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UK Timber Trade Federation tackling illegal timber

The Center for Global Development warns an area of forest equivalent to the size of India will be cut down by 2050 without urgent efforts to bring an end to illegal logging. Source: Business Green

Pressure is mounting on government and businesses to deliver more effective anti-deforestation policies and responsible forest management programs.

Growing numbers of businesses have signed up to the UN-backed zero deforestation pledge and a number of firms are exploring ways to make zero deforestation compatible with continued business growth. And yet despite this the WWF estimates an area of forest the size of a football pitch is destroyed every two seconds.

Now the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) has added its name to a growing list of supporters for WWF UK’s Forests Campaign, putting three quarters of the UK’s £8.9bn timber industry behind calls for bolder action to tackle illegal and unsustainable logging.

The trade group represents around 300 British timber businesses and has raised its concerns about illegal and unsustainable logging through its own campaigns for some time, but the announcement is designed to make its commitment to tackling illegal and unsustainable logging more visible.

Anand Punja, head of sustainability at the TTF said its previous efforts to get businesses involved in programs that support sustainable sourcing of timber mean that many of its organisations already tick the boxes needed to be a responsible timber business.

Nevertheless, the body recognises that some of its constituent companies are “underperforming” and need further encouragement if they are to embrace sustainable forestry best practices.

The public support for WWF’s campaign is designed to put further pressure on these remaining businesses to enhance their sustainability efforts.

The organisation already requires its members to report on their sustainability progress each year and it maintains the introduction of this practice to its code of conduct in 2008 has resulted in the proportion of sustainably sourced timber rising to 91% of total volume.

Meanwhile, estimates for the proportion of imported timber where there is a risk it has been illegally sourced have fallen from 8% in 2007 to less than 2% in 2013.

The organisation said that in addition to continuing to encourage members to report on their progress it would now make members’ aggregated performance public.

Mr Punja said the partnership will WWF will deliver significant reputational and economic benefits to the businesses it represents, as it provides a clear message to consumers that the group is steadfast against illegal and unsustainable logging.

He said the relationship would give confidence to consumers who have previously abandoned timber products for plastic goods due to fears that the timber has been illegally or unsustainably sourced.

Julia Young, manager of WWF’s global forest and trade network manager in the UK, also highlighted the importance of supply chain transparency among British firms for the wider timber industry, arguing it can “set the bar” for high standards on responsible timber sourcing.

“The TTF’s commitment to the Forests Campaign is an excellent example of the evolution of an association’s role to encompass and encourage high standards of sustainability,” she said.

“We are very happy that the TTF continues to improve its own transparency on its membership’s sustainability progress, and look forward to ongoing collaboration on forest issues, whilst also welcoming individual leadership from the membership to set the bar for others to be inspired by and learn from.”

As well as committing to encouraging more sustainable practices among its members and calling on them to make their own individual declarations of support for the Forests Campaign, the TTF has said it will lobby for legislative reforms to help better tackle illegal logging.

Specifically, the group will join WWF calls for the UK government and the EU to transition to a fully sustainable timber market by 2020.

“The TTF has supported the campaign in principle since last summer however, we wanted to make sure we played an active role in supporting delivery of the 2020 targets,” said chief executive David Lennan.

Despite the industry’s ongoing efforts to remove illegally or unsustainably sourced timber from its supply chain, both the TTF and WWF argue loopholes in legislation still make it too easy for illegal timber to find its way into the European market.

The TTF claims the current EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which aims to stop illegally logged timber from entering the bloc, has too narrow a scope and fails to address many products which are not made with responsibly sourced timber.

WWF claims 59% of timber-based products, including goods as varied as chairs and books, were exempt from regulatory checks under the EUTR.

For example, a wooden frame is covered by the legislation, whilst a wooden frame with a painting isn’t.

The legislation is set to be reviewed by the EU in December after a consultation earlier this year and the TTF hopes by adding its voice to WWF’s growing campaign it can put pressure on policymakers to deliver tighter and more effective regulations.

Forest campaigners around the world will be hoping the latest business recruit in the battle to save the world’s forests can use its considerable lobbying muscle to bring an end to the loopholes that continue to undermine efforts to tackle illegal logging.