“Connect to Nature. It provides everything.”

This article was written by FTMA’s Kat Welsh

When I met with Sarah Downey – Head of Marketing and Communications for Forest and Wood Products Australia – what was apparent, was that the corporation she works for is filled with people who do more than go to work. It is a set of morals, ethics, and devotion that keeps them motivated – devotion for the industry, devotion for the environment, and devotion for the future. It was also apparent to me, that Sarah is definitely one of those devoted people – the key word that kept coming up during our conversation together, was passion.

Sarah is a key component in the role she undertakes with FWPA. Having started there 18 months ago and recently successfully promoted to her current role, Sarah has been in awe of the work that the corporation does and the essential factors it is trying to achieve.

“There’s so much going on, so many projects, and research. It’s really incredible and a testament to the people that work in industry. They are so passionate, and give everything to make things happen,” Sarah said. Sarah is one of 14 core employees for FWPA. “It floors me what we can achieve each year… we are making progress, and it’s all down to dedication and hard work.” FWPA is involved in a phenomenal quantity of projects – from forest grower research that explores the climate change challenges and cutting-edge technologies for more efficient timber harvesting, to virtual reality experiences that take students from the classroom to the forest, to name just a few. And to be able to support this activity on a marketing and communications level, Sarah is obviously equally keen about being a part of it, as much as the colleagues and contacts she describes in the industry.

When Sarah first started with FWPA, she was primarily focused on promoting the WoodSolutions and The Ultimate Renewable programs. Her role now is overseeing all FWPA brands – with a focus on member engagement, marketing the value, and promoting every aspect of wood you could think of including its environmental benefits.

Previous to FWPA, Sarah was working in marketing and communications for 10 years, the last 5 of which were in the construction industry. When she was working for the innovative residential and commercial builder, Hickory, it sparked something for Sarah with the notions of changing the way the building industry designed and worked – to build more efficiently and challenge the status quo. “It gave me the sense that we can make a difference and build better for the environment.” Sarah undertook her own research into biophilic design and discovered wood being used in various projects worldwide as a natural and sustainable way for the construction industry to have less impact on the environment. “I am passionate about caring for the environment, so it’s great to be able to align my work and my values.”

Representing WoodSolutions at last year’s FTMA Conference.

Sarah with FWPA colleagues, Paolo Lavisci and Rhiana Archie.

Sarah spoke enthusiastically about a development project she was involved in that re-designed office spaces to create healthy working environments. It focused on generating workspaces that utilized natural lighting and fresh air and contained established green areas to increase wellbeing for employees.  

Prior to construction Sarah worked for a communication skills training company for 8 years and is still committed to continuous learning. “That’s what drew me to WoodSolutions and Forest Learning – education and development to help improve the way people work with timber and influence the next generation of foresters.” This background aligned really well for Sarah with everything that she is now focusing on within FWPA and promoting timber education and information.

When the opportunity arose for the initial role with FWPA, Sarah knew it felt like the right opportunity – combining her marketing and educational background with her passion for sustainable building and love of nature. “It tied all my previous work experiences together, and connected it with doing something good for the environment. This is something I can feel good about promoting. In marketing and coms, it makes it more enjoyable and more meaningful if you truly believe in the messages you’re pushing out there.”

The next generation is important for Sarah, and FWPA’s mission to see more timber education in our schools and universities. Finding ways of connecting to the younger audience – through marketing and use of social media is imperative – and Sarah talked about the way in which the younger generations are more able to question and research for themselves to find answers and solutions. In terms of the climate crisis and the future, it gives “a lot of hope for the next generation.” To change perceptions of the timber industry, promote the solutions and the use of renewable wood, and be part of positive change, Sarah is doing amazing things to engage the community, and younger generations through marketing and social media.

On a personal level, Sarah spoke whole-heartedly about her relationship to the outdoors and getting out for weekend hikes. Her family’s connection to the Bright area was a constant for Sarah growing up, and she described fondly sitting around the fire, playing in the creeks, and being submerged in nature as a kid. It’s clear that this connection to nature, from an early age has been key for where Sarah is now in her life – working to promote an industry that is part of the solution for our climate crisis. “The answer often lies in nature,” Sarah said. “It provides everything.” And it does feel that Sarah’s connection to nature, is providing for her devotion.

Sarah’s knowledge and respect for what FWPA is achieving and working for is abundant – her dedication to her role and the meaning it has for her is inspiring to see. Sarah is an important part to this team with her accomplished background of marketing – as a writer, a keenly compassionate person, and ultimately her personal commitment to being a progressive part of the solution for our planet and for us all.

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to meet up and share some of things about herself and her roles. It was humbling to know that such a passionate, skilled, and dedicated person has taken up the torch of Head of Marketing and Communications for FWPA and everything it is promoting.

Our Principal Partners