Sustainable timber purchasing

We are proud to announce that Surrey County Council  is only the second county council in England to have been awarded the Golden Pledge from the  World Wildlife Fund (WWF-UK) for sustainable timber purchasing. The award is part of WWF-UK's 'What Wood You Choose?' campaign and acknowledges our work to ensure we buy our timber and wood products from responsible, sustainable sources.

The award was presented to us on 3 June 2014 by Julia Young of WWF-UK.

The campaign

The campaign was a response to WWF-UK's investigation in 2012 that found evidence that many councils do not know where the timber they buy comes from, meaning it could originate from forests that have been logged illegally or unsustainably. Surrey was rated as above average, as we already had an overall sustainable procurement policy.

In April 2013 we adopted WWF-UK's timber policy that sets out the requirements of suppliers and contractors to deliver timber and timber products which met clear sourcing criteria.

Making the policy work

The policy covers all purchasing of forest products including building maintenance, construction , countryside estate management, furniture, stationery and wood fuel and we felt we had a good framework in place to address sustainable procurement, having worked with major suppliers in category areas on this agenda.

We had a six-point plan to ensure the policy was strictly implemented and monitored:

identifying the key areas of purchasing; formulating and approving the timber policy and making it public; informing all relevant personnel in the Council, as well as suppliers and contractors, of the Council's policy commitment; specifying legal and sustainable timber checking compliance, and keeping a record of the regular data on the sourcing of timber with basic details as a condition of the contract.

To help raise awareness with the businesses helping us achieve the sustainability goals, the policy was also linked to the BuildSurrey website.

After an update session in October 2013, and having looked at purchases for timber products across their remit, the team at Surrey County Council exchanged gathered evidence with WWF in late 2013 and early 2014, undertaking additional checks on the level of compliance being achieved.

Case Study from the implementation

An interesting aspect of the review work done in the pledge was related to local woodlands and suppliers producing and supplying timber, which we primarily purchase for countryside estate work and wood fuel purposes. We have worked with a wide variety of suppliers, including local sawmills, with the aim of gaining assurance of a legal and sustainable chain of custody in the most cost effective way and thus helping to ensure local management of smaller woodlands remains economically feasible. This has included using Forestry Commission felling licences as evidence of legal sourcing for local UK timber, where suppliers are operating sustainably but are not certified by large schemes such as FSC or PEFC.

Importance of woodlands in Surrey

Surrey is the most densely wooded county in England and woodlands form an intrinsic part of the Surrey landscape. We work with partners and contractors to ensure the woodlands we are directly responsible for, are managed to high standards of sustainability, for long term benefits to wildlife conservation, public amenity and to ensure a sustainable local timber resource. We welcome WWF's initiative to ensure woodlands and forests nationally and internationally are sustainability managed and the council is fully committed to ensuring that timber sourced for use in the council's buildings and rural estate is from sustainable sources, many of which are beyond the boundaries of Surrey.

Our responsible purchasing policy for forest products is available to read in full.

Files available to download

  • Updated: 25 Nov 2014