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Timber Certification - A Complex Issue

The STTA are keen that prospective specifiers and purchasers are kept fully informed on the subject of timber certification.

Two main points ought to be kept in mind when discussing timber certification:

  1. There are many timber certification schemes being operated and developed. Currently the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme is probably the most universally known. However, it should be noted that other schemes can provide the required assurances that timber imports come from independently certified, well managed sources.
  2. Many of the poorest regions of the world may not have the financial resources nor the social infrastructure to administer a certification scheme.

The STTA believe that we, in the developed world, have a responsibility to support the developing countries through trade contacts. Should we blindly insist on a certification "label" without taking into account each producer's social circumstances, we may be guilty of denying the developing countries the opportunity of improving their living standards.

The STTA recently responded to the WWF-UK and the Soil Association on their request for information on certified timber. The full STTA response is given below.

The STTA's Letter is reproduced below.

Wood Purchase Policy Joint Initiative

We understand that you wrote to Member companies of this Association regarding the above initiative. Whilst some of the individual Members contacted may wish to respond to your request directly, may we take this opportunity to outline the views of the Scottish Timber Trade Association (STTA) on the certification issue.

The STTA is the Scottish arm of the UK national timber organisation, the Timber Trade Federation (TTF). The STTA are keen to promote the use of timber as an intrinsically environmentally friendly material and to protect the environment where timber is produced.

Whilst we accept that certification is an attempt to protect the global forest environment we have concerns about your project on the following counts:

Your letter mentions only the FSC scheme and no other alternative certification schemes. Whilst there remains a severely limited availability in FSC certified timber, there is an increasing availability of timber under alternative schemes, notably the Pan-European Forest Certification Council (PEFCC). The UK timber trade welcomes all efforts to introduce independent certification where practicable but does not believe that a monopoly of one scheme is desirable. Therefore, the development of the PEFCC and the recent increase in PEFCC certified area (which has now overtaken the forest area certified by FSC) is, we believe, an important step in ensuring that an increasing proportion of UK timber imports comes from independently certified well managed sources. The UK timber trade is encouraging the FSC, PEFCC and nationally based schemes to develop mutual recognition arrangements to facilitate the formal acceptance of the equivalence of different schemes by the industry's customers. To this end the TTF have actively participated in the Confederation of European Paper Industries' Comparative Matrix of Forest Certification Schemes which has defined a set of criteria which international and national schemes should meet. The TTF has also participated in the work of the International Forestry Industry Roundtable, which is seeking to develop a mechanism for mutual recognition arrangements between different certification schemes.
 
It should also be borne in mind that there are a number of exporting countries to the UK who have either not developed a certification scheme or do not yet have an operational scheme in place, particularly in the tropics, which is often due to economic and social hardship. For example, there are not FSC certified forest areas in West and Central African countries. However, we believe that it is still important to maintain trade with such countries to encourage future improvements in forest management and possible moves towards developing an independent certification framework if they wish to do so. In such cases, the STTA recommends the Forests Forever Environmental Policy as providing a useful mechanism through which to ensure the timber imported comes from legal and well managed sources.

We trust that the above information will be useful for your current purpose. Perhaps you would send a copy of your guide, once compiled, to me.

Yours sincerely,
D.J. Sulman,
Secretary

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