WWF UK Blog  

What wood should councils use?


Our campaigning has got local governments to make a real difference for forests around the world through their buying choices. In 2010 we launched our What Wood You Choose? campaign with WWF-Germany.

Sawmill works in CameroonThis sawmill in Cameroon, unskilled workers earn three times Cameroon's minimum wage - another example of how FSC certification can bring benefits to the environment and to people. © Olivier Van Bogaert / WWF-Canon

The aim was to raise awareness of the economic, social, and environmental consequences of buying illegal and unsustainable timber and wood. We highlighted the problem of illegal timber harvesting – its impact on deforestation, and the effect this has on people and nature in tropical regions such as Indonesia and the Congo Basin.

The campaign successfully got consumers, businesses, and government in the UK and Germany to take positive action by switching to timber and wood products from sustainable, well-managed sources.

Public sector procurement

In 2000, the UK government committed its departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies to purchase timber from legal and preferably sustainable sources only. Sustainable timber procurement became a mandatory requirement in 2009.

Choosing FSC certified toilet paperIt's not only wood that councils can make sure is FSC sourced. © Benjamin Ealovega / WWF-UK

But although local authorities were encouraged to follow suit, they didn’t have to – and many didn’t. A survey we carried out in 2010 showed that 84% of people in the UK think their local authority should commit to buying sustainable wood and paper products. In January 2011 we started trying to persuade them to make a pledge to do just that.

Our aim was to get 50 councils to sign up. To date, 61 have formally made a pledge to procure timber and/or paper responsibly – a great result, which shows that the approach has been effective. We’ve worked closely with the UK government’s Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET) and with Sustainable Scotland Network (SSN)to promote the pledges, provide technical advice and support, and help deliver workshops for councils.

Achievements to date

So far five councils have been successfully evaluated for gold or silver pledges. Fife, Falkirk and Lambeth councils were the first to be awarded their silver pledge certificate. (Update: Durham has now achieved their gold pledge; Edinburgh and Haringey have also achieved silver.) Find out what the pledges mean.

Our supporters have helped us enormously! We’ve found that in many cases councils do indeed respond to their constituents’ demands. Several councils have signed up to a pledge as a result of emails sent by WWF-UK campaigners.

Photo of a sun sets over FSC certified logs in CameroonSustainable harvesting, such as these being stored by a logging company in Cameroon, can bring sustainable benefits to the local economy and people. © Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK

The pledges have, I feel, been our best method of engagement with local authorities to date. And by promoting the pledges on responsible timber procurement, we’re actually helping the UK government to implement its own timber procurement policy.

Now, we’ve relaunched the campaign – we want to get an extra 50 councils signing up to a sustainable timber pledge.

Free advice is on hand, and I run a dedicated helpline every Friday morning (01483 412 578 or email jhorne@wwf.org.uk) to assist with any procurement enquiries. We’re here to help all UK councils to make their timber and paper forest-friendly.

In my next blog post, I’ll be giving some tips on how to ensure you get what you ask for in terms of sustainable timber.

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