Challenges remain in finding new vigour in the markets for certified projects and products, despite importers and merchants making available increasing volumes of certified stock. The Soil Association’s strategic review of Woodmark will focus on how to grow the market for the certified forest products supplied by our certificate holders.

Current drivers for increased certified volumes seem to be coming from the industry, with organisations such as the TTF being instrumental not only through the RPP, but by encouraging bodies such as the UK Contractors Group to promote similar principles on timber procurement among their membership. Recent audits in the timber sector show demand is steady, but not really growing. There is certainly the sense that with the EUTR’s requirement for a due diligence system, any additional time and cost to implement certification in management systems would not be welcome. Mercifully, the FSC has delayed implementation of its Online Claims Platform, and the industry waits for pilot testing to show it delivers key business benefits.

The EUTR might be seen by some as providing all the traceability requirements and risk mitigation that the construction and retail sectors require. Surely EUTR compliance by the ‘operator’, plus the application of the ISO Chain of Custody Standard by subsequent ‘traders’, is enough? NEPCon disagrees and has reported how the German Competent Authority, BLE,

seized 36 wenge logs. BLE concluded that certificates apparently issued by the Congolese authorities were forged. In our global timber trade, nothing yet beats third-party verification.

In line with other initiatives with local authorities, the Soil Association will look at the feasibility of developing a ‘Timber Mark’ scheme, in association with trade bodies and certification schemes, to demonstrate implementation of a timber procurement policy.

Voluntary uptake of timber procurement policies by the wider public sector, such as local authorities, has been poor. This echoes the findings of a WWF study of local authorities in March 2012, which found that more than half didn’t have a legal and sustainable timber procurement policy and only 16 were implementing the policy effectively. This will continue to be a major factor in limiting certified timber sales in the UK and must surely be limiting the impact on local and small and medium sized suppliers.

The Soil Association continues to have success with project certification, such as the London 2012 Olympic Park and the Bullitt Center, Seattle. We will continue to promote project certification to construction bodies as the ideal assessment model to determine the implementation of timber procurement policies, and at the same time look at the reasons why there has been minimal uptake of project certification (even before the revision of certification scheme fees), as project certification is more achievable now in terms of certified product availability than it ever was before.

This week the PEFC announced how Kingsgate House is the "first major construction project in the world to achieve [stand-alone] PEFC Project Certification" . This followed dual FSC and PEFC project certification of the London Olympic Park.

The key is now for the timber industry as a sector to be united on its message on this form of accreditation, and the environmental profile of timber sourcing generally, to construction and retail sectors.

And finally, if BREEAM really is now focusing on recognising the most sustainable building materials, perhaps its assessors should be trained to be project certification auditors so it becomes an intrinsic part of the assessment. Who pays for it? Well, it should be free to construction companies and supported by the certification schemes, as the resultant increase in certified timber sales will keep businesses engaged with the schemes.

Now that’s what I call a driver for change in the construction sector.