Good wood

As global deforestation continues at a staggering rate, Chayley Collis reveals why sustainable timber procurement is becoming more and more important


Though it doesn't always make the headlines, rainforest destruction and loss of old growth forests continue at an appalling rate. Around the world an area of forest the size of a football pitch is lost every two seconds. It is estimated that the Amazon forest will have lost 25% of its original area by 2020 - and if that sounds bad, consider that almost 90% of West Africa's rainforest has already been destroyed.

The importance of sustainable timber procurement is increasingly permeating all parts of the public and private sectors. The UK Government's timber procurement policy encourages public sector departments to give preference to timber from independently certified, well-managed forests and aims to encourage the market for sustainable timber. Construction companies such as Taylor Woodrow and builders' merchants such as Travis Perkins and Jewson are increasingly sourcing certified timber products.

Sustaining the future
Sustainable timber procurement is an important consideration for all forward-thinking organisations aspiring to corporate social responsibility. However, there remains some confusion about the what constitutes sustainable timber.

The UK Government is currently making concerted efforts to help public sector departments and their suppliers through the maze of information on certification schemes. A 2004 Defra report assessing five forest certification schemes concluded that certificates from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) should be accepted as assurance of legal and sustainable timber, while certificates from the other schemes covered should be accepted as an assurance of only legally harvested timber. However, in August 2005 the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) and the North American Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) were also deemed to provide assurance of both legal and sustainable timber, although these schemes still remain on probation while the Government tests recently-adopted new standards.

Greenpeace, however, believes the Government's approval of the PEFC scheme is premature. The pressure group draws attention to PEFC approval of logging in Finland's ancient forests which, it says, demonstrates that the PEFC is "failing to deliver on sustainable forest management."

Of the schemes assessed, the FSC's is the only global certification scheme to have the backing of both the UK Government and major environmental NGOs. FSC is a global system which combines forest management certification and chain of custody certification to ensure that timber produced in certified forests can be traced from the forest to the end user. You can now source a wide range of FSC-certified products, including paper products, pallets and packaging, office furniture, windows and doors, flooring and joists.

Know your labels
There are three types of FSC on-product labels:
  • FSC 100% - This offers an assurance that all the timber in a product comes from an FSC-certified forest; nothing else may be used for any timber-based component. This offers a truly sustainable option for specifiers;
  • FSC Recycled - This offers assurance that all timber content of a product comes from verified post-consumer reclaimed material.
  • FSC Mixed Dests - This indicates that timber content is a mixture of FSC-certified virgin fibre (at least 10%) and other controlled material. Controlled material excludes material from illegal logging, uncertified high conservation value forest, areas of social conflict and GM trees.

    Suppliers claiming to sell FSC-certified timber must display a unique Chain of Custody certificate number on invoices and indicate which items are FSC-certified. Only if the supplier holds Chain of Custody certification can it claim to sell FSC timber and/or products and use the FSC logo in its promotional literature. A company simply claiming to use FSC timber is not enough. The FSC logo (and the words Forest Stewardship Council and its acronym) are registered trademarks whose use indicates that the timber has been proven, through audit by an FSC-accredited certification body, to have come from an FSC forest.

    Chayley Collis is from the Green Building Store which makes FSC-certified windows, doors and solar spaces. For more information go to www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk.

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