Sustainability is possibly the most overused word in the construction industry and is ever-present in the news. We, as end users, are continually being warned of the dangers of not reducing our carbon footprint, and rightly so.

The timber trade has tackled the issue and the construction industry now has ready access to certified timber. Major suppliers such as Jewson have adopted a responsible procurement programme and are moving away from supplying non-certified products. So, where does sustainability fall down?

Firstly, as a supplier that will purchase over £200m of certified timber this year, Jewson will sell less than 1% to customers who specifically request certification. Secondly, architects and designers do not currently incorporate certified timber into the design stage as standard practice. And finally, as multiple contractors and sub-contractors become involved in a project, the sustainability message is diluted.

Tony Blair once stated his priorities as “education, education, education”. In order to ensure that certified timber is used and that its accountability and traceability is not lost in vast construction projects, this mantra must be applied to the industry. If we are to expect it to adopt a sustainable construction solution, then we must educate it from the top downwards.

The next step is to address two key themes: specification and policing. Some architects’ reluctance to specify certified timber is often down to a refusal to relinquish freedom of aesthetic choice. However, certified alternatives are available. A major step forward would be for architects and their clients to engage with timber specialists to ensure that certified products are designed in, and non-certified products are designed out. Also, if certification is to remain intact at all levels of a project, we must also ensure that it is policed. Sub-contractors and site agents must be aware of the importance that certification holds and ensure that it is incorporated into every stage of procurement.

If we can ensure that customers request certified products and, more importantly, know why they are doing so, then we are even further towards achieving sustainability, and this can be accomplished with just a few changes to custom and practice.