Forest products giant Stora Enso and hardwood trader DLH were among the top performers in the third annual review of the international Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD), which ranks businesses on their efforts to minimise deforestation.

And speaking at the review launch in London, FFD director James Hulse said timber companies generally were in pole position to sign up to the initiative, which could boost their environmental image and strengthen relations with investors.

The FFD’s aim is to harness the international business commmunity to the battle against global deforestation by assessing and helping publicise their environmental performance.

Each year it sends out a “disclosure questionnaire” to over 350 companies worldwide on their sourcing policies regarding key ‘forest risk commoditities’. Besides timber, pulp and paper, these include soy, palm oil, beef, leather and biofuel.

This year it received 87 responses, with big name participants including Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Nike and L’Oreal.

Timber company respondents included Weyerhaeuser, Arauco, Domtar, Holmen Skog and UPM-Kymmene.

Stora Enso was judged top performer in ‘basic materials’, which covers timber and paper, while DLH took the title ahead of BMW in the industrials, construction and autos sector, where it was placed because it supplies car makers.

“Timber companies have the benefit under the FFD initiative of having long-established environmental certification systems and experience with environmental legislation, such as the [anti-illegal timber] Lacey Act in the US,” said Mr Hulse.

He urged more participation from the sector in the initiative, which he said would be increasingly valuable as environmental performance became an ever more important criteria to doing business, particularly with the financial sector.

“The FFD enables investors to benchmark companies for investment decisions and assess management quality,” he said.

This was highlighted by the number of ‘endorsers’ in the FFD project in the financial industry, which has risen over the last year from 54 to 70, with a total of US$7trn of assets under management.

It was also announced at the event that DFID is awarding another three year grant to the FFD.