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The GFTN Guide to Legal and Responsible Sourcing

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3.2 Main Policy Elements

Unacceptable SourcesResponsible purchasers should develop an environmental policy or set of policies that exclude unwanted forest sources. The list of unwanted sources, and the precise terminology used to describe them, will vary according to the social and environmental issues of concern to the organization and its stakeholders.

Unwanted Sources

WWF recommends that, at a minimum, sourcing organizations regard timber or fibre as unwanted if the following conditions exist:

  1. The source forest is known to or suspected of containing high conservation values, except where the forest is certified or in progress to certification under a credible certification system, or the forest manager can otherwise demonstrate that the forest and surrounding landscape is managed to ensure that those values are maintained.
  2. The source forest is being converted from natural forest to a plantation or other land use, unless the conversion is justified on grounds of net social and environmental gain, including the enhancement of high conservation values in the surrounding landscape. More information on WWF's work concerning forest conversion can be found here.
  3. The timber was illegally harvested or traded.
  4. The timber was traded in a way that drives violent armed conflict or threatens national or regional stability (i.e. what is commonly called conflict timber).
  5. The harvesting or processing entity or entities, or a related political or military regime, are violating human, civil and traditional rights.
  6. The timber is from genetically modified trees.
  7. The source forest is unknown.

Note: The seven categories of unwanted sources eliminate most activities from the supply chain that preclude credible certification. These items also are closely linked to the requirements for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Controlled Wood Standard.

This list is a minimum, and other elements should be introduced to reflect stakeholder concerns that are identified. More information on these categories is available here.

Acceptable Sources

The organization will also want to consider what is the minimum acceptable in terms of policy. Acceptable sources of wood or fibre, in descending preference might include:

  1. Material from credibly certified forests / recycled material
  2. Material from verified sources forests which has been 3rd party verified for basic social and environmental criteria.
  3. Material from assessed sources which have been evaluated for basic legality and traceability. 

In all cases compliance with all aspects of the purchaser's policy should be the desired state.

Examples of forest products sourcing policies can be found here.

Note for GFTN Participants: GFTN participant companies are required to agree policies that, as a minimum, cover these key elements.

Scope - What to Include

The scope of the policy may vary from one sourcing organization to the next—such as, the inclusion or exclusion of forest products intended for resale only, forest products sold under "own brand" or "store brand" only, forest products procured for service use and not for resale (for example, copier paper) and forest products used within the fabric of buildings (for example, wooden doors or floors in new offices or factories).

Therefore, the scope of the policy is flexible and can expand overtime. Best practice dictates that the scope of the policy be set to apply to the largest impact area of the business; for example, a retailer should consider its largest selling range of forest products before its office copier paper.

It would also be prudent to consider market based legislation, existingand evolving, to ensure that the policy at the very least covers material affected or potentially affected.

The policy should also include:

  • A reference to periodic review of the policy and its associated targets (possibly as part of a larger environmental or Corporate Social Responsibility reporting agenda)
  • Communication to suppliers and other key audiences of the policy and its associated targets
  • Commitment to public reporting and transparency of process
  • Promotion of the use of recycled wood and fiber, preferably post consumer (where this is relevant)

The policy and any associated documents should be the responsibility of senior management within the sourcing organization and should have the same level of endorsement as any other of the sourcing organization's policies (such as those on health and safety or discrimination).


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