Memorandum from World Wide Fund for Nature
The evidence particularly focuses on answering
question a) as set out in the press notice. Namely,
Government timber procurement, the Sustainable Timber Initiative,
and the development of guidance on timber procurement for local
The Minister of State for the Environment, the
Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP, made an announcement on 28 July 2000
that ". . . current voluntary guidance on environmental issues
in timber procurement will become a binding commitment on all
central government departments and agencies actively to seek to
buy timber and timber products from sustainable and legal sources,
for example, those identified under independent certification
schemes such as that operated by the Forestry Stewardship Council."
Almost two years have passed since that announcement,
and the Government is still unable to confirm that all timber
"is purchased from legal and sustainable sources", despite
numerous offers of help from WWF.
WWF believe that only by specifying FSC (Forestry
Stewardship Council) endorsed timber products can you be sure
that the timber purchased has come from an independently certified,
well managed forest and a legal source. Currently, WWF only support
the FSC scheme.
The WWF 95+ Group is a partnership between WWF
and companies in the UK (such as Railtrack, B&Q, Sainsburys,
The Body Shop and Oxfam). Members are committed to purchasing
ever increasing volumes of their wood from well managed forests.
Members have often expressed to WWF their disappointment at the
lack of take up of their products from Government.
Working closely with WWF 95+ Group members,
we have often been given direct examples of responses from civil
servants when members of the group offering FSC endorsed products
have approached them.
For example, one Civil Servant in replying to
Blue Line Office Furniture said:
"Don't [expletive deleted] us off or you
won't get to supply us at all" and "Michael Meacher
doesn't buy furniture. I do and I buy what the hell I like".
Blue Line have been actively contacting Government
departments for 18 months trying to get its FSC endorsed products
into Government offices. It has had no success even though it
is the only company in the UK dealing in FSC endorsed furniture.
The Government has frequently said that the
EU public procurement directives (COM 2000) have not allowed them
to specify FSC timber, since the announcement by Michael Meacher
in 2001. Through WWF's work with Local Authorities we are fully
aware of the legal restrictions placed upon procurement activities
by these Directives. However, WWF believe that Government is using
this more as an excuse and a reason for inaction than because
those restrictions are a real barrier. WWF have informed DEFRA
that as long as the criteria of a certification scheme is specified
rather than simply naming a scheme, they are not breaching the
EU directives. WWF is working with several Local Authorities,
all of whom have been much more active in procuring timber from
independently certified well managed sources than central government.
WWF has had a number of meetings with the Procurement Officer
at DEFRA and exchanged several letters and emails on this issue.
The Parliamentary Under-secretary, Elliot Morley
MP announced in an answer to a parliamentary question on 17 December
2001, that ". . . this Department has accepted, on behalf
of the Government, an offer made by the World Wide Fund for Nature
to assist the Government in their efforts to source timber from
sustainable and legal sources when a suitable project can be identified.
The Department has written to Heads of Procurement in the major
central Government Departments to advise them of the offer made
by WWF. To date no Department has come forward".
This PQ was the first time WWF became aware
that our offer of help was being accepted. WWF assumes this announcement
was in response to a meeting we attended at DEFRA on the 27 July
2000. At this meeting WWF made an "across the board"
offer to work with Government departments, provide help and assistance
on sourcing independently certified timber, technical advice on
alternative species or policy implementation. This offer was "warmly
welcomed". However, no one from central government contacted
WWF until 19 April (following the press coverage resulting from
the Greenpeace action) to ask for such help on timber procurement
WWF has suggested to Government several times
that a simple way forward was to identify a "pilot project"
as a quick win, ensuring progress started immediately and was
confident that good publicity and awareness raising would follow.
Despite letters to all heads of procurement within Government
to this effect no suitable project has been identified by government.
(Even though Government is meant to be buying all their timber
from sustainable and legal sources, not just applying it to one
On 19 April 2002, WWF received an email from
a civil servant who said, "we may have found a project where
we can take advantage of your offer of assistance, free of charge,
to help Government source timber from legal and sustainably managed
In response to this, Rachel Shotton (WWF 95+
Group Government Partnerships Coordinator) attended the meeting
at DEFRA on 2 May
to discuss the possibility of timber from "legal and sustainable"
sources being used. The project is a PFI and the contractors (Kajima)
were selected in 1997. The building is a DEFRA GO (Government
Office) in Cambridge. Approximately 200 cubic metres of iroko
(a tropical timber unavailable with independent certification)
has been selected as the most suitable timber for the windows.
The use of this timber and the fact that there is no way to be
sure that it is indeed legal or from a sustainable source is something
which WWF will not support.
This project is a good example of the lack of
communication within central government. The DEFRA project manager
(Trevor Linton) was unaware of Government timber procurement policy.
Therefore, he did not pass any information on to Kajima about
the sourcing of the timber and the importance of responsible sourcing.
The spec from Government said that timber must come from "sustainable
sources" and the use of "tropical hardwoods is explicitly
not allowed" unless certain documents can be provided detailing
the source, the shipper, the buyer etc.
WWF have investigated such certificates and
found them to be unreliable, misleading and often fake. Kajima
would not necessarily be aware of the credibility of the documents
and from their point of view, had done everything requested of
them from DEFRA. The meeting on 2 May was to discuss the project,
whether WWF could help in this instance and to establish how Kajima
could confirm that the timber comes from "sustainable sources".
Kajima have looked at the costs for substituting
the iroko for European oak, which is available with independent
certification. If the timber is changed at this time in the project,
it would cost an extra £1.6 million. WWF understands that
the total project cost is approximately £20 million.
WWF believe that DEFRA will probably go ahead
and use iroko. This project will be used as a case study with
WWF highlighting problems with recommendations to ensure this
does not continue to happen. WWF believe that there must be more
Government building projects like this, using unsustainable timber.
Time will tell.
WWF has attempted to get the information on
the DEFRA website corrected as some of it is factually inaccurate
and we believe unhelpful to buyers. For example, several "certification
schemes" are listed in DETR Greening Government operations.
have told DEFRA that many of the "schemes" listed in
the guide, are not actually certification schemesthe World
Bank and ISO 14000 are included. This will lead to more confusion.
Our request has, thus far, not been carried out.
The Government continues to say that there is
not enough certified timber around and that "rejecting suppliers
because they do not have specific green credentials such as an
FSC certificate would be an inappropriate barrier".
Government often argues that if everyone suddenly
started demanding FSC endorsed timber, it would create a demand
that could not be sourced. WWF completely disagrees with this
view. The UK Government, by communicating its policy widely and
clearly, can have a critical role in creating demand and encouraging
supply. Several timber traders have said to WWF that they are
waiting for "a clear signal" from Government that they
really are supporting and backing FSC.
Government has not been able to provide adequate,
accurate information for their buyers to know what kind of credible
information to look for when purchasing timber. In the second
"Greening Government Report" issued in November 2001,
time and time again, feedback from Government departments requests
"clear guidance on credible certification schemes".
WWF welcomed the consultation paper: "Procurement
of timber products `from legal and sustainable sources' by government
and its executive agencies and have provided written input into
The consultants ERM have undertaken a consultation,
on behalf of Government, with interested parties on their research
into current procurement practices and have considered ways of
assessing claims of sustainable forest management. The report
issued prior to this consultation was very positive and the criteria
in the paper for assessing what a credible scheme is, are well
thought through and detailed. We support them and have suggested
a couple of additions.
It is frustrating however, that WWF and a number
of other Environmental NGOs have been advising DEFRA on what we
believe a credible forest certification scheme is for nearly two
years. DFID have also completed research on this topic which seems
to us to be an unnecessary extra piece of work.
WWF are hoping that once the ERM study is complete
and a guidance note issued to buyers it will be clear what kind
of timber can be purchased by Government. We understand that this
is due out "in the summer" and ERM are aiming for the
final draft report to be finalised by the end of May 2002.
WWF has been consistent in calling on the UK
1. Fully implement the timber procurement
policy announced in July 2000;
2. Provide urgent clarification and clear
guidance and advice to its departments; agencies and to local
authorities on responsible timber procurement and what a credible
certification scheme is; and
3. Identify a pilot project where independently
certified timber is specified and used.
With regard to the development of guidance on
timber procurement for local authorities and advise given by Central
Government WWF is only aware of a letter from Mr Bob Andrew at
DEFRA, dated 15 April 2002. This letter states, "As far as
promoting the purchase of sustainable and legal timber beyond
Central Government is concerned, DEFRA, DTLR and OGC are currently
engaged with the Improvement and Development Agency in discussions
on how to encourage local authorities to adopt such policies".
Beyond this WWF knows of no further progress.
8 Committee Press release No 26, 18 April 2002. See
DEFRA News Release 516: 28 July 2000. Back
DETR Greening Government Operations-Green Guide for Buyers: Part
2 Green Buyers checklist. Back
Michael Meacher speech to WWF 95 plus Group 23 November 2001. Back