As far back as colonial times, Brazil has been a rich source of forest products. Exotic and beautiful hardwoods were harvested in abundance, usually with no consideration for forestry management or environmental concerns. Coastal access and rivers for transportation made Brazil’s forests easy to exploit.
One of the companies helping to change this picture, Eucatex, started out in the 1920s. They manufactured and sold panels and tiles made from the eucalyptus tree. Its natural oils made it extremely durable, it was fast growing, and remains one of the tallest types of trees. Leveraging these properties, Eucatex grew quickly. In a decade they had already expanded to Europe. By the 1980s, four facilities had opened and the product line had grown to include doors, wall partitions and panels – all connected in one way or another to eucalyptus wood.
As Brazil modernized, Eucatex continued expand, eventually adding a variety of products to their operations, including paints, vinyl flooring and even aluminum event flooring. But there was always an eye toward sustainability and a tie to forestry. In particular, Eucatex products often have a mix of recycled and “virgin” fibers. They also supply eucalyptus seedlings. These are developed in company-owned nurseries using the latest cloning and hybridization techniques to produce a hardy, vibrant line. Seedlings are used for reforestation and tree farming with an eye toward sustainability.
Flavio Maluf has been heading the company since 2005, after working as an executive there for more than a decade. He brings a technical education – bachelor’s in mechanical engineering – along with additional training in business and forestry. Under Flavio’s tenure, Eucatex has opened a new facility in Brazil and expanded their market by 30%. Flavio continues to seek growth opportunities while keeping a close eye on sustainability issues. His stewardship has produced a model for what it means to be an environmentally responsible corporation.
Why eucalyptus? This fast-growing tree produces a natural insecticide, making it ideal in a tropical climate. The tree tolerates high ground moisture, and can be used to reclaim low-lying swampy areas. This land would otherwise be unusable for agriculture or forestry. The wood produced is reliably of good quality and because of the oils, is resistant to rot. Lower costs to produce mean eucalyptus veneers can be used as filler in wood laminate products. Sheets of the material are often sold as a laminate filler layer for plywood and other pressed-wood products. The eucalyptus becomes the inner layer of the wood sandwich, with higher priced woods on the outer, visible surfaces.
Eucatex is expected to continue to expand operations, despite competition from artificial materials. Natural-grown wood has advantages that petroleum derived replacements do not – chiefly price and sustainability. The outlook is good for Eucatex and their CEO, Flavio Maluf.