Responsible Wood CEO, Simon Dorries sat down with Patrizia Torelli, Australasian Furnishing Association CEO, to discuss Responsible Wood, PEFC, forest certification and all things timber legality.

Patrizia: First things first, what is forest certification, what is Responsible Wood and why is it important for AFA members?

Simon: Forest certification validates the origin of the timber, in the forest, and through a range of extensive auditing, can be used to demonstrate that timber grown, harvested, processed and manufactured is legal and meets a range of globally endorsed social and environmental benchmarks.

Responsible Wood operates Australia’s largest forest certification scheme. Responsible Wood manages the only endorsed Australian Standards for Sustainable Forest Management and Chain of Custody and is internationally recognised and mutually endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) – the world’s largest forest certification scheme.

Through PEFC recognition, AFA members can use Responsible Wood or PEFC ‘Chain of Custody’ to demonstrate that timber, sourced in forests across more than 50 countries, is from a sustainable origin and where properly demonstrated maintains the link across the global import and export markets. It is a significant marketing tool in the armoury of any successful design and manufacturing business.

Patrizia: Timber legality is front and centre for all AFA members at the moment. What is forest certification and how can it be used to demonstrate compliance with the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act and Regulations 2012.

Simon: The Act defines Illegal logging to bethe harvesting of timber in contravention of the laws of the country where the timber is harvested.’ Illegal logging includes a wide range of illegal activities, including;

  • logging of protected species
  • logging in protected areas
  • logging with fake or illegal permits
  • using illegal harvest methods

If the timber is from a certified source and is part of a formal claims process, be it Responsible Wood, PEFC or otherwise, by its nature, the timber must be harvested in compliance with the laws of its origin. That in itself is the basis of how forest certification works. To demonstrate and verify the source of the timber and ensure that the legality of the timber is maintained through a ‘Chain of Custody’ process. The penalties for non-compliance are very high.

Patrizia: Okay you have mentioned a couple of important terms – ‘Chain of Custody’, ‘Certified Source’ and the ‘Formal Claims Process’. What do these terms relate to and why they are important for AFA members?

Simon: All very good questions…

‘Chain of Custody’ links the origin of the wood to the final product. It provides AFA members with documented evidence that timber or forest based products are sourced from sustainably managed forests, and if properly understood, can be used by AFA members to demonstrate the required mandatory compliance with the Australian Illegal Prohibition Acts and Regulations. Visit https://afaddt.australianfurniture.org.au/ to learn more

‘Certified Sources’ is traced back to the origin. In order to demonstrate ‘Chain of Custody’ timber must be sourced from a forest that has a Sustainable Forest Management certification scheme. Forests that have Sustainable Forest Management certification can provide assurances that the forest is managed responsibly. Visit https://afaddt.australianfurniture.org.au/ to learn more

‘The Formal Claims Process’ provides the legally required documented evidence that timber-products imported or exported by AFA members meet the obligations as outlined under legislation. Visit https://afaddt.australianfurniture.org.au/ to learn more

Patrizia: So what do AFA members need to look out for when purchasing timber?

Simon: Very simply, AFA members should look out for a ‘Chain of Custody’ claim on the timber products invoice. Below is an example of a compliant Chain of Custody claim for reference;

“x% PEFC certified” or “x% AFS/PEFC certified”

If you have any questions about the claims process, we have a dedicated team that can work with AFA members to discuss technical elements of the claims process or Visit https://afaddt.australianfurniture.org.au/ to learn more.

Patrizia: And what if AFA members are required to trade timber based products with a Chain of Custody claim?

Simon: In certain circumstances AFA members may be required to become certified under Responsible Wood’s Chain of Custody certification scheme in order to carry the ‘Chain of Custody’. We are happy to talk to all AFA members that have questions about certification so please feel free to contact us at any time.

Patrizia: One final question. We hear so much about FSC, PEFC and now increasingly Responsible Wood. What is the difference between schemes.

Simon: I run Responsible Wood. What I will say is that Responsible Wood is mutually endorsed by PEFC. This means that timber certified under any certification scheme endorsed by PEFC can be used in a PEFC claim on product anywhere in the world. This is critical as the claim on product can be used to verify that the harvest of timber was not in contravention of the laws of the harvesting country.  The availability of PEFC certified wood species is significant with a large range of products and unique species available with PEFC certification.

The FSC system operates independently of PEFC.  FSC has their own Chain of Custody standard and requirements and do not always recognise materials from other sustainable sources.

At Responsible Wood (or PEFC Australia) we are happy to answer all technical questions so if AFA members have any further questions we are here to help!