CTI Blog

Why the latest reset of environmental policy could be good for woodworking

This guest blog post is by Matthew Mahony, Policy and Communications Executive at the British Woodworking Federation (BWF). It originally appeared on the BWF website.

 

Although it’s been overshadowed by more immediate concerns such as the collapse of Carillion, last week the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched its much anticipated its 25-Year Environment Plan, a document that could have major implications for the UK timber industry.

The plan sits alongside both the Industrial Strategy and the Clean Growth Strategy and identifies key areas around which policy will be focused, including increasing resource efficiency and reducing pollution and waste.

 

Why government should believe in being braver

With the new Plan and the recent Clean Growth Strategy(*), we’re seeing a government that is again dipping its toe into the water on environmental issues. And why not? There is a clear public mandate to adopt an ambitious agenda on environmental sustainability. It’s a genuine cross party issue which is supported by polling data that there is substantial support to strengthen current environmental regulations in the wake of Brexit.

Although the championing of a ‘Green Brexit’ and a ‘Blue Planet PM’ is a little insincere, there will be opportunities to retain ‘the good stuff’ in strategy terms if no longer in name. This would include the popular EU Timber Regulation which was the stated reason why David Cameron’s government stopped short of new criminal offences under UK law for the import and possession of illegal timber.

If the government decides to convert public support for our green and pleasant land into real political capital, Brexit could provide an opportunity to loosen the shackles of existing state aid rules. Taxation incentives for sustainable products could support businesses doing things the right way and avoid endemic short-termism, a big problem in a construction industry tasked with delivering 300,000 extra homes per year by the middle of the next decade and addressing the issue of a leaky existing building stock.

 

So what of the plan?

The plan itself is certainly lightweight – essentially a list of ‘good things’ which doesn’t go far enough. It’s not far off being at home on Buzzfeed, but in an era when government thinking on sustainability seems stuck between ambivalence and opportunism, it’s encouraging to see a renewed commitment to basics such as tackling climate change, promoting recycling and protecting the forests - even the elusive Great Crested Newt gets a mention.

Many of these aims have clear benefits for woodworking and the use of wood products over less sustainable alternatives, not least the targets to achieve zero avoidable plastic waste, maximise the benefits of the UK’s woodlands, protect international forests and support zero-deforestation supply chains.

There is also a recognition that market forces alone are often insufficient in recognising the social, economic and environmental gains from the better deployment of resources, materials and products.

 

Natural capitalism

Perhaps most encouraging of all within the plan is the reaffirmation of the Industrial Strategy pledge to support a Natural Capital approach. This will help account for the true value of England’s wood and forests. As well as reflecting more of the wellbeing benefits of a wood culture, the approach accounts for Carbon sequestration – the process by which trees lock-up and store carbon from the atmosphere - and a measurement that can better indicate the true worth of the products we make.

In my opinion, if government is to adopt a long term plan, then this is a good start but we need something akin to an Environmental Constitution to give more robust protection from the type of mercurial decision making that we’ve seen on issues including Fixed-term parliaments and selling off Britain’s forests.

 

How soon is now?

Where the government’s intentions fall short for me is that setting up a long term plan is all very good but there needs to be more of a sense of urgency across the board. If we are to get millions of new homes within the next decade as the government hopes, then we don’t want inefficient, leaky houses stuffed with single use plastics - we need to address today’s problems today and setting the framework for this can’t wait, especially as hitting the reset button on such issues has cost valuable time.

We want to see millions less deliveries during construction, millions of tonnes of CO2 taken from the atmosphere and stored in the built environment and millions less tonnes of hazardous legacy materials. It should be a no-brainer that large construction projects must be mandated to account for social value and sustainability and are required to use materials that are sustainable and responsibly sourced. NB: in the wake of the Carillion debacle, it’s easy to forget that the three elements of sustainable development that government should now account for in the built environment are social, environmental and economic sustainability.

To bring the plan forward, government also needs to be more open to new initiatives and drivers, particularly within construction. There are some great innovations out there, not least those that BWF and its timber industry colleagues have been working on and those coming from Europe and North America.

Although there are too many to list, promising initiatives close to home include Powys County Council’s Homegrown Homes initiative and its Wood Encouragement Policy aimed at supporting forestry and product manufacturing, retaining and creating new jobs and building better, and more energy efficient houses.

If we want real progress by 2022 rather than 2042, now is the time to start acting on solutions. I can think of a good place to begin

 

(*) Read the CTI response to the Clean Growth Strategy here

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/why-latest-reset-environmental-policy-could-be-good-woodworking]

CTI Blog - Engaging with politicians both nationally and locally

This blog post is by CTI Chairman Roy Wakeman OBE. It originally appeared on the CTI Newsletter Winter 2017-18.

 

Whilst politicians come and go, their influence is continuous and so it is vital that the timber Industry engages fully with their local and national politicians and representatives.

