Speaking with one voice

28 December 2016

The timber industry has been talking for years about coming together on the big issues that matter to the trade and speaking with a single powerful voice. It has always been a difficult proposition compared to some competitor material sectors because of the diversity and breadth of the timber supply chain and the sheer number of its representational bodies.

But the times are-a-changing. In the space of a few months, the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI) has relaunched, released new policy reports on Skills, Sustainability and Value & Growth and held an inaugural Westminster conference (see page 35) attended by MPs, timber industry representatives and other stakeholders.

It does feel like something has shifted in terms of timber sector representational power with heavyweights like the Timber Trade Federation, British Woodworking Federation, Structural Timber Association and Builders Merchants Federation on board and speaking with one voice under the CTI banner.

Andrew Carpenter, STA CEO, summed it up well at the conference by saying that the timber industry had stepped up its game from the “fragmented and slightly adversarial sector” he had seen on first joining the industry six year ago.

The MPs attending the conference, including Labour’s front bench shadow environment minister Rachael Maskell, said the right things – the timber industry has a great opportunity to grow with its low-carbon and green credentials, particularly in the area of wood construction in the housebuilding sector.

And with a new housing bill scheduled for the New Year, Antoinette Sandbach MP said lobbying of housing minister Gavin Barwell was a necessity. So there seems to be a captive audience among politicians.

But there was also a warning from Ian Paisley, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Timber Industries that “the opportunity of a lifetime had to be taken in the lifetime of the opportunity”.

Beyond this hugely encouraging landmark for the CTI, there will no doubt need to be a lot of hard graft to follow through its message to policymakers. And further support from other industry bodies would also help to underline the unity of the sector.

Elsewhere in TTJ this month, we give more details on the important milestone in Guyana where the Iwokrama Forest has achieved FSC certification, giving the UK a certified supply of greenheart for projects including sea defences.

Several tropical timber suppliers are upbeat about the development and it is hoped the Environment Agency will now reverse its ban on Guyanese greenheart. . With Christmas just around the corner, can I take the opportunity of wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.