Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Annex F




  Michael Meacher, Minister of State for the Environment, in a written parliamentary answer on 28 July 2000, Official Report, column 947W.

  "All central government departments and agencies will actively seek to buy timber and timber products from sustainable and legal sources, for example, those identified under independent certifications schemes, such as that operated by the Forest Stewardship Council".

  The NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency actively sought information about timber sourcing via its tender process for furniture completed in May 2001. A questionnaire was completed by all offerors. It was concluded at the time that no offeror met government policy and that the questionnaire could not be used as part of the award criteria.

  The contract award was made to 16 suppliers. All suppliers signed a framework agreement stating their intention to work in partnership with the Agency on collating and managing timber certification.


  In accordance with Government requirements, the Agency is actively developing its timber compliance strategy for the future. it is working collaboratively with all nationally contracted furniture suppliers to drive forward Government timber policy within the NHS.

  The Agency actively participates in meetings of the inter government timber buyers group. This group have commissioned a report from independent consultants ERM on how the government is currently performing on their commitment to timber sourcing policy and additionally how government buyers can implement and evaluate the policy. It is generally agreed that the best way for buyers to implement the policy is by obtaining independent chain of custody certification.

  In addition the Agency held a furniture supplier forum on 18 February 2002. The forum consisted of a series of presentations from experts in Government and industry, including views from the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) International and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The event was attended by 14 furniture suppliers and David Court, Chief Executive of

  It was agreed at the above forum that all contracted furniture suppliers would produce a work plan stating their timescales for implementing chain of custody in their organisation. In order to help facilitate the process the Agency wrote to all furniture suppliers at the end of March 2002. The letter asked for draft work plans and stated the Agency's commitment to working with suppliers by suggesting an organised group training session with FIRA and developing a project group to enable suppliers to share experiences and to assist the Agency in understanding the supply chain and the true cost of implementing government policy.


  Completed questionnaires have been received from all 16 suppliers along with 3 draft work plans for comment by the Agency.

    —  two suppliers either have chain of custody or are at the final stages of implementation;

    —  12 suppliers are preparing a work plan for 1 June 2002;

    —  10 suppliers are preparing a draft work plan for Agency comment;

    —  13 suppliers are interested in attending a FIRA workshop and subsequent follow up;

    —  11 suppliers are willing to pay towards this workshop;

    —  11 suppliers want to participate in a project group;

    —  13 suppliers are willing to disclose cost information to the Agency;

    —  16 suppliers have made their suppliers aware of government policy;

    —  16 suppliers are ISO 9001/2 accredited.

  The organisations used for accreditation are BSI (9), SGS Yarsley (5) and NQA (1).

    —  15 suppliers have an environmental policy;

    —  nine suppliers have implemented an EMS;

    —  six suppliers have achieved ISO 14001/5 are working towards.

  It should be noted that the biggest users of actual timber in their products as opposed to MFC are finding it difficult to source alternative suppliers who can meet chain of custody.

  It has also been noted that many timber suppliers are being accredited to PEFC. This scheme at present does not meet all of the government guidelines. Further clarification is required.


  The Agency will review draft work plans and provide comments to suppliers by 10 May 2002. A work group will be set up for interested suppliers and the Agency by end June 2002. A timber chain of custody workshop will be planned with FIRA by the end of May 2002.

  The Agency plans to achieve full implementation of chain of custody with 25 per cent of its suppliers by January 2003. Action for the remaining 75 per cent will be timetabled.

  Laura Gillan will be researching and mapping the supply chain for furniture by March 2003. Initial details of timber suppliers have been collected from 13 suppliers.


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