Wood In Architecture Issue 2, 2020

18 ISSUE 2 • 2020 • WOOD IN ARCHITECTURE SUSTAINABILITY Photograph: Pexels A new report released by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has demonstrated the sustainability of US hardwoods by comparing the requirements for responsible timber sourcing in regulations (such as the European Union Timber Regulation [EUTR] in the European Union (EU) and Lacey Act in the US) and typically contained in public and corporate procurement policies. The results of the report proved that, in several important respects, AHEC’s strategy goes beyond what is deliverable by forest certification systems like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and is much wider in scope than most timber procurement policies. AHEC’s strategy to date has been to demonstrate sustainability against environmental attributes identified in scientific life cycle assessment (LCA) as relevant to US hardwoods. Due to a lack of awareness of alternatives, and of major changes in the policy environment for forest products, technical requirements for ‘sustainable timber’ are still typically equated with FSC and PEFC certification. These technical requirements are however increasingly out of step with the growing recognition that the major problems associated with forests in some parts of the world, such as deforestation and poor governance, cannot be addressed through forest certification. Unlike strategies based on forest certification, AHEC aims to address all these environmental aspects while also recognising the importanceof independent assessment and expert review to ensure the credibility of sustainability claims. LIMITATIONS OF EXISTING FOREST CERTIFICATION PROGRAMMES “Many of the requirements focused on certification have to date been limited. They do not accommodate the need for broader metrics of sustainability in the forest products sector or recognise the importance of other issues not covered by forest certification. These include carbon footprint and other life cycle impacts; transparent information on national forest governance; the quality of forest resources at national and regional level; clear data on species volume, growth and harvest; efficient use of the full range of species and grades; product durability; and waste management and disposal. What we now know is that these limitations have led the European Commission and other authorities in the EU, to conclude that neither FSC nor PEFC certificates alone are an adequate assurance, that timber is at negligible risk from illegal harvest,” said John Chan, AHEC Regional Director for South East Asia and Greater China. Forest certification systems like FSC and PEFC require compliance with a wide range of good forestry practices to be demonstrated by an accredited third party. They also require that wood be traced through the supply chain to a certified forest management unit. The concept has proved valuable for buying organisations seeking to demonstrate that their timber products derive from well- managed forests. However, certification has certain limitations. While it can work well when timber is traded in large and relatively undifferentiated commercial volumes from large state and industrial forest holdings, it is technically more challenging to implement where forest management units and supply chains are more fragmented. NEW REPORT DEMONSTRATES THE SUSTAINABILITY OF US HARDWOODS AHEC’s approach is shown to go beyond existing forest certification systems and is much wider in scope than most timber procurement policies