Treasury tops the list for timber procurement whilst Education must try harder

The Treasury topped the list of central government departments following mandatory guidelines set out to ensure the government avoids supporting the trade in illegal and unsustainable logging, a WWF report has found. Defra was in the middle of the pack, despite being home to the unit designed to assist Whitehall in managing responsible procurement, whilst the Department for Education scored the lowest.

WWF asked departments to complete a questionnaire on how they were implementing and monitoring the government’s Timber Procurement Policy (TPP). The 17 year old policy is designed to ensure the government drives responsible purchasing so that it will not have a negative impact on forests and forest-dependent communities around the world.

The results indicate that many departments did not implement the policy properly and one, the Northern Ireland Office, was unaware that the government even had a policy. WWF is concerned that many departments could potentially be supporting the continued trade in illegally-sourced or unsustainable timber and wood products by not checking adequately the supply of their purchased products to confirm they have come from legal and sustainable sources.

The report found that:

  • Under a third (six out of the twenty-one) of central government departments required to implement the Timber Procurement Policy (TPP) achieve full compliance.
  • Only three out of ten departments which answered the question considered that they themselves are fully implementing the TPP.
  • Less than 10% of the relevant contracts are checked for compliance,
  • Of the ten departments that answered the question, only half had a system in place for monitoring implementation of the TPP. Of those five, only two had an independently audited system.
  • Just over half of the central government departments had made use of the advisory service the Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET), managed by Defra. Three had not, including Defra, and five departments did not answer.

Beatrix Richards, Head of Corporate Stewardship – Natural Commodities, said:

“The government has huge buying power and influence and, as the self-declared ‘greenest government ever’, it should at the very least implement its own policies. WWF’s report shows implementation is patchy at best and that even basic requirements, like checking that timber products are not purchased from unsustainable or illegal sources, have not yet been adopted by all departments.”

“People will be dismayed to know that it is still legally possible to buy illegally sourced timber in the UK, and that our own government may well be supporting illegal deforestation of some of the last natural forests around the world. The government needs to act decisively and ensure it is using public funds appropriately to support those businesses which are engaging in responsible forest trade.”

Over thirty UK businesses, including Kimberly-Clark, Pearson, Saint Gobain, Wilmott- Dixon, and BSW Timber, have already pledged to make sure all their timber sourcing is sustainable by 2020, and are calling on the government to lead.

The UK is the world’s fifth largest market for wood based products, valued at over £14 billion last year. In 2013/14, the UK public sector spent a total of £238 billion on procurement of goods and services, accounting for 33% of public sector spending. Government procurement accounts for 30-50% of all office furniture sold in the UK. On average the world loses 13 million hectares of forest per year (FAO, 2012), an area equivalent to the size of England, and demand for wood is expected to triple by 2050 (WWF International, 2012), further increasing pressure on forests.

WWF believes that there could be even more impact if the wider public sector, such as the NHS, universities and schools, also implemented the government’s procurement policies.

WWF’s current Forest Campaign is calling on the UK government to help close loopholes in EU legislation that allow timber from potentially illegal sources to enter both the UK and EU market, and to put in place measures to drive a market in 100% sustainable timber. More than 30 well known businesses such as Pearson, Kingfisher, John Lewis and Kimberly-Clark are publicly supporting the campaign, believing that a market in legal and sustainably produced timber and wood products is not only the right thing to do, it’s the right business decision.