AHEC is actively engaged with its membership and other stakeholders in a continuous improvement process to ensure long-term market recognition that American hardwoods conform to the highest sustainability standards. Furthermore, as the representative trade association of one of the world’s largest hardwood exporting industries, AHEC has a significant interest in promoting policy measures that are effective and efficient in removing illegal wood from trade.
Through its membership of the U.S. Hardwood Federation, AHEC supported passage of an amendment to the U.S. Lacey Act in May 2008 which makes it an offence within the U.S. to possess any wood product "taken, possessed, transported, or sold" in violation of any relevant foreign or state law. All U.S. companies trading in wood products now have a very strong incentive to undertake appropriate due diligence with respect to their wood supplies. AHEC supports the development of similar legislation in other major wood consuming countries to ensure wider application of due diligence and thereby reduce the risk of illegal wood entering supply chains.
To improve transparency and facilitate industry conformance to the Lacey Act and similar requirements in U.S. export markets, in 2008 AHEC commissioned an “Assessment of Lawful Harvesting and Sustainability of U.S. Hardwood Exports”. The report was prepared by independent consultants Seneca Creek Associates with a team comprised of well-regarded experts in U.S. forest policy and forest certification. The report concludes that the weight of evidence strongly indicates that there is very low risk that U.S. hardwoods contain wood from illegal sources and that there can be high confidence regarding adherence to national and state laws in the sector.
In October 2008, AHEC launched a Responsible Purchasing Policy for Exporters (RPP) to provide a further assurance that U.S. hardwoods exported by AHEC members derive from legal and sustainable sources. The RPP, which may be voluntarily adopted by AHEC Members, requires signatory companies to respond directly to any risks identified in the Seneca Creek study, or that might be identified in future studies, and to promote legal and sustainable forestry practices.
In the interests of simplifying customers’ conformance to green building initiatives and timber procurement policies in major export markets, AHEC and its membership actively encourages development of independent “group” and “regional” forest certification procedures suited to small non-industrial forest owners in the United States. These efforts, which are still in their early stages, are being managed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) which is now part of the international Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) network.
Meanwhile AHEC, through the Seneca Creek study, is facilitating expanded use of the FSC Controlled Wood Standard (CWS) and the PEFC Controversial Sources Policy (CSP) as an entry-level recognition opportunity for American hardwood suppliers. The study provides an independent assurance that all hardwoods harvested in the U.S. are low risk against all categories of wood to be avoided for conformance to both the FSC CWS and PEFC CSP.