The material will have to originate either from independently verified legal and sustainable sources or from a licensed Forest Law Enforcement, Governance & Trade (FLEGT) partner.
The change will initially apply to England, Great Britain and UK departments and their executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies.
It is anticipated that the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow suit in the near future.
Other public bodies, including local authorities, will be encouraged to follow the government’s lead.
The Forestry Commission says the new policy is designed to combat illegal and unsustainable logging.
It is described as a key element in the effort to help reduce and mitigate climate change by tackling deforestation, which is a threat to societies and the environment around the world.
The UK is a major importer of timber, and the government is at the forefront of global efforts to encourage legal and sustainable management of the world’s forests.
Under the new guidelines, government buyers will have to request evidence from contractors and suppliers that the wood products they propose to supply comply with the policy.
This evidence can take two forms:
Category A – independent certification of the timber and timber products by any of the forest certification schemes that meet the policy requirements, such as those endorsed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC).
Category B – includes alternative documentary evidence that the source forest is known and that it is legally and sustainably managed.
Defra, the Government department with lead responsibility for sustainable timber procurement, has established the Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET) to provide training and a free support helpline to public-sector buying agencies and their timber suppliers.
Official figures suggest that about 23% of the timber sold in the UK is sold to government or public bodies.
The Forestry Commission estimates that 80% all timber produced in the UK is certified, including two-thirds of private-sector production, therefore meeting the criteria for Category A timber.
As for Category B, the benchmark for sustainable forest management in the UK is the UK Forestry Standard.
The Forestry Commission and Northern Ireland Forest Service are currently revising the Standard to bring it up-to-date and ensure it is consistent with international criteria.
When this process is completed, compliance with the revised Standard should provide a sound basis for demonstrating sustainable management under CPET Category B.
In the interim, the Commission and Forest Service are working closely with Defra to establish an appropriate protocol to enable all woodland owners to continue to meet the Government’s new procurement criteria from 1st April 2009.
Source: Forestry Commission press release