How has recent legislation impacted the timber industry?

Published Thursday 10th December 2015

The timber industry is placed 18th in the list of over 120 major industries in the UK and the stringent timber regulations, governing responsibly-sourced timber, are constantly under review.

In this guide, we’ll round up some of the latest changes to legislation in this fast-moving area and explore how they’re set to affect merchants and builders in the coming years.

timber industryRecent Legislation

The EU Timber Regulations (EUTR), which we covered in a previous blog here, came into force on 3rd March 2013, making it an offence to place illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market. 

Currently, the EUTR doesn’t have jurisdiction over the whole of the EU as of yet. This is partly because not all countries have brought the regulation into effect but also because there are a number of important wood products that fall outside the scope of the EUTR, such as printed materials, musical instruments, seats, hand tools, table ware, and cellulose derivatives. This leaves room for a weighty amount of unregulated timber, which could come from illegal sources, to enter UK markets.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) believes that the regulations should now cover all timber and timber products traded on the EU market in order to increase pressure to halt the illegal timber trade and will be arguing this amendment during the upcoming review in December 2015.

New legislation in the form of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) appears to be working in support of this trend and the environmental considerations of using timber.

From July 2013, under the CPR, it became mandatory to prove that all relevant construction products have been tested for compliance with a visible CE mark, backed up by Declaration of Performance (DoP) certification. This has increased incentives to choose materials from reliable suppliers, who have their processes and paperwork in place.

The CPR builds upon the Construction Products Directive (CPD) and aims to break down technical barriers to trade in construction products within the European Economic Area (EEA). To achieve this, the CPR provides for four main elements:

• A system of harmonised technical specifications

• An agreed system of conformity assessment for each product family

• A framework of notified bodies

• CE marking of products. 

Zero Carbon

It is clear that businesses have been making positive steps towards a zero-deforestation future.

Stemming from this, we joined 80 other business in the call to ask the government to build a low-carbon economy in Britain.

However, ministers have decided not to proceed with Zero Carbon Standard for new homes due to begin next year. This standard would ensure that all new dwellings from 2016 would generate as much energy on-site - through renewable sources, such as wind or solar power – as they would use in heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation.

Commenting on this, John Newcomb, Builders Merchants Federation managing director, said:

“Regrettably, this is another case of stop-start Whitehall policy-making that shakes business confidence and damages any industry appetite to invest in low and zero-carbon solutions to help improve cold, draughty homes and cut rising energy bills.”

He went on to say that the scrapping of the Zero Carbon Standard was bound to have an impact on businesses, such as builder, plumbers and timber merchants.

As demand for housing continues to outstrip supply, there is a call for ideas to boost the number of small-scale housing,

The future remains bright

While the government has yet to take action on Zero Carbon, timber businesses are certainly taking a step in the right direction, as new reports show the timber industry appears to be embracing responsibly-sourced timber.

In a report by WWF into how companies in the UK sustainably source timber, the construction sector has scored the highest.

In fact, as part of our parent company, Saint-Gobain Building Distribution UK, International Timber was given a three-tree rating on the organisation's Timber Scorecard.

The scorecard assesses retailers, manufacturers and traders that buy timber and timber products on their publicly available timber buying policies and performance. It then awards each company a score from zero trees (no apparent progress on sustainable timber and timber products) to three trees (sourcing over 70 per cent certified sustainable wood and have policies and control systems in place). 

The WWF scorecard not only shows that the construction industry is now supporting responsibly-sourced timber, it is leading industry demand for it.

Better still, the Zero Carbon Hub made a considerable impact by demonstrating that energy efficient, healthy new homes can be delivered by the mainstream housebuilding industry, in their seminars as part of UK Construction Week.

And you?

Have you come across some challenges regarding timber legislation or would like to share your thoughts on how you think the industry is tackling responsibly-sourced timber? If so, be sure to send us a tweet – we always love to hear what you have to say.

And if you’ve got any questions about timber regulations or want some more information then please don’t hesitate to get in touch or check out our environmental policy here.