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Mill Profile

Ready Market

BC's Shawood Lumber is finding a ready market for its FSC-certified wood in environmentally conscious Europe.

By Rick Crosby

A marlin hangs on one wall of Shawood Lumber Inc's front office. The aroma of red cedar permeates the lobby. Andy Shaw, president of Shawood Lumber, is standing beside his desk when the phone rings. "Could you fax it to me?" he asks. "How long is long? Okay e-mail it to me." "We got a double knock," Shaw says a few minutes later when asked about the marlin.

Two marlins hit Shaw and a friend's lines at the same time on a fishing trip to Hawaii. The question of who caught the bigger fish has been debated for years. There's no debate these days, though, when it comes to the significance of Shawood Lumber's first shipment of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified red cedar to Holland this past December.

"It was interesting when we put the feelers out to market FSC-certified wood," Shaw says, sitting down at his desk. "We really didn't know what we were getting into."
To research the markets, Shawood Lumber's general manager Ken Kiers intended to call major distributors in various countries to see if they had an interest in FSC-certified red cedar.
"We didn't get beyond the first person we called," Shaw recounts. "They said, 'we'll take everything you have'."
Beka Hout, a major distributor of cedar products in Holland, took over half a million board feet.

The Forest Stewardship Council was formed when a group of timber users, traders and representatives of environmental groups met in 1990 to confirm the need of a credible system for identifying well-managed forests and subsequently developed that system. The importance to Shawood Lumber of apparently being the first FSC-certified western red cedar facility in the world is that the company has the all important chain-of-custody as an FSC-certified remanufacturing facility. Chain of custody is the process by which the source of timber is verified. To be eligible to carry the FSC Trademark, timber has to be tracked from the forest through all the steps of the production process until it reaches the end user. The certification process starts in the forest with the contractor who by diligence and ethics comes up with a system that is acceptable to the FSC.

"We are only part of the chain," Shaw explains. "When we receive and custom cut wood at Mainland Sawmills in Vancouver, they have been certified by us and are part of the chain of custody. From there, we bring fibre to our FSC-certified chain-of-custody remanufacturing mill."

Being FSC certified could give Shawood an edge as the markets for certified product grow over the next few years.

When Shawood Lumber ships, they are shipping with full identity and full accountability to their customers who are also FSC-certified chain of custody. So everyone that's dealing with a piece of wood from the standing tree forward is part of the chain of custody.
The FSC is one of the few institutions that has come up with a formula that is satisfactory to Greenpeace and various other environmental groups who have set high standards for auditing and controlling fibre to satisfy requirements for being environmentally responsible. There have been recent reports that by October, 2003 markets in Europe will accept only certified wood.

"That quote comes directly from the mandate of the World Wildlife Federation-95 Plus group comprised of 88 companies and group members that have a total of-and this fact I think is quite interesting-about $8.4 billion Canadian dollars annual turnover in wood products," says Shaw "That is a lot of wood by any standard."
Shawood Lumber is a value added remanufacturing plant in North Langley, British Columbia specializing in western red cedar products. The company produces high grade remanufactured items-it takes lower grade wood and rips, resaws and chops around defects to produce component parts for housing markets in the US, Europe, and Australia. Their facilities include Ultimizer optimizer equipment, a finger jointing facility from Western Pneumatics and a dry kiln built by Custom Dry Kiln Co.

Certification for Shawood appears to be a good strategic move as the FSC looks to be quite well established. Ten and a half million hectares of private land has been certified in North America. This could increase to 21.5 million hectares by the end of 2001.
It's already clear in some markets that if standards of certification are not met, environmentalists take action. In parts of Europe, companies are going certified because they're tired of their trucks being blocked and being prevented from going to work. The incentive for companies to be certified there is to prevent any possible downturns in business as a result of environmental action or protests.

FSC certification is affecting important markets. "I would say Europe and the UK are a minimum of three to four years ahead of us in their demand for certified wood," Shaw says. "They are achieving certified wood out of Scandinavia and Southeast Asia. In Canada, we are one of the last to join in on this requirement."
The demand for certified wood is growing and the big problem over the next few years may be in meeting that demand. However, certification is a slow process with regards to western red cedar. "The biggest problem we have in BC is that our economics generally requires clearcutting," Shaw says. "And if we are clearcutting, we are not acceptable by most environmental standards."

Selective logging is an alternative, but selective logging is expensive, difficult in practice and is management-intense compared to clearcutting. In some cases, clearcutting may be the only practical harvesting method, but there will have to be more selective logging as the demand for certified wood products grows.
In the UK, FSC certification is becoming a benchmark.
"The major window and door manufacturers in western red cedar and in white woods are demanding FSC wood to stay ahead of the game because they recognize that in two, three, five years this is not going to be something that is a luxury-it's going to be a necessity," Shaw says.

To ensure FSC certification, every piece of wood is audited. Each piece of wood processed through the sawmill or remanufacturing plant is labeled FSC as it's tracked through the mill.
"There's a chain-of-custody representation that we have to back up and we have to be prepared for frequent audits from the Forest Stewardship Council and Smartwood (a certifying agency) who ensure we meet the standards and use only those trees that have been certified," Shaw says. "We need to have an accurate enough record to follow the wood through the system to the end use."
On the forest side, logging contractors don't know yet what the impact of certification will be on BC's annual cut should that be the approach taken. But a transition from clearcutting to more selective logging could be costly.

FSC certification from a logging aspect is clearly in its very early days. Shaw termed the amount of wood that is presently certifiable and any volume likely to come on stream in the next year or two as "just a drop in the bucket."

There have been few contractors and companies that have been certified as resource managers. This is because it's extremely costly and extremely difficult to extract select logging without clearcutting.

Selective logging can be done without visual impacts or damage to wildlife or the environment.
"It's not something that we should wish for," Shaw says. "It's something that we should expect to happen because it seems a very logical way."

Certification could bring some stability to the forest industry and also go a long way towards addressing concerns about protecting the environment.
"Whether we're polluting the oceans or the rivers or taking too many trees, it's all the same issue," Shaw says. "Are we going to be more environmentally conscious so we don't destroy everything around us and our great grandchildren or even our grandchildren suffer the consequences? It's all an accumulation of that. This is just one of the chapters in the book."

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