said: “We are in the process of obtaining FSC COC certification for two of our rubber factories, the Beaufort Latex factory and Tenom Standard Malaysia Rubber (SMR) Factory. Our aim is to produce and export FSC-certified SMR and Latex Concentrate to the international market.”

A scale-up plan is embedded in the project, where progressively more smallholders are onboarded into the FSC group scheme, held by CMO Malaysia Sdn Bhd FSC-C195423. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the FSC group scheme is expected to cover over 7,000 hectares of FSC-certified rubber plantation by the second quarter of 2024.

The CMO International team played an instrumental role in training the smallholder farmers, and ensuring they understand and conform with FSC standards. As the entity holding the FSC certificate for this group scheme, CMO uses its software (‘Empower’) to map each member on the ground, compile the necessary management documents, conduct internal audits and monitor performance of the group members, in line with the requirements of the FSC standards.

Commented Michal Brink, CMO International Managing Director: “CMO is very proud to be able to bring this group of rubber smallholders in Tuaran, Sabah, to FSC certification. The smallholders have been trained and put in a lot of effort to comply with FSC requirements in their daily routine.”

This is the start of a journey to propel Malaysia – the seventh biggest natural rubber producer in the world - as one of the major suppliers of sustainably-produced FSC-certified rubber in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to their work in the Asia-Pacific region, CMO has pioneered the certification of charcoal producers in Namibia, as well as medium and small-scale tree farmers in South Africa through their innovative FSC group schemes. They have also certified communities in the Eastern Cape that are clearing alien wattle jungles and using the cleared timber to produce charcoal for local and international markets.

Gabon pushing for certified timber

Gabon Advanced Wood Sarl (GAW) is a company in Gabon which holds a timber concession. It recently obtained a new Forest Stewardship Council™ forest management certificate for its Ogooué concession in the south of Gabon, located in the Haut Ogooué and Ogooué Lolo provinces.

The company’s operations are located in the town of Moanda and supply certified logs to processing industries established in the Nkok Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a 1126 ha multi-sectoral industrial park located 27 km from Libreville. It includes industrial, commercial and residential zones. In its entirety, it brings together 144 companies from 19 countries operating in 22 industrial sectors, including a cluster of 84 companies dedicated to wood processing. (

The Ogooué concession covers 179 861 hectares of forests, including 25 996 hectares of strictly conservation area. The concession includes about 309 inventoried tree species and iconic and threatened mammalian species such as elephants, chimpanzees and gorillas.

This is the first FSC forest management certificate in Gabon since 2014 and an important milestone for Gabon's ambition to have all their forest concessions certified by 2025. With this certificate, the total area of natural forest responsibly managed in Gabon under FSC certification reaches 2 241 051 hectares.
There are now more than 5.5 million hectares of FSC certified forest in three countries of the Congo Basin: Cameroon (341 708 ha), Gabon (2 241 051 ha) and the Republic of Congo (2 989 168 ha).

Covered 85% by forest, on 22 million hectares, Gabon has a stock of exploitable wood of 130 million m3 of Okoumé and 270 million m3 of other species. GSEZ has enabled the country to develop and modernise a wood sector that was previously not very promising by relying on specialisation, one-stop services and alignment with the national development strategy. With 3.4 million m3 produced each year, Gabon has become Africa’s leading producer and exporter of tropical plywood, and the world’s second largest exporter. The country intends to go further in adding value to its wood products by transforming GSEZ into a centre for the manufacture of "Made in Gabon" furniture by 2025.

Faced with growing demand, GSEZ has made sustainability, traceability and certification of wood sourced in Gabon and processed at its facilities one of its priorities. All of Gabon’s forest concessions are operated according to the sustainable forest management practices prescribed by the Gabonese Forest Code. In terms of traceability, since October 2018, GSEZ has benefited from the services of the Tracer-Nkok agency, which filters the logs entering the zone in order to limit the risk of illegal timber as much as possible. By 2022, all the country’s forest concessions will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and/or PEFC Gabon in order to improve the traceability of the wood and ensure respect for communities and workers.