Proof of origin more important than ever before – Wood certification systems such as those provided by PEFC are a credible proof of origin for wood and wood-based products because not only does PEFC specify standards for forest management which must be observed by certified forest owners, but it also monitors the entire processing chain at the same time.

The continuing debate on climate protection, which is regularly fuelled by an increasing occurrence of storms and natural disasters, has led to a greater environmental awareness. Already in 2006, a representative survey undertaken by the University of Marburg showed a clear upward trend with regard to public environmental awareness. At that time, 25% of Germans counted an inadequate environmental protection among Germany’s most important problems. And this is not just a diffuse feeling – environmental awareness has an active influence on how people in Germany act, as proven by a survey carried out by Emnid, Germany’s biggest opinion research institute: 92% of those surveyed said that if prices were equal, they would choose a wooden product made from certified wood; over 70% said they would still be prepared to buy such a product even if it were more expensive. Thus, an increasing environmental awareness also means a greater willingness to pay attention to the ecological origin of wood-based products.

This trend is also confirmed by PEFC, the world’s largest forest certification system, with a certified area of over 200 million hectares. In Germany alone, the organisation has certified two-thirds of the country’s forests and has identified a growing number of wood processing and woodworking companies which insist on using raw materials from a sustainable source. To date, nearly 900 German companies have chosen PEFC certification and customer pressure on companies is growing. This is confirmed, for example, by the Federal Government’s purchasing guideline which since the beginning of 2007 requires that government bodies may only purchase wood products which have a sustainability certificate. Because of the increasing demand by consumers and government for sustainability, certification is not merely a strategic decision which is good for a company’s image, but a real competitive advantage.

Implementing sustainability
But how can wood processing companies use this trend? How can they respond to it? Wood certification systems such as those provided by PEFC are a credible proof of origin for wood and wood-based products because not only does PEFC specify standards for forest management which must be observed by certified forest owners, but it also monitors the entire processing chain at the Both, the Federal Ministry of the Environment and Greenpeace, have found that 60-80% of many tropical woods still come from illegal logging. In contrast, European hard- and softwood with a PEFC certificate is readily available, often without a surcharge. Thus, the Pollmeier Group, which operates the world’s largest beech wood sawmills, supports PEFC and offers its Pollmeier Beech with this sustainability certificate at no extra cost. In order to gain a PEFC logo for one’s products, it is necessary that all companies in the processing chain – the so-called chain of custody – obtain certification, including carpenters and furniture manufacturers. Only in this way it is possible to track the origin of wood products completely, from PEFC certified forests to finished staircase or kitchen.same time.
Particularly when it comes to European forest management, PEFC is the first choice because its regional approach also allows for the certification of small forest owners, which are typical for Central Europe. Certification takes all three aspects of sustainability into account – ecology, social considerations and economics. Because only when forest owners, processors and consumers pull together can sustainable forest management ensure that the forests with all of their valuable functions are preserved for future generations.

Infobox:
PEFC? What is that?
PEFC certification is a transparent and independent control system for safeguarding sustainable and thus exemplary forest cultivation. All forest owners may participate voluntarily. PEFC is also a monitoring system for proof of origin: from certified forests via the wood processing companies to the finished product on the shelf. With a certified forest area of over 200 million hectares, PEFC is the world’s most widespread forestry seal. Since the foundation of PEFC Germany in 1999, over 7 million hectares have been certified – about two-thirds of Germany’s total forest area. The most important standards are: promotion of mixed species forestry in accordance with local conditions; ban on clear-cutting; no use of herbicides. Independent certifying companies monitor the observance of these requirements at regular intervals. More information at www.pefc.org

Author:
Jan Hassan is the Head of Marketing and Public Relations at Pollmeier Massivholz GmbH & Co. KG. Explaining Pollmeier’s decision to use PEFC’s certification system, Jan Hassan says: “We back the principle of ‘wood via short distances’ and purchase a large part of our beech log requirements within a radius of 150 km around the sawmills, where a large proportion of the forests are PEFC-certified. Although other certification systems also offer reliable proof of sustainability, using them does not make ecological nor economic sense, because it would increase the distances that our logs would have to be transported”.