1 Legality: You are required by law, whether you are using domestic or imported wood, to know that the wood was harvested legally. The Lacey Act of 1900 as amended in 2008 prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold. While on first impression this may make you shy away from using wood, in the US and Europe, any good supplier is monitoring legality carefully. If you are doing a project in an African, South American, or Asian country, we recommend that you work through a reputable US or European supplier that has long-standing relationships in that country.
2 Transparency: Transparency in the supply chain is increasingly important to consumers, whether they are buying for a business or for personal use. We think that it is smart business to know the details of your supply chain and the sources of materials. The more you can tell your customers about your sources of supply, the more you can differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
3 Forest Management: No matter where your wood comes from, you should know if the forests are being managed with the best practices available today. The Tropical Forest Foundation is known for establishing training programs that teach Reduced Impact Logging, commonly known by its initials, RIL. Research documents that RIL reduces waste by up to 60 percent, leaves 96 percent of the forest intact, promotes faster recovery of the natural forest, and reduces overall costs by 15 percent or more. Again, you can rely on your suppliers in the US and Europe to provide you information on forest management. Most of them have been to the forests or work closely with people who visit the forests to vet the management practices. TFF offers a brochure (get it from our website) that gives you questions to ask your suppliers.
4 Certification: Certification is a tool to document that the best forest management practices are being used. The Tropical Forest Foundation works with forest managers to help them achieve certification if that is their goal. But it has its limits. According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than three-quarters of production forests are not certified, so you may find that a particular species that you want is not available in certified product or you can’t get the quantity that you need. Your objective should be to know that the forest managers are adopting best practices, whether or not they are certified by a third-party organization.
5 Economic Value: A founding principle of the Tropical Forest Foundation, which formed in 1990 after a workshop at the Smithsonian Institution, is that the tropical forests must be accorded economic value if they are to remain standing. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the leading cause of tropical deforestation is conversion of the land to commercial and subsistence agriculture. Architects and Designers and manufacturers of wood products should be using tropical woods from well-managed sources for their beauty, unique properties, and to support the economic value of the forest. We know that if we don’t use the land for the forest products, eventually we will lose the forests.