Grown in Britain Week is an opportunity for us all to celebrate homegrown timber.
When we say celebrate we really mean it. We love our homegrown timbers. We know that they’re becoming more and more sought after by woodworkers and woodfans everywhere which makes us incredibly happy. We can’t help but think that this welcome change has been energised by the work of the team at Grown in Britain.
Now they’re giving us good reason to stop for a moment and reflect on Great British Wood in 2017.
In true English Woodlands Timber style we’re taking part in #GiBWeek2017 in our own small way by telling you our GiB story below and following up with an invitation for you to come to the woodyard on Friday 13th October to share thoughts, ideas and information on how Grown in Britain might make a difference to you and your business… and to partake in an extra special Friday afternoon tea and cake session of course.
A bit about Grown in Britain and our story so far…
As an organisation Grown in Britain has been a galvanising and uniting force. It’s challenged us all to think hard and be honest about our UK forest and timber industry. They’ve enabled and facilitated forestry and timber projects around the country. They’ve encouraged us, supported us and given us opportunities to open up, make connections, to collaborate, be creative and problem solve our forest and timber industries.
In concrete terms there have been many interesting, successful Grown in Britain initiatives and we know there will be many more to come but the one that marks a turning point is the Grown in Britain chain of custody licensing scheme.
It’s a few years old now and it’s still gathering momentum as a means of identifying homegrown timber as sustainable timber and incorporating it into the timber supply chain.
This is not most people’s idea of ‘interesting’. It is pretty hard to make an admin plan for auditing woodlands and timber companies and following paper trails appealing, especially to us down to earth woodworkers and foresters.
But here’s what we think is interesting…
We used to get asked, a lot, if we could supply timber for a local project like a new school building or a hospital extension project… or to a furniture maker who made gorgeous furniture for one of the nations favourite high street retailers. The answer, of course, was always a very smiley “Yes”.
So, we’d get the spec and get excited and start producing prices for homegrown cladding products in the most local, most sustainable option we could offer – maybe a Douglas Fir Fresh Sawn half lap rebate, or an air dried Chestnut rhomboid – you know the kind of thing. Or we’d start working up prices for cutting lists using English Elm or Ash or Oak waney edge for the furniture making from the best quality, most locally sourced boards we had.
And then we’d get a few weeks, or worse, months down the process and in would come the procurement paperwork… stating that the supplied materials must have Chain of Custody certification for X, Y or Z scheme (really it was only for X, you know the one…)
And did we have chain of custody certification for our superb, locally sourced, sustainable timber from well managed woodlands?
No. We did not.
Because most UK woodlands had such a stringent management programmes overseen by the Forestry Commission that woodland owners had no real reason to join one of the X, Y or Z forest stewardship schemes for certification.
Their practices were sustainable, their woodlands healthy and biodiverse and their timber felled legally (every UK tree felled has a UK felling license). This was not deepest Congo or the Amazon basin after all, it was leafy Sussex , Hampshire, Surrey and Kent we were talking about.
So what would happen?
We’d have to price and supply imported timber. Timber from somewhere else more certified than here. Probably FSC Larch from Scandinavia, FSC Western Red Cedar from N.America and probably PEFC Oak from France. Meanwhile our homegrown timber would sit there. Gathering dust (but seasoning nicely…) And that would happen over and over again.
We’re not kidding, we had to watch as a local school, surrounded by mature Douglas Fir woodlands (that we could have used) was clad with some very nice timber from N.America because those local woodlands weren’t part of a certification scheme.
Talk about frustrating?! This is what homegrown timber was up against. This is what British woodland owners and foresters and sawmills and timber merchants were up against. The knock on negative effects for our forest and timber industries were just too deeply embedded in the system and too numerous (and boring) to list here.
And that’s why back in 2013 when Grown in Britain started asking us sawmillers and timber merchants how they could make a difference we all gave them earache about certification for homegrown timber. Just one of many issues that united us all.
It turned out the team at Grown in Britain had the power and the means to create a Chain of Custody License for UK timber based on the legal and sustainable practices that were already in place. They did it. And at the same time they built an administration system for handling it. They came back to us within a year, job done.
It was one of the first items that came up as an issue across the industry when they were listening to us moan and complain and it was one of the first big achievements for GiB. It was also one of the first signs that positive change was coming.
The Grown in Britain Chain of Custody Licensing Scheme has the potential to be the root (excuse the tree pun) of so much change for British Timber but it doesn’t work if the CoC stops with the mills and merchants.
Procurement policies at construction firms, Local Authorities, high street retailers across the country, quite rightly, state that wood products they buy need to be certified as using wood sourced from legal and sustainable sources.
Now for the first time this can include our homegrown timber because of GiB CoC.
These large construction firms, local authorities, high street retailers, online retailers have all expressed an interest in, or already have a written statements supporting the sourcing and procure local / British products. They know real sustainability when they see it. They have whole departments devoted to it. And they have procurement policies which they are required to follow but here’s they thing… they don’t yet have products to fulfil the requirement!
If they buy timber direct from us, the merchant, they can accept the GiB CoC certification and fulfil the procurement requirements… easy. But that doesn’t often happen. Normally they buy from a maker or a manufacturer, subcontract a builder or joiner. The timber could have certified CoC from us but if the maker, joinery, builder or manufacturer has no Chain of Custody the product falls outside of procurement requirements.
See, it’s getting even more interesting now isn’t it?
We know large construction companies, LEA’s and retailers want homegrown timber products but currently there’s a missing link in the supply chain.
We want to see our customers fill that missing link.
We want to see the people we work with everyday be the businesses who supply GiB Certified bollards to Wilmot Dixon, Fence panels to B&Q, Door Sets to McAlpine or furniture ranges to Heals.
Which brings us back to you.
Do you think it’s worth considering joining the GiB License scheme with your business? Do you make wood products that could fit the Grown in Britain timber supply chain? Come and talk to us.
Ian and Tom are both work directly on GiB projects and they’ll give you a realistic take on what’s involved and what use it could be for you and your business.
Grown in Britain might not mean much to you yet, but if you’re a British woodland owner or woodworking business then GiB could be useful and important to you.
YOU ARE INVITED…
to join us here at Cocking Sawmills on Friday 13th October for Tea & Cake
We’re celebrating Great British Wood and supporting #GiBWeek2017
and we’d love it if you’d join us,
Tom, Ian and the English Woodlands Timber gang
Accept our Invite with a quick RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about the GiB License Scheme
Download the GiB chain of custody License Scheme leaflet
See what else is happening in Grown in Britain Week 2017