UK businesses risk facing timber shortages unless they make their supply chains more sustainable, a report has said.
The report by WWF into the UK’s timber sourcing said the development of stable supplier relationships in countries sensitive to deforestation could not only reduce the UK’s ecological footprint, but was vital to securing future supply.
“Businesses need to review how their timber is sourced if they want to secure supply for the future, and in keep timber prices stable,” said Julia Young, global forest and trade network manager for WWF UK.
She added: “We can no longer rely on our usual sources of timber as unsustainable practices are having devastating consequences on forests, and we face a real danger of not having enough timber to satisfy our growing population needs.”
The report warns a number of countries currently supplying the UK are at risk of depletion. Two countries of particular concern are Vietnam and Nigeria, where WWF estimates almost 80% and 99% respectively of their primary natural forest have been lost.
Nigeria only has an estimated two years of secondary, regrown natural forest and 11 years of plantations left.
The income guaranteed by a stable supply relationship can be used to ensure the sustainable management of forests in source countries, the report said. “New, sustainable markets for timber can help incentivise private owners of forests… [and] demand for timber can help justify the upfront cost to pup sustainable forest management practices in place.”
WWF predicts by 2050 global demand for timber, paper, and biofuel will have tripled, while domestic timber supplies will only provide 22% of the UK's timber.
The report says while certified sustainable products are already available in the UK, “evidence suggests… wooden seating and some wooden flooring products still come from sources where forestry practices are not monitored”. The report also said the production of wooden pallets also provided challenges to sustainable sourcing.
There is also uncertainty surrounding secondary products such as imported furniture, the report said. “The largest furniture exporter to the UK is China, a key trade country often implicated in illegally sourced wood.”
WWF said sustainably sourcing timber could also provide other benefits to business. “Tangible business benefits of sustainable practices including advantages in regulatory positioning, easier raising of finance, brand value and an engaged workforce,” said Young.
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