audience at last year’s TTJ Awards, he came with a message – that the timber industry needed to improve its PR. It was an interesting perspective: Huw, a journalist, had taken the time to research the industry prior to his appearance and from this he had taken two key things – on the one hand the timber industry has had some bad press, yet dig a little deeper and you discover that, actually, the UK has a highly regulated industry that operates admirably with the administrative demands set out by current legislation.

The construction industry as a whole faces a huge challenge in terms of sustainable building, with increasing legislation and pressure from government targets to cut CO2 emissions by 30% by 2020 – and we are all, of course, aware of the contribution timber products from well-managed forests can make to this aim.

Therefore, a robust approach to the sourcing of sustainable timber should be vital for anyone responsible for the procurement of building materials. Nevertheless, the fact remains that just because a product is not certified, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is illegal. For example, a merchant may bring in non-certified products but must be able to demonstrate that they are from a legal source.

Six months ago the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) came into force, prohibiting the placing of illegal timber and timber products on the EU’s internal market. Its main objective thus far has been to develop responsible trading practices and ensure that importers in all 28-member states take measures to ensure timber has been harvested in compliance with legislation in the country of origin.

The National Measurement Office (NMO) enforcement authority, working in partnership with Defra, is responsible for enforcing the EUTR in the UK. However, despite public consultation by Defra and campaigns run by the NMO, the Timber Trade Federation and others, several months down the line, awareness of the regulation is still comparatively low.

Added to this is perhaps the most significant change for a decade in the way in which construction products are sold in Europe, with timber included. Since July 1 last year, under the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), it’s now mandatory for manufacturers to apply CE marking to any of their products that are covered by a harmonised European standard (hEN) or European Technical Assessment (ETA). This was a major change as affixing CE marking under the provisions of the existing Construction Products Directive (CPD) had, until that point, been voluntary in the UK.

Now, treated structural timber requires CE marking but there are some commonly used wood products that do not, including general sawn or machined goods (unless they are structural or flooring). A number of other responsibilities have been imposed on the supply chain as well – principally to ensure CE information is passed down the chain.

Again, this is all added administrative pressure and cost to reputable distributors – who will then have to rely on an informed market to make the right choice when it comes to procurement – to put the environment before price.

The public sector and major contractors are leading the way, with sustainably sourced timber often a key component of their corporate social responsibility reporting. However, at grass roots level, education is still required. With only 10% of the world’s exploited forests currently certified and Europe positioned as the largest consumer of wood in the world, the cost of certified timber is likely to increase.

Thinking back to Huw Edwards, the latest regulations offer an opportunity for the UK timber industry to yet again prove its environmental credentials. We shouldn’t merely be complying; we should be demonstrating our contribution through education and promotion.