sellers of timber is to be developed, Environment Minister Elliot
Morley announced today.
timber sustainability, is aimed at cutting through the thicket of
certification schemes currently applied to products.
The UK is a leading procurer of timber and the government has been
taking a lead on ensuring the public sector adheres to best practice.
The expert bodies - ProForest and ERM - will form a central point of
expertise on timber procurement and produce new on-line guidance that
will help suppliers and buyers judge the credibility of certification
schemes and assess their capacity for their meeting the requirements
of the public sector.
The bodies expect to complete the first phase of their work by
September 2004. The UK Timber Trade Federation is developing its own
code for responsible timber procurement for adoption by its members.
The government is confident that the existence of a central point of
expertise will accelerate this shift in timber procurement practice.
Mr Morley said: 'All those engaged in the fight to protect and conserve
forests have been keen to see the establishment of a Central Point of
Expertise on Timber The UK is one of the top consumers of timber,
much of which is imported, and we want to know that it comes from
legal and preferably sustainable sources.
'This first phase is the foundation for what we hope will become a
respected source of objective and reliable guidance and advice that
is accessible to all buyers and suppliers. The government is very
pleased to be working with ProForest and ERM on this project which is
strategically critical for the successful implementation of our
timber procurement policy.'
Dr Penny Bienz, head of environmental affairs at the Timber Trade
Federation said: 'The UK Timber Trade Federation welcomes this
move and recognises the importance of providing comprehensive
guidance on the sourcing of legal and sustainable timber supplies
to government procurement officials.
'It is in the interests of both the government and the trade to
maximise the use of legal and sustainable timber given its excellent
environmental credentials, that guarantees its place as the best
construction material to contribute to sustainable development.
'We will look to support the government process as part of the
advisory committee to CPET and through the development of a
Responsible Purchasing Policy, which looks to assist its members
in meeting government procurement policy demands.
1. DEFRA announced on 5 January 2004 the decision to proceed with
Phase 1 of the Central Point of Expertise on timber. Plans for further
phases are under consideration and to some extent will be influenced
by the experience gained from the Phase 1 project.
2. The concept of legal and sustainable timber is addressed by
international protocols on forest management. The agreed principles
donot set specific standards against which forest management
practice and the provenance of timber traded can be satisfactorily
audited. Suppliers being asked to acquire legal and sustainable
timber need to understand clearly what buyers mean by these terms so
that they can demonstrate compliance with agreed terms and
conditions. Various certification schemes exist throughout the world
to offer assurance to suppliers and buyers but the basis differs from
scheme to scheme.
3. The legal and policy framework governing public procurement allows
buyers discretion to accept certified products as assurance but also
allows suppliers to provide alternative evidence as assurance.
4. Current guidance to central departments is to demand independent
verification of suppliers' claims where there is no credible evidence
of legal and sustainable timber sources. Implementation can be
difficult for many suppliers and buyers. For example, tracing the
sources of wood used to manufacture products from forest to consumer
requires a sophisticated chain of custody system. Certification is
likely to be the practical solution for suppliers but they are
confused about which schemes the government will accept.
5. Buyers are left to judge what evidence is and isn't credible. This
is unsatisfactory because most public sector buyers do not possess
sufficient information and expertise to make informed decisions.
Purchasing the expertise on an ad hoc basis would be costly and might
not be consistent. There is a clear need for a single organisation to
undertake an independent assessment of the extent to which the
various known schemes satisfy the Government's specific requirements.
6. The government's response to the Environmental Audit Committee
report: 'Buying Time for Forests: Timber Trade and Public
Procurement' accepted that it would be sensible to set up a central
point of expertise on timber to support buyers and suppliers by
providing expert and impartial guidance and advice.
7. A Central Point of Expertise on Timber will be tasked initially
with assessing existing forest certification schemes and publishing
clear guidance on .the extent to which they can assure central
government buyers that contract obligations are being met. Advice
published by the centre could be controversial and in some cases may
lead to representations from disaffected parties. It is important the
centre is impartial and accepted as such by stakeholders. This can
only be achieved if the centre operates at arms length from
8. Forests that are well managed can provide timber and environmental
benefits indefinitely. It is important not to make acquiring wood so
complex and controversial that buyers are driven to demand less
sustainable alternative materials.
9. It is also important not to disengage from poor producing
countries that do not yet have the capacity to manage their forests
as well as the developed world would like. With this in mind the
government has accepted a recommendation to invite suppliers to offer
legally logged timber as a minimum standard. As an inducement to
forest owners to improve management standards, preference will
continue to be given to bids offering sustainable timber in addition
to legal timber.