“Bois de France” has the wind in its sails !
Buoyed by the “Made in France” initiative and also by the climate challenge, which has given timber a much bigger place in construction and other areas, the Bois de France label is taking off in earnest after its launch in early 2020. More and more businesses are attracted by the label, which sets out to guarantee French origin and production to satisfy an ever more demanding clientele. Here’s our round-up with Jerôme Martinez, manager of the Bois de France label.
How did you get from the Bois Français brand to the Bois de France label ?
The brand was created in 2015 in the scope of a “Préférez le bois français” (prefer French timber) communication campaign. In 2019, on the initiative of 1st stage timber converters, a collective decision was made to adopt a new name, Bois de France (timber from France). It wasn’t just a simple rebranding but the introduction of a quality label, one that sets out to guarantee the timber has not only been grown in France but has also been converted in France. And this twofold guarantee is where the originality lies. “Made in France” certifications and declarations don’t give a comprehensive guarantee, requiring only 50% of the value to be generated in France. This low threshold means a wooden product can comply with “Made in France” criteria without containing any French timber, nor even undergoing first stage conversion in France. The certification criteria do not span the whole sector, whereas the Bois de France label is based on the whole value chain, end-to-end from forest to final use.
How many companies have obtained the label so far ?
In June, 2020, we deployed the label’s first specifications, which were drawn up during the pandemic and lockdown situation. Forty or so businesses were in the starting blocks and have since received the label. To date, the label covers roughly a hundred companies, with tens more in progress. We now expect to see an acceleration in the demand.
Tell us a bit more about the label ?
These first two years have seen us busy with the technical aspects of implementing the label, whose baseline is already beginning to evolve. Being a label that concerns all products from the timber and woodworking sector, this label differs from local initiatives like AOC Bois de Chartreuse and AOC Bois du Jura, or from mountain range brands like Bois des Alpes, which notably target timber construction products. Because of this opening to the rest of the sector, the labelling system is permanently adapting, with its function evolving over time according to the activities of the businesses applying for the label. We award the label to companies that produce items as diverse as fuel pellets, packing cases, pallets, and tool handles. We are now awaiting feedback from the field and information from companies that will provide input to the ongoing improvement of our criteria.
How is the label awarded ?
Bois de France uses similar principles to those of certification. A yearly audit is carried out by an independent certifying body to verify that the company, across all its output, has not sold more supposedly French timber than it has bought.
Is the current context a buoyant one for the label ?
We’re currently seeing a big rise in power of French-grown timber. This demand was already nascent before the pandemic hit, and the label helps characterize this demand through the guarantee of traceability. The already-solid French sector has become competitive. Over the last few months we’ve seen this in the market squeeze on boles coupled with skyrocketing prices. The sector has withstood this situation well through better control of its prices compared with some European neighbours and has come out of the crisis all the stronger. The label has arrived at just the right time for cultivating a sentiment of pride. It will be a bona fide marketing tool in the direction of end customers, who are becoming more and more demanding with regard to the “Made in France” aspect and the origin of products. French builders as well as property developers solicit our collaboration. We have for example sealed a partnership with Bouygues Construction. The company, which had already committed to using timber construction in 30% of its buildings within ten years, now wants to go further still: 30% of its timber constructions in Bois de France-labelled timber this year (2021) then 50% by 2025. That could constitute a huge market for the whole sector. Alongside that, property developer REI Habitat has committed to the Bois de France label and PEFC certification.
If that weren’t enough, there is also the challenge of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The Olympic infrastructure authority SOLIDEO requires the amenities to be constructed with at least 30% French timber. A lot of companies have approached us about that. The label will be an ideal solution for Olympic Games amenity builders.
You are also aiming for Bois de France to feature in public sector contracts—can you expand on that ?
We have just issued a guide to timber specifying in public contracts, which represent a big potential market but one with difficult access because of the Public Ordering code. The guide contains practical, directly usable content for buyers. It will help them directly integrate “carbon footprint” and “traceability of timber and sustainable forest management objectives” undertakings and requirements in their tender operations. This will work in favour of the national low-carbon strategy and the attainment of carbon neutrality by 2050, based on the dynamic lifecycle analysis introduced in France’s 2020 environmental regulations. “Bois de France” solutions therefore have every chance of being placed in the race, with limited carbon footprints notably due to smaller transport distances and the use of electricity whose generation produces less carbon emissions than that of other European countries.