At English Woodlands Timber we have firm beliefs about responsible, sustainable timber sourcing.
It all starts with the trees.
Our beliefs inform our choice to subscribe to chain-of-custody certification schemes that provide assurance of ‘legal and sustainable’ timber felling as part of formal forest management plans.
The chain-of-custody is key to the tracking and tracing of the tree and timber throughout the supply chain.
We purchase our timber from different stages of the supply chain; direct from the forest, from other sawmills (primary conversion) and sometimes from timber traders.
We choose that the timber we purchase and present for sale is ‘certified’ as 100% assured.
The 100% reflects a recognition of our role in the supply chain and our responsibility to the trees, woodlands and forest environments.
The 100% represents the strongest assurance of safety and the greatest level of sustainability we can offer our customers.
The 100% enables an ongoing, intact chain-of-custody which we fully support.
We’re not evangelical exactly, but we do feel strongly that there’s a clear and sustainable path through timber sourcing and supply.
If a merchant, builder, joiner or furniture-maker with GiB, PEFC or FSC chain-of-custody buys certified timber from us the supply chain remains intact and our customer can offer their wood product or material as 100% certified timber.
That’s a nice clear path.
The 70% Alternative.
You may or may not know there are alternative schemes are available to us (and everyone else).
Chain-of-custody certification schemes operate for ‘FSC Mix’ or 70% PEFC or GiB-70% as well as for recycled material.
In these situations a % mix of assured and non assured timber (within some boundaries) is allowed. All allow terms for up to 30% a the mixture the certified timber to come from non assured sources.
There can be good reasons to subscribe to one of these schemes but we choose not to.
100% or none.
All things being equal, we usually do have some non-certified timber in stock.
This is our alternative to 100% certified.
We feel, if we can’t assure or trace the supply chain all the way back to the source then we need to call the timber what is is, non-certified.
This way our customers have another sort of assurance from us, the timber either is or it isn’t certified.
There is no halfway house.
But just because we’re willing to buy something that isn’t 100% doesn’t mean we conveniently forget our values and responsibilities as soon as we see something exciting or extraordinary in tree or wood form.
There is still a process of due diligence. We don’t need to follow a scheme policy doc to know what sustainable forestry and responsible buying looks and sounds like.
We don’t want our timber – or any timber for that matter – that ends up as your timber, to be the product of slave labour, human trafficking, drug operations, from regions in conflict or from illegal deforestation.
But if we think it’s the right thing to do for our customers, we will sometimes buy non-certified timber.
Timber from non-certified UK sources.
If a tree doesn’t quality as part of a sustainable woodland management plan it can’t be 100% assured.
In the UK trees are (should) only be felled under license which qualifies their ‘legal’ status.
But ‘100%’ does mean that trees grown in urban environments, or in parks as specimen trees, or trees that fall in natural disasters, or trees that are felled for safety reasons in emergency situations… these trees don’t comply with the terms of 100% assurance.
A couple of times we’ve rescued boules, beams and packs from fellow timber merchants that have needed to close and didn’t have a chain-of-custody scheme in place.
Timber sourced this way can’t be certified even if we’ve been satisfied about the sources and we even know the woodlands it came from. It’s not possible to retrospectively apply a chain of custody.
Timber from non-certified European sources.
One of the strengths of the FSC and PEFC certification schemes is they apply internationally and follow the timber across borders.
Most countries, even in Europe, have differing levels of legality in their forest practices.
The only way we can be comfortable in our choice of European timber is to subscribe to the 100% rule and this is what we ask of our sources.
Similarly to homegrown the scenario, we’re sometimes offered boules from specimen trees, urban environments or natural disaster. We’d have to think carefully about buying in that scenario. It would take a lot of digging into the supply chain to satisfy our collective conscience and ultimately, our customers.
It’s not the most scintillating topic of discussion, but it goes to the heart of what we do, and possibly what you do too.
Standards, schemes, traceability, auditing, technical policy documentation… it’s nobody’s idea of a fun night out, but we feel it’s important to show commitment, to take responsibility and to be accountable.
And yes, the percentage may go unnoticed for most people as long as the letters FSC, PEFC or GiB are present on the product labels or invoices.
We just want to make it a bit clearer.
Our 100% rule keeps us on the straight and narrow.
100% or none.
It feels like the best choice we can make for our business and yours.
If you feel differently though, tell us your thoughts.
If you’d like to discuss certification further, or even seek certification yourself so you can offer a 100% assured product to your customers, please do get in touch or try the links in the MORE section below.
The Grown in Britain certification scheme for homegrown timber
Get a copy of our GiB chain of custody certificate
The PEFC scheme for European timber sources
Get a copy of our PEFC chain of custody certificate
The FSC® scheme for global timber sources
Get a copy of our FSC® chain of custody certificate
The United Kingdom Government definition of ‘legal and sustainable’ timber