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Ask us: Forestry Stewardship Council certified timber

Tanya Ha answers your queries about FSC certified, Australian-grown timbers.

I understand Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood is from sustainable sources, but when I asked the biggest timber supplier in the Illawarra region if they stocked it they said there are no FSC certified suppliers in NSW. They said all their timber is from forestry plantations so it is sustainable anyway. Is this correct? It makes sense that timber from Asia might be FSC Certified to ensure it isn’t illegally logged from native forest, but within Australian Forestry are there any FSC Timber suppliers?
- Corrine de Mestre


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I’m glad you’re asking more questions, Corrine, because forestry is a complex and passionate debate. It’s good to check up on suppliers’ claims.

I recently had the fun of hosting the FSC Australia Annual Excellence Awards, so your question is well timed, ringing some bells in my memory. I was fairly certain I’d met a timber supplier from the Hunter region of NSW. Sure enough, Australian Sustainable Timbers, which supplies FSC certified Australian native hardwoods, was the inaugural winner of the 2008 FSC Small Forest Manager of the Year Award.

There are roughly 1.2 million hectares of FSC certified forest in Australia. Certificates issued to Australian forest managers cover a range of timber species, including Black Wattle, Spotted Gum, White Mountain Gum, Blue Gum, Rose Gum, Grey Ironbark and Radiata Pine.

The idea that all plantation forests (as opposed to native forests) are sustainable and environmentally friendly is overly simplistic. A case in point is palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia. Huge tracts of land are cleared to make way for these plantations, which threatens the survival of orangutans and releases huge amounts of greenhouse gas. Even in Australia, forestry operations (plantations or otherwise) need to be managed in ways that minimise pesticide use, protect waterways and wildlife habitat, respect local communities and indigenous peoples, and look after the safety and wellbeing of workers. The FSC system allows forestry management to be independently measured and certified, giving consumers the assurance they’re getting a product that aligns with their values.

My rule of thumb for timber is that there are three eco levels: (from best to worst) excellence, compliance and illegal. There are timber products on the market in Australia that give themselves marketing warm-fuzzies because they’re not illegal, but FSC is the mark of excellence.

There’s more information at the FSC Australia website. You can search timber stocks and suppliers at the global FSC Certificate Database as well.

Tanya Ha is an expert environmentalist and author. To ask a question for her next column, email