Two schemes are adopting new ethical and legal standards so they will comply with the government’s requirements for timber and wood products used in the public sector.

The government also plans to carry out regular reviews of all the certification schemes assessed and will seek to improve their assessment in the light of experience.

The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) now requires greater transparency and more involvement with those at all steps of the supply chain.

National bodies will have to implement changes to their standards and procedures and the government will review their progress around the end of 2005.

In the meantime, government buyers will be able to continue accepting PEFC certificates as assurance that they are purchasing timber from sustainable sources.

The North American Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) has introduced a chain of custody system that suppliers to government departments can use to identify the percentage content of timber from SFI managed forests and so assure buyers that the timber is from a sustainable source.

Environment Minister Elliot Morley said: “The government and industry are together making good progress towards transforming the market for legal and sustainable timber.

“Being able to use four major forest certification schemes to provide assurance greatly increases the prospect of obtaining competitive bids for our preferred choice of legal and sustainable timber.

“This is good news for environmentally sound forest management.

“The changes have yet to be tested in practice.

“PEFC is on probation until it has demonstrated to our satisfaction that its national organisations are all following the new standards.

“We will also be watching to see that only those SFI certificates that confirm the required percentage of sustainable timber are accepted by government buyers.”

The two schemes join the Canadian Standards Association and Forest Stewardship Council schemes in providing assurance of both legal and sustainable timber.

As well as now meeting the required standards for public sector contracts, timber suppliers who have signed up to either of the revamped schemes are likely to find the governmental seal of approval does nothing to harm their reputation with other ethical buyers.

By Sam Bond

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