In a Brexit-influenced economy, while pricing currently favours UK-produced timber, the less visible but equally pertinent aspect of social value is proving its worth in promoting the use of British wood.

Amongst architects, specifying Britishgrown timber offers added benefits to project outcomes, said George Mikurcik, architect with the timber-specialist practice Architype.

“As a practice we always try to support local enterprises, from forestry to sawmillers.

It’s not just architects who are happy to specify British-grown timber; we are seeing the message coming across loud and clear from clients,” said Mr Mikurcik.

“Often a local authority will specify their first preference as using locally-produced timber. Their perspective on social value is returning benefits to the local economy and environment through the supply chain. We currently have a project where local timber was specified for both the construction and the cladding. Tenders we are working on for future housing projects also specify locally sourced timber. We can only see this trend increasing.”

Providing social value through British timber combines both environmental and economic benefits, particularly in supporting jobs in rural economies.

Certainly Wood is a Grown in Britain licence holder and also a member of the Made in Britain campaign for its Flamers firelighters.

When in full swing, the business supports around 30 jobs, full and part-time, in the local economy, said managing director Nic Snell.

“As we sell around 20,000 tonnes of British-grown firewood and kindling across the country, we also use local family-run haulage contractors,” he said. “On the supply side, our business supports jobs in forestry and woodland management. We also encourage young people to join the business, such as our recent appointment of a post university marketing assistant to further our sales and reputation.”

Also, he added, it was silly to import kilndried firewood from eastern Europe when the UK should be able to fulfil domestic demand.

“The more woodland that comes back into management, the more material becomes available to use. That’s why we support both Grown in Britain, with its dual approach to promoting supply and demand, and the Made in Britain campaign to underline the quality of British-sourced woodfuels,” said Mr Snell. Gates and fencing manufacturer, the Charltons Group, is also a Grown in Britain licence-holder and Made in Britain campaign member. It employs nearly 100 people in Somerset, making it one of the area’s better known and long-standing employers, said purchasing manager Dale Warren.

“We are putting a great resolve behind communicating a message of quality products made in Britain,” he said. “With currency fluctuations affecting pricing, there has never been a better time for consumers to consider buying products made from British wood.

The same reality needs to filter down through the levels of public procurement to local authorities. A Grown in Britain licence may offer specifiers CPET Category B evidence, but there is still a lack of connection between government timber procurement policy advice and local purchasing. Local authorities need to better understand the social value that companies like Charltons return to the local and national economy.”

Local authorities are doing a lot of work in assessing social value’s contribution in the tendering process, according to SBV Ltd procurement expert Peter Howarth, a former chief executive of the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government.

“All local authorities want to create skills, improve education, support business and forward the environmental agenda. These elements can be driven through embedding social value into supply chains to fulfil authorities’ published objectives,” said Mr Howarth.

“It’s only possible to achieve lasting social value if local authorities work with the timber supply chain. If an authority specifies timber produced locally or in the UK, wherever that’s practical and in line with public procurement regulations, it creates multiple benefits. These can range from job creation, education and apprenticeships to environmental benefits. Social value offers a ‘win win win’ situation, for the local authority, for suppliers tendering for their business, and for the community.” In response, the British timber industry is growing its understanding of today’s wider concept of value, said David Sulman, executive director of UKFPA.

“The UK timber industry recognises that its role is not just in growing and processing wood but in protecting environments and delivering added social value,” he said.

“We are a world leader in timber certification and both British forestry and sawmilling have changed beyond all recognition over the past 20 years. Today’s British wood production industry is based around delivering multiple benefits of real value, environmental, economic and social, to UK plc.”