Travis Perkins Group helps unlock economic benefits of British forests and woodland

A major plan to unlock a sustainable economic future for the UK’s forests and woodlands has received a significant boost after 30 British retailers and construction firms have pledged to procure UK timber wherever possible.

The companies, which have a combined purchasing power of £50 billion and include timber merchant Travis Perkins, construction group Balfour Beatty and furniture retailer Heal’s, have given long-term commitments to preferentially procure products from the UK woodlands and forests. Their pledge is part of Grown in Britain, an action plan launched in February by Government and the forest industries to revitalise the UK timber supply chain and unlock the social and environmental benefits of Britain’s forests and woodlands.

The commitment is one of a number of achievements unveiled in the first Grown in Britain progress report, published this week, including a new framework to release vital private sector funding for woodland projects through corporate carbon sequestration. The Grown in Britain campaign aims to reverse a current trend that means 80 per cent of wood in the UK is imported despite the fact the private sector in the UK only harvests about 40 per cent of available wood.

"Wood supports the roofs over our heads, surrounds our gardens with fences and we see more and more premises built to high sustainability standards with wood at their core. What’s often missing is the connection between wood, our woodlands and sustainable timber forests. Understanding that tree felling and replanting is good for woodland health, biodiversity and our economy should encourage more people and businesses to buy and supply wood Grown in Britain," said Sir Harry Studholme, chair of the Forestry Commission.

Research suggests the wood fuel market alone could generate £1 billion in gross value added (GVA) and 15,000 direct and indirect jobs to the UK economy by 2020. The public forest estate in the UK, meanwhile, is valued at around £400 million per year (including the benefits to people and the environment) – about six times more than the £72 million per year it costs to manage it.

In addition to economic benefits, Grown in Britain estimates the social benefits of a thriving UK forests and woodland sector could save Britain £2.1 billion in health care costs and could reduce the social costs of air pollution by £16 billion per year.

Corporate carbon reporting An important driver for revitalising Britain’s wood supply chain, according to yesterday’s report, will be the ability to unlock the "considerable" funds corporate organisations can contribute to woodland projects. Therefore, Grown in Britain is establishing a framework for businesses to be able to report against their carbon by investing in UK-based woodland projects and has created a UK 'Corporate Responsibility Reporting Plan’, underpinned by the UK Forestry Standard. The CR Reporting Plan will help investors and land managers describe and report to others how their woodland creation or management projects could impact on areas such as timber, carbon and biodiversity. It is designed to used in conjunction with the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Carbon Code, the first Government approved woodland carbon accreditation scheme.