How to Source Sustainable Wood and Timber Products without Harming Forests
Sustainable Wood and Timber Products
- While forests are essential for a healthy planet and people, deforestation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are on the rise.
- In response to the deforestation crisis, the EU, UK, and UN have enacted various policies and programs to curb the issue (e.g., EUDR, UKTR, REDD, and REDD+).
- Whether your company sources agricultural commodities frequently tied to deforestation (palm oil, cocoa, coffee, beef, leather, etc.) or paper pulp for paper packaging, kickstarting your sustainable wood journey will be essential to future-proof your business.
Forests are vital to the health of our planet. They provide habitat for wildlife, purify the air we breathe, and serve as carbon sinks. However, the global demand for wood and timber products often leads to unsustainable practices, including deforestation, illegal logging, and habitat destruction. In fact, logging followed by commodity-driven deforestation has been the primary cause of tree-cover loss. Additionally, deforestation and forest degradation account for 11% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector – second only to the energy sector.
In response to the deforestation and carbon crisis, regions and regulatory bodies around the world are enacting policies to incentivize companies to help. Most notably of these regulations are the EU deforestation-free regulation (EUDR) — which ensures no products containing wood that contributed to deforestation or forest degradation enter the EU market — and the UN’s REDD & REDD+ programs — which aims to financially support and incentivize developing countries to curb carbon/GHG emissions.
In the timber/wood sourcing space decarbonization and deforestation prevention can feel counterintuitive, but it is possible to source timber and wood products in an unharmful way that actually strengthens your paper/wood supply chain regardless of disruptions. In this article, we'll explore the consequences of deforestation, as well as the benefits more sustainable wood sourcing can have for people, the planet, and companies.
What does sustainable wood and timber sourcing look like?
Sustainable wood, often referred to as "green" or "eco-friendly" wood, comes from well-managed forests that maintain ecological balance, protect biodiversity, and support the livelihoods of local communities. It's harvested with consideration for the long-term health of the forest ecosystem — trees, creatures, and soil.
To ensure wood's sustainability, various certifications and standards have been established. Examples include the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). These organizations set standards, roadmaps, and frameworks for responsible forest management.
Sustainable wood sourcing goes beyond harvesting practices. It also encompasses responsible forest management. This includes practices like selective logging, reforestation, and monitoring to ensure the health of the forest is preserved.
The Negative Consequences of Unsustainable Wood Sourcing
Unsustainable wood sourcing has far-reaching consequences — some of which we’re still learning about. However, these top three are the most harmful we’re currently aware of.
- Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss: One of the most significant threats posed by unsustainable wood sourcing is deforestation. When forests are cleared for timber, it leads to the loss of valuable biodiversity and disrupts ecosystems.
- Climate Change and Carbon Sequestration Loss: Forests are essential for mitigating climate change. They act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When forests are harmed or destroyed, this carbon is released, contributing to global warming.
- Social and Economic Consequences: Unsustainable wood sourcing can also have severe social and economic consequences, including the displacement of indigenous communities and the loss of livelihoods. It can easily perpetuate a cycle of poverty and environmental degradation.
- Non-compliance Fines: Regulatory non-compliance fees with industry sustainability and wood sourcing standards could cost your companies millions. Not to mention the potential reputational damage as an unsustainable company.
- Supply and Demand Risks: A great future risk of unsustainable wood sourcing is the inability to get the timber supply needed to meet supply and demand. Over-logging and unsustainable forestry practices mean a future with not enough wood for your company’s supply.
Shifting to an eco-friendly timber sourcing model not only gives your business a competitive, sustainable edge, but also ensures you have a complete handle on your wood supply chain.
Strategies for Eco-friendly Wood Sourcing
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to eco-friendly wood sourcing, these five strategies tend to be the most successful:
- Adopting a Certification Program: Certification programs like FSC and PEFC help consumers identify sustainably sourced wood products. As a business, adopting these programs and working to certify your products is a great way to kickstart your sustainable timber journey.
- Connect your suppliers to a secure and transparent system: Implement a reliable traceability software that can push and pull data from your upstream and downstream suppliers. Doing so centralizes data from various systems, ensuring a unified and accurate source of truth. Additionally, it increases accountability among third-party suppliers, so you can prevent fraudulent activity.
- First-Mile Visibility: Many companies who source wood - or any commodity for that matter - don’t have visibility beyond their suppliers or traders. Meaning, they don’t actually know where their wood supply originates. Gaining visibility into the provenance of your timber supply will give you unmatched control of your supply chain while also helping you track and meet sustainability goals.
- Tracking Chain of Custody: A responsible supply chain ensures that wood products maintain their sustainability from forest to final product. Chain of custody certification tracks the flow of wood from its source to the end user. Even if you deal with recyclable paper pulp or packaging, you can gain visibility into the lifecycle of your wood product, cradle-to-cradle.
- Focusing on Reclaimed and Recycled Wood: Consider using reclaimed or recycled wood for your projects or products. This not only reduces demand for new timber but also repurposes existing resources and wood that has already been sourced from a live forest.
Ultimately, each company must decide what combination of technology, frameworks, and strategies fit best with their business model and timeline.
Regulations and Frameworks for Sustainable Wood Sourcing: EUDR, UKTR, REDD, and REDD+
With sustainability regulations on the rise worldwide, you should expect to see further developments with deforestation-free regulations. However, the EUDR, UKTR, and REDD programs are currently the three most pressing regulations and frameworks.
EU Deforestation-free Regulation (EUDR): The EUDR stipulates that commodities most commonly associated with deforestation (palm oil, coffee, wood, rubber, soya, beef, and cocoa) must be proven to be deforestation-free before entering the EU market.
UK Timber Regulations (UKTR): The UKTR, akin to the EU's Timber Regulation, mandates due diligence by operators introducing timber or timber products to the UK market to prevent illegal logging and ensure sustainable forestry, applying to a broad spectrum of products like wood, flooring, plywood, and paper.
REDD/REDD+ Programs: The UN REDD and REDD+ programs provide technical assistance and knowledge to partner countries to help protect forests and reach their climate goals by accessing financial support.
A notable difference between the EUDR, UKTR, and REDD is that the EUDR and UKTR are regulations whereas REDD is both a framework and support for achieving climate-friendly forestry practices. In light of the EUDR regulation and carbon accounting requirements across the globe, many traceability and verification solutions are popping up left and right.
How To Select The Right Traceability Software for Sustainable Wood Production
- 360-degree value chain visibility. Traceability software that helps you know exactly where your timber supply comes from (down to the area in the forest) and where it goes will give you such a competitive edge and handle on your supply chain, regardless of any market volatility or global shifts.
- Certification verification and tracking. Whether you need to certify a batch of products for FSC, PEFC, or EUDR-compliant certifications, traceability software can help. Look for software that can help you verify and track these certifications at each step in your value chain.
- ESG/Sustainability reporting. In the ever-evolving world of sustainability regulations and fines, you must capture the data you need to stay compliant whether environmental and/or social measures are your main focus.
Conclusion: Sustainably sourcing your wood protects the future of your business - and our planet.
Whether you’re leveling up your deforestation-free strategy, or just hoping to snag premium pricing and strengthen your wood/packaging supply chain: responsible wood sourcing is crucial for the future of our forests and the health of our planet. By choosing sustainably sourced wood and timber products, consumers and businesses alike can make a significant positive impact. Let's work together to protect our forests and ensure a sustainable future for all.
BanQu is a supply chain traceability platform that helps companies sourcing wood ensure ethical sourcing and comply with the EUDR — all while driving business growth and securing their supply to meet demand. Schedule a deforestation-free consultation with BanQu today.