With over four decades of experience in the timber flooring industry and an unquestionably leading position when it comes to sustainably sourced wood, it is hard to imagine a brand that would have been any more at the forefront of the timber industry’s sustainability journey. We sit down with Havwoods’ Strategic Accounts Manager, Brent Calow, and the brand’s Digital Marketing Manager, Jessica Hall, to look back at the all important beginning of sustainable forestry, talk about the potent shift in consumer attitudes towards sustainability that’s redefining the demand for responsibly sourced timber - and discuss some of the misconceptions organizations like Havwoods are working hard to debunk.
“Europe has really driven sustainability to where it is today - particularly from a forestry management and timber products manufacturing perspective,” says Brent. That’s where, as a response to the concerns over global deforestation, the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) was established in 1993. Having been founded in Bonn, Germany, it then propagated throughout the world, reaching Australia in 2006, when FSC® Australia was established. Alongside that came the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act, which - upon a somewhat softer start in 2012 - truly came into effect in January 2018. The Act introduced strict regulations, making it illegal to place illegally harvested timber on the Australian marketplace. It also puts responsibility on local operators to ensure they manage any risk that the products they import or process have been illegally logged.
Havwoods wasn’t affected by the change. The brand already followed their own, extremely rigorous requirements where provenance and sustainability of wood they used was concerned. The majority of their stock was already compliant with the very stringent European standards. “Many of our competitors really struggled proving that their products were sustainable, because they've never been asked that question before,” explains Brent.
“Climate change has driven architects, designers and consumers to pursue more environmentally friendly, sustainable and responsible solutions. They want to know where timber came from and what the carbon footprint on their project is going to be,” says Brent and goes on to reference Australian Architects Declare Climate & Biodiversity Emergency as one of the crucial markers of the industry’s rapidly advancing environmental awareness.
These days, Havwoods have customers who will not buy a product that hasn’t been sustainably certified. But it wasn’t always this way. “Thinking back to three or four years ago, when the majority of our range was already certified, many architects and designers didn’t care about it as much,” adds Jessica. “That has now completely flipped. Some of this interest in sustainability and certification is driven by government legislation, as well as an increased global awareness. Consumers are empowered to drive change and choose where they spend their money.”
These considerations have driven the demand for sustainable and responsibly sourced timber, which, in turn, has increased the demand for certified products - and the need to make them more attainable to the rapidly growing consumer base. Once again, Havwoods was well ahead of the curve - particularly as engineered timber flooring, which the brand has the largest range of globally, has also set a new standard for sustainable wooden flooring.
Unlike solid timber flooring - which uses only a certain section of a tree, engineered timber flooring is built using numerous thinner planks. That allows for a greater amount of each tree to be utilised in the construction and results in far less wastage. “For one square metre of solid timber flooring you can get four square metres of engineered timber flooring,” quantifies Brent. In addition to that, engineered timber flooring can be re-sanded to prolong lifespan - or repurposed into another wooden material or product. With Havwoods’ impressive range of independently certified, sustainably sourced engineered timber flooring, Jessica explains the process of certifying engineered flooring, “All the layers of the engineered floor - including the substrate - have to be certified for the product to actually get the official certification that the entire product has been responsibly sourced.”
With the importance of sustainability and certifications on the rise, there are still many misconceptions around the topic of sustainable timber flooring - and while the consumer is becoming more and more knowledgeable, there is still a tremendous need for education - on the benefits of specifying sustainably sourced timber, the importance of official certifications, and on how attainable certified products actually are. “By choosing timber you can help keep the CO2 out of the atmosphere - and timber is actually classed as a carbon neutral building material, because it's a lot lighter to transport, compared to materials like concrete, which is responsible for an estimated 5% of global CO2 emissions,” explains Jessica. “So it's important for people to know that chopping down trees can certainly be bad and lead to deforestation when it comes to illegal logging, however if it is done responsibly and in a well managed way, it can actually be the better choice for our environment and sustainability.”
With the increased focus on sustainability, there has also been an increase in the amount of organisations claiming that their products are certified even if they aren’t. “It is crucial for consumers to ask their suppliers for paperwork,” says Jessica. “With FSC® (C009500) and Cradle To Cradle Certified™, you can also go to their website, and actually look for a specific company to check the list of their certified products.” This is particularly important as the sustainability sourced timber has become much more affordable. “The idea that sustainably sourced timber is expensive is a misconception. That was the case originally, because of all that effort and time that has to go into it, and the ability to source the products from the right places does cost money. But because of the demand, the price has been able to come down,” says Jess, and Brent adds that “rather than it being a cost to the consumer, it's now just become the cost of doing business, which is then absorbed into the cost of the product. And, of course, economies of scale drive that.”
With the world’s largest range of sustainably sourced engineered timber flooring, the product certification profile anchored in Havwoods’s European sustainability heritage - and the brand’s commitment to furthering awareness of the importance of choosing responsible timber, there is no doubt that Havwoods are one of the key organisations driving the industry’s sustainability journey forward.
For more information visit Havwoods here.