There is a crucial need to promote sustainable wood-based products in South Africa. In honour of International Day of Forests on March 21, Sawmilling South Africa (SSA) has turned over a new leaf to lead the way for the timber sector with a new logo and slogan, and a renewed focus.

“Getting people to recognise the value of timber in the built environment will be set in motion by our modernised visual identity and corporate logo and will be directed by our new positioning statement: ‘We saw the future’,” explains Roy Southey, the association’s executive director.

“A play on words, ‘We saw the future’ demonstrates that we use renewable and responsibly sourced timber to saw products that are aimed at the future of sustainable, low-carbon design, architecture, and construction. It fundamentally embodies our vision for the timber industry in South Africa and globally,” says Southey.

“There is a unique climate case for wood as it is deemed as the only structural material that can naturally and significantly decarbonise our planet, both through the growing of trees (which sequester carbon dioxide and release oxygen) and by harvesting them at the right time, which locks up the carbon in sustainable quantities for many years to come. In fact, trees absorb about two tonnes of carbon dioxide to create one tonne of their own (dry) mass[i],” he points out.

SSA is an industry association that represents around 50 sawmilling companies, collectively employing approximately 12,000 people, predominantly in the rural areas of the country.

Sawmills transform roundwood – in other words, logs – into a variety of sawn timber products, including structural lumber for the building and construction industry and industrial lumber for the furniture, joinery, and packaging sectors.

Globally, urban populations are burgeoning, requiring cities to become denser, often by building upwards. At the same time, we are facing a climate crisis. The global built environment is currently responsible for approximately 40% of global energy related CO2 emissions[ii], with emissions stemming from two main sources: the energy consumed within buildings for heating, cooling and power (operational emissions) and the emissions associated with the extraction, processing, and manufacture of building products (embodied emissions).

Harvested wood products, which store carbon, can be a substitute for carbon intensive materials such as steel and concrete in construction. However, in South Africa where mass timber buildings are not commonplace, people tend to think only of log cabins, or conventional roof trusses. Recent technologies, however, are harnessing the natural strength of timber and improving it, engineering a new range of timber that can be used for mass timber buildings and high-rise construction.

“South Africa is ripe for scaling up the use of timber in construction. However, many people perceive wood as rudimentary or weak. But for engineering professionals and architects of mass timber structures, there is significant opportunity for innovation, localisation, and employment creation,” says Southey.

Cape Town-based agency Creative Caterpillar was given the task to visually reflect SSA’s renewed focus and vision, resulting in the association’s brand transformation. “The team adopted a contemporary, future-minded approach when re-imagining the SSA logo, which made it possible to step away from our previous, more literal logo and embrace a more inclusive and relatable design for all stakeholders in the industry,” says Southey.

The aim was to visually represent the new positioning while still honouring wood’s unique qualities. Therefore, the logo simultaneously represents a portal to the future and a stylised cross-section of a timber log. Coupled with this are themes of biophilic design and the positive ripple effect of sustainability within the timber sector. In this manner, when the timber sector brings their sustainability commitments to life, it will boost relevance and increase its business value connection with the target audience.

The evolution of the visual identity, corporate logo, and a refreshed colour palette of orange (representing creativity and innovation) and olive green (representing nature and growth) have given the sector new focus and a refreshed approach to enhancing its long-term sustainability and profitability.

[i] IThomas, P. (2000). Trees: Their Natural History. Cambridge University Press.

[ii]  The 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC)

[i] IThomas, P. (2000). Trees: Their Natural History. Cambridge University Press.

[ii]  The 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC)