The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) hosted a meeting of timber suppliers, manufacturers and others, including the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) and British Standards Institution (BSI).

The meeting was to hear views on a UK response to moves to create a single ISO chain of custody standard for forest products.

FSC and PEFC are working together for the first time to oppose what they fear could be a competing global chain of custody.

Traders attending the meeting generally gave a positive reaction to the ISO plans.

“All the industry wants to do is buy and sell timber products that are chain of custody certified," one told TTJ.

“Having one or more schemes to comply with has its own difficulties in terms of paperwork and costs, so having one scheme could make life far easier for us. It could be just what we have been looking for."

Another said the concensus was in favour of an ISO standard, and that FSC and PEFC needed to work together more.

"Ultimately, if the world decides to set an ISO, then they will eventually have to accept it – far better they start now to work with, rather than against, this proposal."

FSC UK executive director Charles Thwaites and PEFC UK national secretary Alun Watkins agreed the industry wanted one, credible standard, but questioned whether it would be as robust as the existing system.

“Both we and the PEFC will not be handing out our labels for something over which we have no control. All credibility would be lost," said Mr Thwaites.

“We talked about piles of wood and the industry want just two piles, one uncertified and one that they can sell as certified timber, and they hope the ISO can achieve that for them," said Mr Watkins. "We question that."

TTF head of sustainability Anand Punja said the meeting proved to be an invaluable discussion and debate on the way that CoC currently worked within the industry, with many in the room venting frustration at the lack of mutual recognition between FSC and PEFC to bring down costs for businesses that use CoC.

He said an ISO standard could not work practically without the buy-in of FSC and PEFC.

The TTF said it supports moves to develop a unified, common approach to chain of custody.

“Of course, we would not want this to dilute the standards or brand value associated with PEFC and FSC, but it is clear that the current dual system is causing a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy which we find unacceptable," TTF chief executive John White said.

BSI, which has a vote in the ISO’s decision whether to proceed with a timber product CoC standard, told the meeting that BSI was likely to support the moves with two conditions – that it be purely a CoC standard and not involve forest management, and that it involve FSC and PEFC.

However, as TTJ went to press, it is believed that BSI has changed its position from voting in favour to abstention.

Meanwhile, FSC International has written to the ISO plan backers saying the idea was a "clear attempt to replace FSC (and PEFC)".

It accused ISO plan backers DIN and ABNT (the national standardisation organisations of Germany and Brazil) of a lack of consultation and presentation of figures about cost-savings for companies without any evidence.