Cutting down trees is bad for the environment, right?
Well wrong actually! Wood is a highly sustainable and renewable product which makes a major contribution to the protection of the environment and sustains the livelihoods of millions of people across the world. But there’s a catch, this only applies if the woodland from which the wood comes is being properly and sustainably managed.
So how do you tell good from bad?
When you see labels on products from UK forests it means that they come from forests which have been independently assessed and which meet the UK Woodland Assurance Standard. This standard combines the UK Government’s requirements for sustainable forestry with the slightly broader criteria for the Forest Stewardship Council’s Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship.
On imported timber products, the label means you can have a similar level of confidence that the woodlands are being managed sustainably. Each country has its own standard but they must all conform to the overarching Forest Stewardship Council's (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Scheme's (PEFC) principles and criteria.The decision whether to apply for certification is a voluntary one made by forest owners and managers, and the inspection process, or audit, is funded by the owner or manager. The audit covers factors including:
- sustainability of the timber resource
- environmental protection, including
- water and soil conservation
- pollution prevention,
- wildlife conservation,
- use and management of chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, oils and fuels,
- health and safety, and
- interests of local communities.
Approximately 80% of UK timber production is currently certified.
These are not government schemes. Independent certification of forest management was begun in the 1990s by a number of voluntary environmental and social groups. It was begun in response to public and consumer concern that some forest products on the market came from forests that were unsustainably or badly managed. A number of large retailers of timber and other forest products began to demand certified timber, initially mainly FSC, as a condition of their buying forest products.
Other certification schemes, such as PEFC, have since been established and are similarly in demand as providing evidence to business and consumers that the forest products they use emanate from well managed forests. About 8% of the world's forests are now certified.
Further information about the sometimes complex world of forest certification is available online at Central Point of Expertise in Timber Procurement, Forest Stewardship Council and Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification.