UK Government

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs: UK government leads way on buying sustainable timber

Press Release   •   Jan 20, 2010 11:05 GMT

07/10 Environment Secretary Hilary Benn today announced that from 1 April 2010 new social criteria will be added to the UK Government’s timber procurement policy, to add to the existing requirement that all Government bought timber is legal and sustainable.

Central Government is estimated to purchase 20 per cent of all timber bought in the UK.  This figure rises to 40 per cent when local authorities and other government bodies are included.

Mr Benn said:

“Developed nations such as the UK must support developing nations so that they do not have to make a choice between their ecosystems and their economies.  Developing countries have long – and rightly – called for action by consumer countries to support their own efforts to manage their forests.

“The new social criteria demonstrate the UK’s commitment to use government purchasing power to help push illegal and unsustainable timber out of the market by improving labour standards, protecting the interests of developing nations and tackling climate change.”

Cutting down the world’s forests is responsible for about a fifth of global carbon emissions, but what many people may not realise is that this is linked to the illegal trade in timber. This is a major problem for many timber-producing countries in the developing world. It not only causes environmental damage, but costs governments billions of dollars in lost revenue, often involving corruption and funds armed conflict.

The social criteria that will now be included in the UK Government’s procurement policy are:

·         Identification, documentation and respect of legal, customary and traditional tenure and use rights related to the forest;

·         Mechanisms for resolving grievances and disputes, including those relating to tenure and use rights, to forest management practices and to work conditions; and

·         Safeguarding the basic labour rights and health and safety of forest workers.

The social criteria have been adopted following a consultation with trade and environmental stakeholder organisations which concluded in August 2009.

Notes to editors

  • Mr Benn made the announcement on inclusion of social criteria in Government procurement policy during a speech at Chatham House on tackling deforestation.
  • The inclusion of social criteria build on the existing requirement that all Government bought timber is legal and sustainable, announced by Hilary Benn on 25 March 2009. www.defra.gov.uk/news/2009/090325b.htm
  • Wood products imported into the UK in 2008 were valued at £6.3 billion and comprised 11 million cubic metres of wood (sawnwood, other wood and woodbased panels) and 9 million tonnes of pulp and paper. 
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