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Wood – the natural and sustainable choice.

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David Sulman, Secretary, Scottish Timber Trade Association.

Wood and wood products are experiencing a renaissance – as timber’s contribution to sustainable construction, together with its social and environmental benefits, including mitigating the effects of climate change, are being recognised by an increasing number of specifiers and users.

The Scottish Timber Trade Association, which is the Scottish arm of the Timber Trade Federation, comprises timber importers and builders’ merchants, specialist timber agents and joinery manufacturers.

Wood and wood products have a good story to tell; as sustainably managed forests provide economic, social and environmental benefits indefinitely. What’s more, wood is unique, it is the only truly sustainable construction material and life cycle assessment shows that for many construction uses, wood is the best environmental choice.

It is now recognised that trees, woods and forests, as well as wood products, play a valuable role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Young trees rapidly absorb carbon, where it stays locked in the wood and remains there throughout the service life of the product.

There has, in recent years, been understandable concern about the origin of the wood we use and assurances have rightly been sought in relation to the legal and sustainable sourcing of wood and wood products. Independent certification of forest management systems and chain of custody certification are now well established in the wood supply chain; thereby providing specifiers and users with assurance that products have been obtained from legal and sustainable sources.

The Scottish Timber Trade Association fully supports moves to provide increased assurance to specifiers and users of wood and wood products. In-company vendor assessment systems and tools such as the Timber Trade Federation’s Responsible Purchasing Policy, which has been welcomed by Government, provides companies with tools to objectively assess their suppliers’ performance and to implement continuous improvement.

In the space of just a few years, the timber industry in the UK has made outstanding progress in the adoption of chain of custody certification and the procurement of certified wood products, thereby assuring specifiers and users of the environmental credentials of these products. Today, nearly three-quarters of all wood and wood based products entering the supply chain in the UK are certified, which represents more than 11 million cubic metres of product.

Sustainably managed forests provide valuable economic, social and environmental benefits - indefinitely. The certification of forest products provides assurance, supported by independent inspection and monitoring of forest management and subsequent processing of wood, that wood has been obtained from forests which are being managed sustainably and in accordance with internationally recognised standards.

It’s easy to take wood for granted, after all, we’ve been using it in one form or another for thousands of years. Today, the UK is in the vanguard of the fight against the trade in illegal and unsustainable timber and its progress has been praised by the UK Government.

Despite the rapid adoption of certification in the UK, it has to be appreciated that the rate of progress towards certification made in the many countries which supply wood products to the UK varies considerably; this impacts upon the availability of certified products. It is also important to recognise that not all uncertified material is derived from illegal or unsustainable sources, as many producers, notably in developing countries, are currently working towards certification. Specifiers and users of timber and wood products should not disregard products simply because they have not yet achieved certified status. Certified products, such as those certified by the PEFC, FSC, CSA, SFI or MTCC schemes, that are fit for purpose should be the materials of choice, however, if a product is not certified, it does not necessarily mean that it has been obtained from illegal or unsustainably managed sources. In such cases, suppliers can provide information about their procurement policies and give assurances about particular products.

In the UK, DEFRA is leading the Government’s activities in relation to timber procurement and has established a Central Point of Expertise in Timber Procurement (CPET). CPET regularly reviews the principal forest certification schemes to ensure that they satisfy UK Government procurement requirements. Following its most recent assessment of the major schemes, CPET has confirmed that four schemes, CSA, FSC, PEFC and SFI, provide evidence and assurance that products have been obtained from legal and sustainable sources. A fifth scheme, MTCC, currently provides evidence of legality of supply. For more information on CPET and timber procurement, visit the CPET website at www.proforest.net/cpet.

With the availability of certified wood and wood products continuing to increase, there are now even more reasons to specify and use wood with confidence; its unique attribute as the only truly renewable and sustainable construction material, supported by certification, is yet another aspect of the good story that wood has to tell.

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