The world’s forests are home to an innumerable number of animal, plant, fungi and bacteria species, and represent some 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. They are depended upon by 1.6 billion people worldwide for economic and social development, and are an imperative part of reducing the impacts of climate change on the planet.
Of course, just as they support life in all its forms, forests are also at acute risk of disappearing. This is due to direct manmade intervention – such as through deforestation – as well as more indirect manmade means. For instance, climate change.
Some changing climate conditions occur naturally over time, and forests are, to an extent, able to adapt. However, human-induced climate change is currently occurring at a rate faster than adaptation processes can occur. The result is “a loss of forest biodiversity and [of] forests themselves”, which in turn reduces the overall ability of our forests to self-regulate under the impacts of climate change.
Deforestation has a similar result. With timber being a popular construction and design material worldwide, demand will always be high. Illegal deforestation occurs on a massive scale around the world, “undermining social equity, environmental conservation, sustainable development and economic growth”.
As previously stated, 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for at least some portion of their livelihoods. That figure includes 60 million fully-dependent Indigenous people, and 350 million people who are primarily dependent on forests for their livelihood. Illegal deforestation deprives developing countries of about $10 billion in lost assets and revenues, and devalues the legal market’s worth internationally. It also deprives pre-existing biodiversity of a habitat, further accelerating the impacts of climate change.
Timber-certification programs, such as the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), go some way towards preventing the uninhibited and unsustainable destruction of forests worldwide. Currently, PEFC is the largest certification scheme worldwide (although other programs do exist that operate in slightly different ways, such as the Forestry Stewardship Council [FSC]).
PEFC has two main methods of operation. The first is to certify any given company’s Chain of Custody – workers cannot be “prevented from associating freely [or] choosing their representatives and bargaining collectively with their employer; forced labour is not used; workers under the minimum legal age are not used; and workers are not denied equal employment opportunities and treatment.”
The second way in which PEFC operates is through Forest Certification, recognising forest owners’ and managers’ responsible management practices. PEFC’s distinct bottom-up approach means that smaller operations, which may not have been practically certified under alternative schemes, can be Group Certified for following sustainable management practices.
Programs like PEFC work by ensuring that all steps of the production process are transparent and accounted for, allowing companies and consumers alike to make informed decisions about where their timber is sourced. By choosing PEFC (or otherwise) certified timber, those involved can be confident their decisions have not contributed to an unsustainable practice, nor damaged the ecological, social and economic wellbeing of the region from which that timber has come.
As one of the largest distributors of timber flooring in Australia, Premium Floors is aware of the importance of sustainable development, and of their position as a role model for the rest of the industry. Premium Floors ensures that its timber is sourced from legal harvesting methods. The European Oak – a particularly common species to be logged illegally – that is used in their engineered wood flooring is sourced from sustainably-managed forests. The majority of their wood floor ranges are also PEFC-certified, and Premium Floors carries full Chain of Custody Certification.
On a larger scale, Premium Floors is only one of many businesses operated by parent company, Unilin. Unilin is one of few companies to have a dedicated Chief Sustainability Officer, who reports directly to the CEO and dictates a holistic sustainability policy for the company to follow. This includes improving the sustainability of existing products – 75 percent of Unilin’s chipboard is now recycled, compared to 0 percent 20 years ago – and imagining better products for the future. Unilin will not produce any new product if it is not recyclable.
With a focus on their PEFC-specified products, Premium Floors has cemented themselves as an industry leader for the sustainable management of the earth’s natural habitats, and the ecological, social and economic pillars they represent.