In June 2019, forestry management company Scottish Woodlands celebrated 20 years of FSC certification. Why is certification so important to one of the UK forestry industry’s major players?
Scottish Woodlands (FSC-C020901/FSC-C102311) is a leading forestry management company with a long tradition of serving forest owners and investors in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Originally established as a woodland owner’s cooperative, its history can be traced back over 75 years. The company was incorporated as a separate entity 51 years ago and, following a management buyout, the business is now largely employee owned.
The company has grown and developed significantly to become a major player in the British forestry and timber industry, delivering over 1,000,000 tonnes of timber per year to UK timber processors, managing over 200,000 hectares of forest properties and planting more than 25% of private sector new woodland expansion. Although it is based in Scotland, the company has offices in the North of England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
On 1 June 2019, Scottish Woodlands celebrated a significant milestone: the 20th anniversary of the day it became the first forestry company in the UK to establish and run a group certification scheme. That same year saw Scottish Woodlands also deliver the first ever load of FSC-certified timber to a UK sawmill! Today, the company holds both forest management certification for its group scheme and chain of custody for its timber harvesting operations.
Stuart Wilkie, Certification and Environment Manager for Scottish Woodlands (pictured, left), explains what motivated the company to seek FSC certification:
“We could see that certification was the way forward for timber marketing and in order to continue to offer our clients a full spectrum of forestry services, we decided that we needed to be able offer clients the option of certifying their woodlands. We were involved from an early stage, and continue to be involved with the development of UKWAS the UK certification standard. We think it is important to engage with FSC over important issues and get involved with finding practical solutions whenever we can.”
Stuart also identifies two main reasons why FSC certification remains important to Scottish Woodlands:
“Firstly, almost all the major timber markets in the UK are looking to source FSC-certified material, so over 80% of all the timber we sell is FSC 100% and around 15% is FSC controlled wood. We simply could not harvest and market the quantities of timber we do from our clients’ forests and other forests without our FSC certificates.
“The company is also committed to developing and promoting industry leading standards of health and safety and environmental management, and to promoting the expansion of tree cover to improve habitats and biodiversity as well as fixing carbon and helping to mitigate climate change. Certification helps us by providing independent verification of what we do.”
Meeting FSC requirements hasn’t been without its challenges and, like many busy forest managers, Stuart laments the occasional need to take a break from the woods to ensure that paperwork is ready for the auditors from their certification body, SGS. He is quick to offer the following reassurance to other organisations interested in certification though:
“I usually tell prospective group scheme members that if they are already following industry best practice then achieving certification should be straightforward.”
With that in mind, let’s hope we’ll see even more organisations like Scottish Woodlands celebrating 20 years (and more!) of FSC certification in the years to come!
Find out more about becoming FSC certified