Sustainability Issues With Wooden Worktops
Just about every worktop company proudly boasts their timber is from sustainable sources, yet needs to do nothing in order to verify this. As a result, individuals and companies alike are being mislead as to what they are actually buying. An excellent example of this is any timber from Africa. Roughly 0.0002 percent of timber exported from Africa is certified as sustainable according to an official and recognised body such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Timber purchased in accordance with a certification system like the FSC is typically 20 percent more expensive than non certified timber, and so has no place in the cutthroat market of mass produced worktops where pretty much anything goes.
A quick way to identify a transgressor, is simply to see if they proclaim that on the one hand all their worktops are from sustainable sources, and on the other hand they sell any timber from Africa which is not specifically FSC certified. Whilst there are tiny supplies of FSC Iroko (less than 0.05 percent), there are no such certifications for 'African Walnut', which is not walnut at all, Wenge, which in fact to the absolute contrary of sustainability is actually on the UN endangered species list, Zebrano, 'African Oak' - goodness knows what that is - or mahogany, just to name a few.
Any retailer of wooden worktops operating in this fashion should be forced to prove their assertions, however when brought to the attention of trading standards, the government answer was simply that they had higher priorities. I'm not sure what higher priority there is than the destruction of the world's rain-forests just to make cheap worktops and other timber products, when there are such fabulous alternatives, such as any timber from, say, anywhere in North America or Canada. With an overall re-planting rate so far ahead of the felling rate, the entire north American continent could be considered not only sustainable but environmentally certified as well.
Part of the certification process for the FSC is that staff are paid properly, treated well, and that no environmental nasties slip in to the eco system whilst no one is looking. Obviously these are non issues in the developed world where external legislation and safeguards are in place, but in the developing world, most noticeably Africa, China, and the far east, no such protection exists for people or places.
In short, buying an African timber worktop, unless specifically certified by a recognised body such as the FSC, is almost certainly going to be an environmental disaster for the inhabitants of where it came from. It's doubtful, in the extreme, that those involved in the logging were paid a decent wage, and more than likely they are abused and maltreated. It's also likely the bribery and corruption entwined with the whole process has led to the purchase of more weapons for military factions to heap even more misery on the populations whose lands are being destroyed without thought or conscience, just to satisfy a demand for cheap timber. Of all of these products, wooden kitchen worktops are probably the largest abusers of any such trust.