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The Perfect Timber (Labelling and Legacy)

The Perfect Timber (Labelling and Legacy)

What do you look for when hunting for that perfect piece of timber? 

Chances are you’ll be seeking out strength, colour and grain, relative to the requirements of your project.  You might be looking for different finishes and textures, or maybe you need to consider density and weight.  Whatever your project, there is one check that many Australians are making, one that is easy to do and aims to support sustainable forestry whist optimising recovery and recycling of surplus and used timbers. 

25 years ago the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) emerged from the failure of the Rio Summit to reach any real outcome for forest protection. Their mission is to “…promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests”.  No simple task, but with a broad base of expertise and knowledge drawn from community and business leaders, environmental groups, governments and policy makers, the FSC has achieved what many thought would be impossible: a voluntary, market-driven approach to responsible forest management. 

What stands out is the simplicity of FSC’s strategy and how effective it has been across the globe.  Products and projects are audited by FSC and partner organisations and depending on how well the sustainability criteria are met, certification is issued and companies can use the FSC labels on their products.  You don’t have to look far to find these (check timber at your lumber yard, tissue boxes and toilet rolls – its very likely they are hiding in plain sight). 

There are three main categories exist for product certification and labelling that we can look for; 


 FSC 100% 

This category stands out as the embodiment of the FSC movement’s vision “…forests for all, forever”.  Products displaying this label have been thoroughly checked from forest to shopfloor and have proven (by an independent third party) that they meet the highest social and environmental standards. 





As the name suggests, products bearing this label have demonstrated that they are produced using 100% recycled content.  This takes a lot of stress off timbers sourced from forests, and has become increasingly useful as recycled timber products have surged in popularity. 





Perhaps the least preferred of the labels (at least from consumers) is the FSC MIX label.  What this tells us is that the product is made using a combination of materials from FS-certified forests, recycled materials and/ what is known as FSC controlled wood.  Controlled wood does not comply with all of the strictest parameters of FSC certification, but it at least can be verified that this material is not from unacceptable sources. 

FSC is not the only group that provides certification and labelling of timber products, however they likely have the biggest reach of any of these groups internationally. With literally millions of products bearing their labels, it is easy to see that FSC has serious traction worldwide, and counting members such as the WWF and Greenpeace (who aren’t in the habit of affiliating with organisations who aren’t true to their values), underscores the credibility of their work. 

Here in Australia, our largest timber retailers spruik their green credentials, proudly showing off their engagement with FSC and other programs.  This reflects the desires of their customers, so everything we do with our purchasing decisions sends a clear signal to retailers and their supply chains.  What we can do is make sure that we are making those purchasing decisions based on good judgement and in ways that do the least amount of harm to our planet.  With such simple visual references as the FSC labels, we can easily determine which timbers are right for us. 

We can continue to enjoy what is one of the Earths most endearing and versatile natural resources and at the same time, we can play our part in making sure that our planet and our people are not worse off.    




By James Atkinson

Jim is a dad, writer, PhD researcher and corporate sustainability advisor. 

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