Report confirms sustainability of US hardwoods

A new report released by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has demonstrated the sustainability of US hardwoods by comparing the requirements for responsible timber sourcing in regulations (such as in EUTR in the European Union and Lacey Act in the US).

The results of the report proved that, in several important respects, AHEC’s strategy goes beyond what is deliverable by established forest certification systems and is much wider in scope than most timber procurement policies.

AHEC’s strategy to date has been to demonstrate sustainability against environmental attributes identified in scientific life cycle assessment (LCA) as relevant to US hardwoods.

Due to a lack of awareness of alternatives technical requirements for ‘sustainable timber’ are still typically equated with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certification.

These technical requirements are, however, increasingly out of step with the growing recognition that the major problems associated with forests in some parts of the world – such as deforestation and poor governance – cannot be addressed through forest certification.

According to Mr Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director: “Many of the requirements focused on certification do not accommodate the need for broader metrics of sustainability in the forest products sector and to recognise the importance of other issues not covered by forest certification, including carbon footprint and other life cycle impacts; transparent information on national forest governance; the quality of forest resources at national and regional levels; clear data on species volume, growth and harvest; efficient use of the full range of species and grades; product durability; and waste management and disposal.”

The AHEC website hosts an interactive forest map to provide easy access to data derived from the USDA Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) programme on forest volume, growth and harvest. Users can drill down to show data on individual hardwood species at national, state and survey unit levels.

AHEC’s comprehensive LCA study is unique in the wood sector for the level of detail on environmental impacts provided for individual species and thicknesses of lumber and transport scenarios. (www.americanhardwood.org).

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