At Work: Partnerships - Business partner - The Woodland Trust and the timber industry make unlikely bedfellows

Mathew Little

The Woodland Trust's relationship with the Woodworking Machinery Suppliers Association, the trade body for the wood processing industry, is, it freely admits, an unlikely partnership.

The trust's mission is to protect trees, whereas the association's members, which supply equipment to the furniture and construction industries, assist in their demise.

But it's not that simple. "At first glance, it seems that we're at opposite ends of a debate," says Natalie Clark, corporate PR and communications officer at the Woodland Trust. "In fact, if certain types of woodland are managed in a sustainable way, we're all for the use of wood, because it's a renewable building material. Through the alliance, we're able to dispel the view that the use of all timber is bad for the environment."

For the WMSA, the tie-up with the Woodland Trust is a way of eradicating the wood industry's own reputation as an environmental vandal, which it feels is undeserved. "A lot of people see our industry as one that ruthlessly cuts down masses of trees and contributes to deforestation," says John Smith-Bodden, chief executive of the association. "That's a wrong message, because our members use only sustainable European timber - we are not clearing the South American rainforests."

The partnership is still at the embryonic stage - £1 from each ticket sold for the WMSA's trade fair at the NEC in Birmingham earlier this month was donated to the Woodland Trust. The money will be used to plant a community wood near Runcorn in Cheshire. The trust was also directly involved in the exhibition, at which charity volunteers staged traditional woodworking demonstrations.

"Providing our messaging is crystal clear, it's an alliance that benefits both parties in more ways than one," says Clark.

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