Hilary Thompson reflects on 10 years at TFT.
My life with TFT began on Monday 1 November 2004.
Back then I was flying to Chicago in my first day in a new job, having left a nice and safe corporate role to head out into the unknown with Scott Poynton and his small organisation the ‘Tropical Forest Trust’. We thought we could make a small difference back then and we could have had no idea how hard it would be, but also how successful we could be.
Stupid, brave or fearless….think the jury was still out as I got on the plane!
Back then the Tropical Forest Trust was a little organisation trying to impact the tropical wood industry by moving forests towards being more sustainably managed. We worked mostly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam and worked with our members to make sure the wood in their products – garden furniture mostly at that time – was from forests on a path to sustainability. See, I remember the mantra after all this time.
We were in factories and in forests and we worked hard to make a difference and I believe we did. We played a role in getting many thousands of hectares independently verified as sustainable, and we have also supported four community forests to that same place – a real big ask in Asia.
As the years flew by we expanded our scope to cover many other commodities, like palm oil, cocoa, natural stone, pulp and paper, and rubber, and that’s just today – who knows where we could be tomorrow. Our mantra and message now is No Deforestation and No Exploitation in supply chains. We are making that happen – how amazing and powerful is that. My abiding memories are of the people I have met, because ultimately our work is done by people for people. I have met factory workers in Guangzhou, Rajasthan and Delhi, farmers in Punjab and Java, quarry workers in China and Vietnam, and foresters in Semarang, Sabah and Amazonia. We made mistakes of course, but looking back I can see that my personal goal to make small differences has been wildly exceeded, because of the amazing people I work with at TFT (The Forest Trust) who support and help all of those groups of people.
There are stand out moments, like looking down at a young boy in a factory in India, who was covered in shavings and dust. I vowed to work to change his working conditions. I also remember talking to villagers in Java about planting their crops underneath the tall teak trees instead of perhaps taking the logs illegally; running a health and safety clinic with quarry workers in Hyderabad, who were laughing so hard as they practiced bandaging; talking to palm oil plantation workers in Sabah about wearing safety boots ….. there must be a book somewhere in all of this.
I could not possibly name all my friends in TFT, but they know who they are and as we set off on the next stage of our journey together I want to say to them all that I am proud to work with you, I am proud of what we have achieved and I vow to work just as hard with you to achieve so much more in the coming years.
We are indeed as Gandhi exhorted us… ‘Being the change we want to see in the world’.
*Editor’s note* The Tropical Forest Trust, as we were first known, was founded by Scott Poynton in 1999. We changed our name to The Forest Trust in 2010, which reflected how we were no longer working solely in tropical forests. Today we are commonly referred to as TFT.