PEFC chain circles the globe

25 January 2016

The PEFC certification scheme is growing through combining a global and small scale local perspective, reports its UK executive director Alun Watkins.

PEFC UK is part of a thriving global family with a common goal of promoting sustainable forest management to a wide range of forest owners.

We also feel it's important this is recognised - and rewarded - throughout the supply chain. PEFC's unique collaborative approach is fast making us the global partner of choice for those engaged in sustainable forest management.

By the end of 2015, over 268 million hectares of forest were PEFC-certified worldwide, with over 10,000 companies achieving chain of custody certification.

The UK now has 11% of all chain of custody certificates, with only Germany (15%) and France (20%) accounting for more.

With only 10% of the world's forests certified so far - or about 27% of industrial roundwood supply - PEFC has long recognised the importance of increasing the supply of certified material. So in 2015 we were delighted to welcome India, as its Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF) became the 40th member - and recently New Zealand became the latest to achieve PEFC endorsement.

Over coming years, PEFC has ambitious plans to extend beyond its European roots. More than 20 countries, including Cameroon, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Thailand and Vietnam, are developing national forest certification standards, with a view to eventual endorsement. This explosion of interest in the PEFC programme is excellent news and endorsement of its inclusion of forest owners of all sizes.

Certification for smaller UK Woodlands

PEFC UK is keen to play its part in increasing certified forest area at home. Approximately 1.3 million hectares are now covered by PEFC's sustainable forest management standard, most owned by the Forestry Commission or members of larger group certification schemes managed by Scottish Woodlands or Tilhill Forestry.

However, many small woodland owners still view certification as onerous and expensive. As a result, certified area growth has stalled, with negative impacts for a UK primary processing sector needing an increasing supply of certified timber to meet burgeoning customer demand.

To provide a cost-effective certification solution, PEFC UK has developed an online forest certification system, designed to help small and medium-sized private forest owners through the process with minimum fuss. It is currently being piloted and feedback has been fantastic. We're confident it will result in a marked increase in the UK's certified forest area and more certified material to meet growing demand.

Certified market drivers

In the UK, public procurement policy remains a key market driver for certified timber. Defra has announced that both PEFC and FSC schemes remain 100% compliant with required legality criteria and both are over 90% compliant with sustainability criteria.

The benefits of using certified timber are now well understood. Using PEFC-certified timber is a key driver to Excellent and Outstanding BREEAM ratings. Certified timber is also a central component of the Ska environmental performance standard, which assesses building fit-out projects and consists of 104 individual 'good-practice' measures including certified timber, energy efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions.

Another barometer of PEFC growth, sustainability benchmark NextGeneration, covering the top 25 UK housebuilders, was recently published.

Overseen by the Homes and Communities Agency and the UK Green Building Council, it aims to help the industry understand opportunities and risks posed by the sustainable housing agenda.

It comprises 100 criteria based on best practice standards and guidance. Participating organisations now need to ensure that only legal timber is purchased and demonstrate that they have either PEFC or FSC Chain of Custody Certification for the timber they buy.

At the start of 2016, PEFC is entering an exciting phase of evolution and growth. In the UK, the design community is increasingly embracing PEFC-certified CLT and glulam to deliver high profile, award-winning projects.

We expect demand for PEFC timber to continue to grow.

The UK has 11% of all PEFC chain of custody certificates
Alun Watkins