Innovative communication is the key to market development for American hardwoods

Amid shifting organisational and market restructures in Europe, the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) strive to find the American timber industry golden opportunities for business development.

A key goal of our programme is to provide leading architects, designers and manufacturers with inspiration, information and evidence that our material is a valuable and sustainable choice for their next project and to help producers demonstrate assurance of legality of their supply.

At the heart of this strategy is the environmental profiling tool, the AHEP (American Hardwood Environmental Profile), which we redeveloped this year to better communicate the real sustainability and the legality of U.S. hardwoods.

Simply put, an AHEP is a consignment-specific shipping document containing information that demonstrates the legality and sustainability of the U.S. hardwood contained in that shipment, including quantitative data on the environmental impacts associated with delivering it anywhere in the world.

Illegal logging legislation such as the Lacey Act in the US, the EU Timber Regulation, and Japanese Green Procurement laws require producers to demonstrate ‘due diligence’ in their supply chain. The AHEP helps satisfy these requirements by providing the name of the U.S. supplier, product description, quantity of wood, commercial and scientific species name, place of harvest, and demonstrates negligible risk of illegal harvest. The independently reviewed, Seneca Creek report, commissioned by AHEC in 2008 established a less than 1% chance of illegal wood entering the USA hardwood supply chain. An extension and update to this study will be available towards the end of this year. 

What’s more, the eight environmental impact categories illustrated in the AHEP also satisfy the requirements of the European Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) standard, currently in development. Manufacturers producing Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s) in line with the EN 15804 standard for environmental assessment of construction materials in the EU can also find the information they need in an AHEP.

We have access to such a wealth of data on forest conditions, collected on the ground, at least once a decade for nearly a century, as well as regular information obtained from satellites and other remote sensing tools.  We have also commissioned studies in sustainability and instigated original research on the environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) impacts of American hardwoods.

This information has culminated in the AHEP making it a crucial tool for our industry; from the people producing American hardwoods in the states, to those receiving and using American hardwoods across the world.

From our experience we know that professionals on either end of that supply chain want to use sustainable materials and they want their working practices to be sustainable too. We created the AHEP to help them do just that. 

All AHEC members are given free online access to the AHEP system and can provide the profile for a given consignment free of charge, either as a PDF or as part of the shipping documentation. If you wish to find out more about the AHEP and how you can request one please contact europe [at] americanhardwood.org (europe[at]americanhardwood[dot]org)


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David Venables


David Venables is the European Director for the [...]