Sometimes the phrase coined in the time of my disciplinarian ancestor Judge Jeffreys, “you may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb”, comes to mind when you hear the mass media’s slant on the timber trade.

Such a moment came last week during You and Yours on BBC Radio 4. The programme included a report on the difficulty of ensuring that timber is legal and sustainable, even when sourced from countries with the legislative framework to ensure this. Reporter Angela Robson went to Ghana where she said that, while the government had passed a “timber resources management act” in 1998, it hadn’t enforced it. As a result, a green group claimed, most of Ghana’s timber exports were “illegal”.

Of course in the lay person’s view this conjures an image of swathes of forest laid waste by loggers. It may even cause some to consider shunning timber altogether.

However, the individual company lined up as one of the villains of the piece was Samartex, which supplies the UK’s Timbmet. Not only has it actually signed up to the 1998 act, it belongs to the WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network and, with Timbmet’s support, is going for Forest Stewardship Council certification.

So actually Samartex is pretty much covered on all fronts. But the programme’s inference was still that all was not well, underlined by an unrelated claim that the company was involved in an “agroforestry” project which had evicted smallholder cocoa farmers. Samartex said land rights in the area were highly complex, but that it would investigate. The report failed to say that the project was about woodland restoration and was backed by the German Development Service. Nor, property rights aside, was it asked if the cocoa farmers were managing the area sustainably.

Faced with such damnation by inference it is tempting to throw up your hands. But clearly that’s not an option and, as Timbmet’s Dr Mike Packer demonstrated on You and Yours, the trade can hold its own in the media and illuminate the reality of the situation through the murk of misinformation. It’s a shame the industry has to expend nearly as much energy on defending its improvement in environmental performance as making it, but that’s clearly the way it is.