New arrivals strengthen team

2 April 2020

Confor has strengthened its team with the arrival of two highly experienced forestry professionals – one as Deputy Chief Executive and the other contracted to co-ordinate the provision of critical supply-chain information during the Covid-19 crisis.

Andy Leitch joins on April 6 in the Deputy CEO role, while former Scottish Forestry Chief Executive Jo O’Hara is working with Confor and its members on a significant project to analyse critical forestry and wood supply chains - and the potential longer-term impacts of the current crisis on the whole sector.

Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall said: “I’m delighted to have Andy and Jo on board at this critical time for the industry. Their knowledge, experience and skill set will be vital in supporting the Confor team as forestry and wood processing faces a series of unprecedented challenges.”

Andy Leitch has almost 35 years of forestry industry experience and is highly respected for his strategic perspective. For the last 12 years, he has been based in Silvan House, Edinburgh, working for Scottish Forestry and latterly working directly with Scotland’s economic development agencies.  

His roles have included managing the Strategic Timber Transport Fund, facilitating £20 million of support to the industry over five years, and managing a three-year, £1.5 million programme at Edinburgh Napier University delivering research in wood science, new product development and the promotion of timber as a construction material.

He said: “Confor plays a crucial role, working tirelessly to communicate industry issues to Governments, forestry bodies and a wide range of other stakeholders.This role is more vital than ever in the unprecedented situation we all find ourselves in. I look forward to working with Stuart and the team as we represent members across the UK to the very best of our ability in these unique circumstances.”

Stuart Goodall said Jo O’Hara’s new role was vital as the industry faced up to Covid-19:
“There is an immediate requirement to keep critical supply chains functioning, but we also need to maintain them in the longer term until the peak of the disease has passed - and this brings different challenges, as complex, inter-linked and unpredictable issues play out.

“Also, longer term ‘post-virus’ impacts will also need to be understood if the UK forest and timber sector is to re-start and continue its vital role in the economy, the environment and in the battle against climate change. Jo’s deep understanding of the sector with experience working in England and Scotland makes her the ideal choice to lead on this complex work.”

Jo O’Hara was a Forestry Commissioner and Head of Forestry Commission Scotland, then Chief Executive of Scottish Forestry (and Scotland’s first Chief Forester) for 6 and a half years before leaving in January this year to establish her own consultancy business and devote more time to non-executive roles.