Green claims on timber 'mislead consumers': Susan Watts finds the launch of a wood trade study sparking a row over two rival schemes

CONSUMERS are being misled by deceptive 'green' labels on timber in do-it-yourself stores, the World Wide Fund for Nature said yesterday.

A three-year study of timber companies had revealed a confusing proliferation of self-appointed logos and certificates, the WWF said. The report, Truth or Trickery? Timber labelling past and future, sparked a row at its London launch as proponents of two rival schemes, both called 'Woodmark', produced plans to certify wood and wood products as coming from sustainable sources.

In a keynote address to the seminar the Prince of Wales gave strong endorsement to one of the schemes, drawn up over the past two years by the Soil Association, an organic farming group. He has asked the association to inspect and certify the Duchy of Cornwall's woodlands near Liskeard. This scheme, which has the WWF's support, will operate under the auspices of the Forest Stewardship Council, an international organisation set up to monitor claims on sustainably-produced timber.

The rival scheme, devised by the Forestry Industry's Committee of Great Britain, a trade body representing the British timber industry, was criticised by the Soil Association as hastily put together for the meeting by an industry fearful of losing its authority. This would certify wood that met British regulations enforced by the Forestry Commission.

However, one retailer said his customers had less confidence in schemes based on government- led standards than in those seen to be truly independent. A representative from B & Q accused the director-general of the Forestry Commission of missing an opportunity to promote British timber by refusing to commit to an independent certification scheme, allowing British wood to compete with imported timber carrying detailed information on its source.

The WWF report said labelling was being used as a public relations exercise by companies aware that consumers will select products displaying environmental claims. The majority of these appear to view sustainability as little more than the production of a sustained yield of timber, ignoring wider social, ecological and environmental effects of timber harvesting.

During yesterday's seminar the WWF was criticised for sending letters to timber companies threatening boycotts of their products. Robin Pellew, director of the WWF, apologised for any heavy-handed approaches and said he looked forward to a spirit of co-operation with the industry.

The WWF report criticised the Timber Trades Federation, representing importers, for its 'continued failure' to play a positive role in solving the labelling problem. It congratulated 24 companies, 'the 1995 Group', committed to phasing out, by December 1995, the sale and use of all wood and wood products that do not come from well-managed forests.

In his speech, Prince Charles confessed to 'an overwhelming sense of despair' over forest loss. He urged consumers to press for wood products from sustainably grown timber, stating that he had asked suppliers to the Royal Household to supply only timber from sources independently certified as sustainable from 1995.

Truth or Trickery? Timber labelling past and future. WWF, Panda House, Weyside Park, Godalming, Surrey GU17 1XR. Tel: 0483 426444.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones