As hardwood faces tough market conditions, sustainable new applications could be key to success

“Sawn hardwood consumption is forecast to fall 1.3% in EOS member countries – but sustainable benefits from a range of applications could give it the boost it needs to thrive”

Imagine a world where steel and concrete road fixtures – everything from lamps and signposts to crash barriers – was made from hardwood. What would that world look like? Two things jump out: it would have a much lower carbon footprint, and a much happier hardwood sector.

According to the Dutch Ministry of Logistics and Waterways, this vision of the future could be within our grasp. The “circular biological highway” as the concept is called was created in talks with a variety of stakeholders and revealed at the International Hardwood Conference (IHC) in Berlin last year. It’s just one example of a trend that industry insiders say could revolutionise a flagging market: sustainable wins from a range of new applications that, until now, have been unthinkable.

There’s a reason that the hardwood market is in trouble. A range of issues, such as Brexit uncertainty and US and China trade relations, are not “blips” on the radar – according to people in the know, they are emblematic of the “new normal” when it comes to international trade. Dr Josef Braml of the German Council on Foreign Relations said “we’re in a new era of economic nationalism and had better be prepared for the US and others to play increasing trade hardball.”

European director of the American Hardwood Export Council David Venables discussed some of the ways in which our friends on the “other side of the pond” were planning to bolster hardwood’s appeal, aiming their messages first and foremost at architects, designers, and other major users. He singled out Red Oak as an example species, and said:

“Red oak is not only highly versatile, it’s the most abundant US hardwood and there is increasing awareness that we must capitalise on the range of species the forest offers to make most sustainable use of the forest.”

The basic message that all these thinkers are trying to get through is simple: in an increasingly environmentally aware world, sustainable, versatile, materials like hardwood could find popular new uses. That’s worth remembering next time you’re approaching a job that could benefit from the use of a novel material.

Quercus supplies a wide range of ethically sourced hardwoods of the highest quality. To find a species that’s perfect for the job you have in mind, call us on 0845 50 50 311.