The Timber Trade Federation baulked when I suggested its members faced having to shape up or ship out on the issue of implementing environmental due diligence. Chief executive John White said its policy was less brutal and more nuanced than that. The TTF had made every effort to help members implement a due diligence system to cut the risk of illegal timber entering their supply chain. It also said the door was open for members who didn’t meet its final March cut-off to introduce a system later and re-enter the fold.

But at the end of the day that deadline was the TTF’s “line in the sand”. Members that didn’t comply with the policy, said president Martin Gale, would “undermine what we are doing” and would be “removed”. That has now happened. Six companies have lost their membership and will now have to reapply.

This has to be the way to go, both for the TTF and the timber industry as a whole. Against the background of the drive by UK government and business towards ‘carbon mitigation’ and sustainable development, timber’s eco merits, its renewability and carbon store capacity give it a huge head start and nothing should risk that.

In fact, the TTF bills its policy as a business tool for members. “By having environmental due diligence in place, timber firms can tell customers they are removing their risk of handling illegal timber and this increasingly has financial value,” said Mr White.

He might have added that implementing environmental due diligence now also puts businesses ahead of Europe’s new Illegal Timber Regulation, which makes it obligatory for EU importers to have a system from 2013.

The value of timber’s green credentials is not only getting greater all the time as the market becomes ever more environmentally sensitive, they are also becoming more substantiated as research weighs up the eco pros and cons of different materials.

The embedded carbon argument for wood is pretty much already proven. Now scrutiny is being turned to “life cycle analysis” (LCA). This assesses products and materials from cradle to grave. It looks at their renewability, energy required in production and processing, through to their capacity to be recycled and the environmental impacts of their final disposal. And again timber scores highly.

Among the latest and boldest work in this field is The American Hardwood Export Council’s LCA study covering a range of US hardwood species (p17). AHEC European director David Venables said that, with green building rating systems embedding LCA into their principles, the timing for such a project couldn’t be better. At March’s Ecobuild show the topic actually drew people to AHEC’s stand and was a “real conversation starter”.

The organisation is so confident of the commercial significance of LCA, it plans to use it in its marketing. The aim, said Mr Venables, is to “make the connection that this resource doesn’t just look nice and store carbon, it provides us with a material that gives us another carbon advantage [but one which needs] the cycle of growing and cutting”.

So the environmental news for timber is good and getting better. But still the shadow of illegal logging and deforestation hangs over the industry. All it takes is one big story on these topics to undo so much of the recent environmental image-building for timber in the eyes of consumers and specifiers. OK, so maybe the phrase shape up or ship out is a bit strong, but the TTF is right when it says the time for drawing a line in the sand on environmental due diligence is now.