It is so because our Industry whilst large, adding over £10bn to the UK economy and creating overall employment in direct and indirect trades of nigh on 500K people, has serious competition. This in the form of competing materials who display more aggressive lobbying techniques than we traditionally do.

Yet our message is fundamentally in today’s age stronger, whether for environmental issues, commercial advantage, productivity and if home grown timber was favoured in R&D, a positive on the UK economy and trade imbalance.

Sometimes it is easier for us to concentrate on our own Company or individual industry issues while, in the wider world, events can be more influential to our growth and success.

I mentioned the home grown timber Industry where some politicians might just think of this as a Scottish out post cottage industry or some historic way of delaying and maybe avoiding tax. But if invested in a radical way so that the species of timber to be grown can be proven to have a secure market to replace imported goods then the UK benefits both for employment and the balance of trade.

In vogue, today is the housing shortage and affordable housing for our future generations. We have a strong off-site production capacity that could be helped with a major investment that targets “kit-houses” designed for onsite erection with low costs.

Our imbalance of trade in the joinery industry is such that we need to address the reasons for our uncompetitive base and to explore with our politicians these reasons and thereby addressing the areas of need for investment and training. We consume more doors per capita than anywhere else in the world due to our history of small houses with lots of rooms and have become a natural target for global manufacturers based overseas to direct products at the UK.

We developed the factory assembled door set and in the case of fire door sets all that is necessary to obtain the third-party certification necessary to guarantee performance. We need to keep the pressure on government to make third party audits and certification part of the building regulations and not just a side document to make sure that when buildings get built all the necessary safety features are built into the design. Also, to go further and through the insurance industry and financial instruments that fund buildings make regular Inspection schemes, part of the conditions.

All these areas are not new to us but we do seem to have the habit of dropping the batten. It needs a war of attrition so that all of us every day call for the action and keep the pressure up on our law makers to improve the health of our Industry. Only this new, collaborative approach will really help keep our people housed and safe, using what is and has always been the world’s best and truly renewable building material: timber.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-engaging-politicians-both-nationally-and-locally]

CTI Blog - CTI putting timber industry back in the spotlight

This blog post is by Dirk Vennix, CTI Chief Executive

We witnessed another memorable moment last week. For the first time in the history of the timber industry more than 40 parliamentarians announced that they would form a group to help grow the use of sustainable timber and develop more vibrant industries across the whole timber supply chain.

On 9 February fifteen parliamentarians attended the first meeting of the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Timber Industries and had an initial discussion about tackling key issues such as business growth, sustainability and skills shortages. They unanimously elected a cross-party officers group consisting of Chairman Ian Paisley MP for North Antrim in Northern Ireland (Democratic Unionists), Joint Vice Chair and former minister Cheryl Gillan MP for Chesham and Amersham (Conservatives), Joint Vice Chair Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow (Labour), Treasurer and Chair of the Wood Panel Industry APPG Steven Paterson MP for Stirling (SNP) and Secretary and Chair of the Furniture APPG Stephen McPartland MP for Stevenage (Conservatives).

All members of the new group have voiced their willingness to promote the use of timber UK wide but also support local timber related companies. The MPs are really very keen to meet with constituency businesses and as a result the CTI has around a dozen visits in the pipeline already.

The first took place on 12 February when APPG member Pat McFadden MP for Wolverhampton South East went to see CTI supporter John Grimes Sawmills in Wolverhampton. The MP was elected at the 2005 general election and served as Minister of State in the Department for Business in the Tony Blair government. He was also a shadow minister for Europe on the Labour front bench. Pat McFadden was welcomed to the site by Arvid Nielsen, Operations Director of John Grimes Sawmills Ltd (JGS Ltd) and John Dibble, Managing Director of the Building & Plumbing Supplies Group, which are the parent Company of JGS Ltd.

Arvid (pictured below with cap on) runs the manufacturing wholesale business, which has been based in Wolverhampton for over 30 years.  Arvid has been hands on in a variety of wood trade related fields for over 38 years.  Being a third generation wood trade member, he keeps his grandfather and father’s name present in the timber industry as well as trading with some sense of traditional ethical values. JGS Ltd specialise in the production of quality fencing panels which are supplied to fencing contractors and builders merchants all round the country. Arvid gave the MP a tour of the site which is proud to employ 20 staff and manufacture in excess of 10,000 panels per week with yard stock capacity of over 70,000 panels. 

Given his background as a former business minister Pat McFadden was impressed with the manufacturing capability and pleased to hear that the company has plans to expand. Arvid told the MP he is keen to stay in the local area and provide further opportunities for employment and training. John Grimes Sawmills already employs a number of apprentices and is keen to encourage more young people to start a career in timber manufacturing. Pat McFadden said he was happy to help the local business in any way he can.

The launch of the new APPG and the MP visit were good examples of how the CTI is raising the profile of timber industry within the parliamentary world and we are keen to help other supporters to connect with their local MP. Do get in touch if you are one of them.

Pat McFadden MP visit to John Grimes Sawmills
12 February 2016, Wolverhampton