Articles - Sustainability

What does timber sustainability include?

Understanding Timber Sustainability

Defining sustainability can be challenging. A definition that resonates describes sustainability as meeting the present generation’s needs without compromising conditions for future generations.

While sustainability initially encompassed natural and social aspects, it’s increasingly linked to environmental concerns and our responsibility to reduce our impact on the natural world. Sustainability is often seen through three pillars: economic viability, environmental protection, and social equality. It’s crucial for organizations to prioritize all these aspects when making decisions.

Timber plays a significant role in sustainability, and when we think of sustainability, we often envision electric cars, wind farms, and concerns about deforestation. Forests serve as Earth’s natural air conditioning system.


On average, each person consumes one tree per year. Without forest management practices, we would deplete our forests entirely. However, our timber consumption is far from sustainable.

Acknowledging this issue, various independent and governmental protection schemes aim to reduce deforestation. In the UK and EU, there are regulations like UKTR and EUTR, making it a criminal offense for timber merchants not to have a complete chain of custody indicating timber origin. Independent certification schemes like FSC® and Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification promote sustainable forest management.

Yet, sustainable timber specification goes beyond deforestation and forest management; it also involves transportation.

1. The Forest

Sustainable forestry schemes, such as FSC® and UKTR, have made strides in preserving forests for future generations. However, can forestry ever be truly sustainable when cutting down trees seems inherently unsustainable? The answer is a delicate balance. Cutting down a single tree can be sustainable because forests can regenerate. The challenge lies in preventing slash-and-burn logging, which devastates large tracts of forests.

Moreover, communities often rely on forests for their livelihoods. Logging companies using destructive techniques harm these communities. Sustainable forestry schemes aim to integrate these communities into forest management.

2. Transport

Shipping contributes to 17% of global CO2 emissions. Most timber requires extensive transportation, often involving thousands of miles and diesel-powered container ships, increasing carbon emissions. Although this doesn’t directly impact deforestation, it’s not environmentally sustainable.

For instance, consider Accoya, an innovative material with the environmental qualities of fast-growing softwood and the durability of Class 1 hardwoods. However, Accoya is made from Radiata Pine in New Zealand, necessitating long-distance transportation. While it’s still carbon-negative even after accounting for transportation, it underscores the importance of choosing locally sourced timber for true sustainability.


In conclusion, timber sustainability must encompass not only preventing illegal logging but also consider the communities that depend on forests and the distances involved in transportation. While the FSC® stamp is important, taking a holistic sustainability approach when selecting timber is crucial. Sustainability involves economic, environmental, and social aspects, and it’s essential to strike a balance that benefits both the present and future generations.



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