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Last edited 03 Jul 2020
The use of timber in construction
Interest in procurement of wood and paper-based goods from sustainable sources and produced in a sustainable manner is growing. Concerned consumers, retailers, investors, communities, governments, and other groups increasingly want assurances that by buying and consuming these products they are making positive social and environmental contributions.
Today, organisations look beyond price, quality, availability and functionality to consider other factors in their procurement decisions including environmental (the effects that the products and/or services have on the environment) and social aspects (labour conditions, indigenous peoples’ and workers’ rights, etc.). This is known as 'sustainable procurement'.
Sustainable procurement can help to:
- Maintain a company’s social licence to operate.
- Reduce reputational risks.
- Secure sustainable supplies.
- Promote sustainable practices.
Sustainable procurement can also be used to align companies with their stakeholders’ values and make organizations along the supply chain (from forest owners and producers to retailers) more resilient to changing business conditions.
Similarly, federal, state and local governments, responsible for public procurement, are more and more concerned by sustainability issues as are civil society organisations, e.g., green building councils. They are increasingly interested in developing and issuing sustainable procurement policies and guidelines to determine or influence buying decisions by public administrations and sector-specific buyers.
 The sustainable choice
 Climate-mitigating properties
Forests play a key role regulating the volume of climate changing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They capture carbon dioxide and store it in wood, soil and biomass. Forest products, including wood, timber and paper can store carbon dioxide for several decades. (Carbon dioxide is only released when wood burns or decomposes.)
 Substitution opportunities
Wood is durable and strong. This makes it a good choice as a building material. Studies have also demonstrated that over their lifetime, wood products are associated with far lower greenhouse gas emissions than building materials including steel, concrete and aluminium.
Wood and wood products require relatively less energy to extract and harvest than other resources. Similarly, burning biomass in the place of traditional fossil fuels releases comparatively less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while wood and cellulose yield high energy efficiency.
 Source of income, livelihoods and poverty alleviation
 Life-cycle assessments show that wood is a good choice
Unlike other resources whose supply is finite or whose life-cycle is measured in tens of thousands or in millions of years, forests are a renewable resource with a relatively short growth cycle. As such, they have the potential to continue yielding their products and services indefinitely.
The use of wood and forest-based products has the potential to generate no waste. It is possible to use the entire resource. Once the timber has been harvested, wood residues and biomass can be burned for energy, wood chips can be used for compost and spreading on fields, while leaves and pine needles can be composted and used for agricultural and cultivation purposes.
Tropical forests constitute the principal reserve of species and biodiversity worldwide. They are also a source of livelihoods for large numbers of people. Yet, they are among the most threatened ecosystems. Threats to tropical and sub-tropical forests include population growth, poverty and institutional failings, all of which can result in illegal logging, one of the most severe threats to these ecosystems.
Sustainable management and consumption of tropical forests and timber can actually contribute to their conservation. This in turn can contribute to the protection and survival of the communities, wildlife and biodiversity that depend upon them.
One of the most effective ways to protect a resource is by creating incentives for its conservation. In the case of tropical timber, this can be achieved by placing an economic value on the timber and trading it in the market place. The value must be realistic and it must but also reflect market values applied in industrialised nations, the source of greatest demand for tropical timber and products. Returns to the local communities responsible for harvesting the wood must also be equitable.
Certification adds value to the wood being traded. Using tropical timber to generate incomes and livelihoods provides important incentives to ensure that the resource is conserved so that it can continue to yield its full range of benefits over the long term. Equally, creating an economic market value for the resource contributes in no small measure to combating illegal logging.
The text in this article was reproduced with the kind permission of --The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification 09:03, 25 October 2012 (BST)
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