As biodiversity loss and deforestation continue to be a global issue, the need for certified timber and wood becomes even more significant. Certified timber and wood refer to products from responsibly managed forests that adhere to strict environmental, social, and economic standards. These products are verified through certification programs such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) to ensure sustainable sourcing practices.
Why Use Certified Timber?
By choosing certified timber and wood, consumers can support forest conservation, biodiversity preservation, and responsible supply chains. Certified forestry products contribute to preserving and restoring biodiversity in several ways and have many advantages over other materials. Unlike materials such as concrete or steel, wood is a renewable natural resource that can be harvested and replenished almost endlessly with proper forest management practices. This results in a lower carbon footprint than other building materials.
Working with certified wood and timber also results in numerous positive externalities related to energy efficiency. Wood has excellent thermal insulation properties, which can contribute to building energy efficiency. This can result in downstream energy reduction costs for tenants and homeowners who utilize these energy-efficient spaces. Wood is a natural insulator that reduces heat transfer through walls and roofs and improves overall energy performance, which detracts from inefficient building development costs.
These benefits extend beyond fiscal advantages. Wood’s hygroscopic properties regulate moisture levels and maintain balanced humidity within indoor spaces. Moreover, certified wood and timber are sourced without harmful chemicals, ensuring better indoor air quality. The newly imposed European Union Deforestation-Free Products Regulation, adopted in May 2023, requires companies registered in EU member states to ensure that agricultural commodities they import or export, such as cattle, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, rubber, soy, and wood, are not grown on land that had been cleared of trees as of December 31, 2020. This also includes derivative items, such as leather and chocolate. According to the regulation, companies must also ensure that these commodities are produced following “relevant laws” in the place of origin. These laws cover issues such as labor laws, the right to free, prior, and informed consent as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and laws against corruption. They also cover human rights that are protected by international law.
When deciding to use sustainable forestry products, there are three main certification programs to look out for: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). FSC and SFI aim for responsible and sustainable forestry management and virgin wood manufacturing through certification processes. Both organizations have detailed guidelines on best forest management practices, clearcutting, use of herbicides, replantation rates, protecting old-growth forests, and at-risk ecosystems. However, FSC is uniformly known as the more transparent, stringent, detailed, and accurate organization. There have been numerous greenwash accusations levied towards SFI through the years. FSC is backed by the Sierra Club and World Wildlife Foundation and PEFC Certification is a non-profit founded in 1999. Both were founded in response to the growing concern about FSC’s ability to meet the demand for forest certifications. Now PEFC is generally preferred by small or medium-sized forest owners in more developing countries.
A Sustainable Choice
Certified wood and timber, along with the newly imposed EU deforestation regulations, play a vital role in promoting sustainable practices and combatting the consequences of deforestation. Certified timber and wood provide a tangible way for consumers, businesses, and governments to support responsible and sustainable practices that protect biodiversity. In a time when biodiversity loss poses significant challenges to the health of our planet, the use of certified timber and wood represents a crucial step towards ensuring a sustainable and biodiverse future.
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