A new report released by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has demonstrated the sustainability of U.S. hardwoods by comparing the requirements for responsible timber sourcing in regulations (such as in EUTR in the EU and Lacey Act in the U.S.) 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 FSC and 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 U.S. 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 recognizing the importance of independent assessment and expert review to ensure the credibility of sustainability claims.
“Many of the requirements focused on certification do not accommodate the need for broader metrics of sustainability in the forest products sector and to recognize the importance of other issues not covered by forest certification including 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. These amongst other factors have led the European Commission and other authorities in the EU, to conclude that neither FSC nor PEFC certificates are an adequate assurance, in isolation, that timber is at negligible risk from illegal harvest,” said Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director.