Timber is well recognised as one of the most sustainable building materials available and, as such, a growing number of organisations are committing to responsible sourcing policies. For anyone involved in the timber industry, ensuring that manufacturing and distribution processes comply with these standards will become increasingly important for future business growth.

As a member of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) in the UK since 1997, Carillion plc is committed to progressively sourcing forest products from well-managed sources. The EU Timber Regulation to limit the trade in illegal timber, which comes into force on March 3 next year, provides a baseline of legality as a minimum for forest goods entering the European market and reaching consumers.

FSC-certified sources

Globally, many state governments are taking steps to improve forest governance and eliminate illegal logging. Therefore, many organisations, including Carillion, regard it as extremely important that we abide by all applicable local, state and national laws, as well as international convention. In addition, at Carillion we have agreed that we will work with our supply chain to ensure that, where possible, all forest products originate from FSC-certified sources.

Carillion believes that FSC currently represents the gold standard and a credible benchmark for responsible forest management, and it remains our preference to source increasingly from credibly certified forests or verified recycled sources. Furthermore, suppliers must, when requested, be able to provide evidence that the wood or wood products they supply are from legal and sustainable sources.

As a business, however, Carillion’s activities cover a very wide range of facilities management, energy services and construction markets – meaning the business often finds itself at the far end of the supply chain. Although the company undertakes a reasonable amount of direct purchasing, it is the numerous subcontractors that procure the vast majority of the timber products used within the Carillion business. So there are significant challenges when it comes to ensuring this responsible timber procurement policy is followed throughout the supply chain.

Carillion’s procurement policy has recently been revised as part of the 2020 sustainability strategy. We have focused on managing timber use since joining the GFTN, and in the last few years we’ve managed to report on nearly 100% of the timber products used within the business. In 2009 the proportion of timber products we reported on that had no certification or evidence of legality was 7.9%. By 2011 we had reduced this to 2.25% and it is our plan to reduce it to zero.

In the UK, we typically manage up to 200 construction projects each year, and our facilities management business means we work in thousands of customer premises. With purchasing carried out at such a local level, we need various business management systems to provide clear guidance and procedures. We also have to ensure that we communicate our policy continuously and clearly to the Carillion teams that appoint subcontractors, and the third parties they engage.

In recent years Carillion has undertaken many activities to reinforce this policy. For example, we’ve revised paperwork such as requests for quotations and orders to make adhering to the policy contractual. We’ve adapted the agenda for pre-engagement meetings to ensure the implications of the policy are discussed before work commences. We’ve provided training to suppliers and contractors through a series of conference calls. We’ve published a list of approved suppliers for use by the Carillion supply chain and we’ve improved the reporting of our timber use.

Greater confidence

Our focus on the annual reporting of statistics has led to a greater level of confidence in the results among stakeholders and has had the added advantage of instilling greater discipline in record keeping at the local level. In addition, we encourage senior managers in the business to audit timber procurement as part of routine director site tours and leadership in action visits.

Now Carillion is embarking on implementing the same policy, procedures and reporting across the international business that deliver our construction and support services projects in Canada, the Middle East and north Africa.

In a further development for us, Carillion Direct Sourcing has been certified as an FSCregistered company that, as part of its portfolio, imports timber products into all of Carillion’s operations and ensures timber purchased through this route complies with our policy. This is all part of an overall strengthening of all areas of sustainability in Carillion – not because it’s fashionable, but because it’s critical to the long-term success of our business.

Timber is a really important product for construction and one that offers significant sustainability credentials over other raw materials as long as we use only material from well-managed forests.

Reducing our impact on the ecosystems, wildlife and communities that thrive in the forests is not just a policy – it’s a journey on which we hope our suppliers will join us.