Since receiving your Sustainability Guide in February last year, we at CFJ have had a very busy time. We've attended several shows and industry events and had more discussions about Brexit than there are fish in the sea. In fact, I don't think anybody has spoken so much about one event in human history since World War 2 - but hopefully when next year rolls around, we'll be talking about something else. We can live in hope!

Sometimes, we've even found it possible to talk about sustainability and Brexit. Elsewhere in this edition, we ask Alun Watkins, ceo of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) (an international, non-profit, non-governmental organisation which promotes sustainable forest management through independent third-party certification), what complications he envisages from any sort of exit - hard or soft. 

'To be honest, it hasn't had much impact so far on certification,' he says. 'I'm not convinced it will have a huge impact when and if we leave... The only interesting thing I see happening post-Brexit is where we go with the EU Timber Regulations. At the moment we're a member of the EU; if we're importing timber from suppliers in the EU we don't have to do full due diligence because it's already come into Europe somewhere, and the first receiver has to do that due diligence. But if we're now importing timber from France, we may have to do full due diligence on that because we're not in the EU. And vice versa. If we're exporting to France, the French can't just accept that everything is OK, they'll potentially have to do their own due diligence.'

Apart from Brexit, though, we've had many discussions about how realistic - and sustainable - sustainability is for flooring contractors. Let me explain. There are many flooring contractors which should be praised for their efforts in the field of sustainability. These companies are doing everything they can to recycle, cut their carbon miles, and otherwise be as environmentally friendly as possible. They are trailblazers in an industry which is often - unfairly - derided as being slow to catch up to the rest of industry.

But conversations with a small but significant number of smaller contractors have illuminated another reality: these contractors often find buying the 'green tag' can be quite costly, particularly when they observe their clients are more concerned about low price than sustainability credentials. 

There will be many people reading that last paragraph and nodding in agreement. But, as much as I sympathise with those contractors (and for some of them it could literally make the difference between profit and loss), I disagree with that train of thought. 

Here's why: if you speak to those contractors who have bought the 'green tag', even if they were sceptical at first, and if they don't treat said 'green tag' as a box-ticking exercise, they're actually very glad they did. I've yet to hear even one contractor who passionately believes in sustainability say he or she regrets the decision to 'go green.' 


- Guide to Sustainability 2019 | 2020