So it was with some surprise that an announcement came from FSC International last month that the latest revised draft of the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) was being rejected.

UKWAS – an independent certification standard for verifying sustainable forest management in the UK, is a central component of the forest certification programmes operated in the UK by FSC and PEFC. We are perhaps more used to hearing about the need for forest certification standard revisions in countries with more challenging forest backgrounds than our own. It’s clear the FSC decision has ruffled some feathers, with leading forestry body Confor demanding that FSC International reverse its decision. The UKWAS Steering Group also says it is “disappointed”.

The reason for the rejection is the draft did not take sufficient account of the FSC’s International Generic Indicators – which are intended to help bring global consistency among national standards. Confor says the decision is at odds with FSC’s own strategy of calling for locally adapted solutions and to focus on outcomes of forest management. It believes a one-size fits all approach for the whole world doesn’t work.

How you achieve a sensible balance between the two requirements – local adaption and global consistency –remains to be seen. On the face of it, it is a delicate and

But despite the inevitable delay this decision causes as the UKWAS 4 draft is revised still further, the potential of this causing further significant difficulties is remote. FSC believes refinements can be made within a reasonable timeframe and the existing standard will remain valid in the meantime, which will cause a sigh of relief among many.

The delay is regrettable though, especially as there is no suggestion the UKWAS standard has suddenly become an unacceptable definition of effective forest management in the UK context.

It seems more about FSC International’s newer version of its Principles and Criteria being more specific in its requirements than the previous version. Elsewhere in TTJ this month, we bring news of the first FLEGT-licensed timber shipment from Indonesia to Europe and the UK (page 6), with several UK companies looking forward to offering products to the market. It’s a great achievement by Indonesia and could lead to a swift change in purchasing decisions by major UK suppliers which had stopped stocking Indonesian plywood. And it’s further evidence of the global timber industry working hard to overcome hurdles and tighten up on standards and product assurance to meet market demand.

Now, if only all building materials could do that…