Q&A With Brent Calow, Havwoods' Strategic Accounts Manager

20 Dec 2021

Brent Calow, Hawvoods’ Strategic Accounts Manager, explains why sustainably sourced timber entails much more than simply replanting a tree, tells us why Havwoods’ FSC® certified (C009500) flooring is competitively priced - and discloses whether the global value of illegal timber trade is, indeed, worth more than illegal drug trade.

*Article written by Architecture & Design in partnership with Havwoods for the Sustainability Awards & Summit 2021, Sustainability eBook which you can download here.

A&D: Tell us about your role at Havwoods, Brent.

BC: I have held many roles in my 5.5 years at Havwoods Australia and currently I am the Strategic Accounts Manager at Havwoods. I also look after business development for the company, coordinating with a couple of my other colleagues in the business development team. In addition to that, I handle webinars, CPD presentations and online courses.

A&D: Has sustainability always been something you’ve been passionate about?

BC: I have a passion for sustainability and I have always been concerned with the reduction of the impact of urbanisation and the built environment on the natural environment.

I suppose it comes back to my previous role - before I joined Havwoods, I worked for a company that was developing, manufacturing and propagating a range of stormwater treatment technology. It was all about looking after the environment in terms of urban water runoff - which is what they call water sensitive urban design. Most of the products I worked with in that role went underground and weren’t visible, however the impact was very easy to notice.

With timber flooring, things are different - you certainly get to see the product, but the impact wooden flooring has, isn’t necessarily seen in terms of the way the forest is cared for and maintained.


A&D: And what does sustainability mean to Havwoods?

BC: As a company, we are hard-wired into sustainability. It is, without a doubt, part of our corporate DNA. We have the world’s largest range of engineered timber floors and within that, the world’s largest range of independently certified, sustainably sourced timber flooring. You might say that sustainability, in our case, comes with the territory and we’re pretty passionate about it. In Australia we definitely exceed what is required by law in terms of what we offer and sell to the market, which means we pick up a lot of work by being a few steps ahead.

The Barangaroo Sydney precinct development is a good example of that. It’s a six star Green Star project. In the development conditions, it was enshrined that it had to be as close as possible to carbon neutral. Along with that they had quite strict rules around what kind of timber can be used in the buildings, so we picked up at least half a dozen of projects where the architects and designers specified a standard product which then wasn’t aligned with Barangaroo’s stringent Green Star regulations. And while the companies that had provided that timber in the first place could offer FSC® certified products, they were generally more expensive and required much longer wait times. Our products were already on the shelf and cost the same, because they were already appropriately certified. So we were ready to go.

From a global point of view, the UK, Europe and parts of North America have regulations that are much more stringent and we naturally meet these as well.


A&D: What are Havwoods’ future sustainability goals and where would you like to see the industry to go?

BC: From a global point of view, 65% of our standard stock is certified with a target to reach 80% by the end of the year - so we’re getting closer towards our goal of having 100% of our range independently certified within the next one or two years. So we are definitely not standing still. In Australia, the sustainability legislation, rules and standards are definitely lagging behind the rest of the Northern Hemisphere - particularly in the developed countries. And as the regulatory standards catch up, you might say, we will be ahead of the curve.

Generally, as an industry, we have come a long way and I think we can go a lot further - particularly here in Australia, and especially regarding the importation of manufactured timber products. What I like to unequivocally say is that if a product is made in Europe, then you know that it has been produced to the most sustainable regulations or sustainable standards that are currently in place anywhere in the world. A lot of our competitors sell products that aren’t manufactured in Europe (they are largely made in China), and they’re not made to the European standards. As a company, we like to educate the consumer that if a product doesn’t have a certification, then they should check if it was at least made in Europe - or to a European standard. Until we have a standard in Australia that replicates the European standard then we’re always going to have a significant amount of product coming into the country that has been manufactured with some kind of unsustainable practice and questionable quality.

In conjunction with that, an important thing to note is that the value of the illegal timber trade - and illegal meaning zero sustainable forestry management practices - you can call it stolen timber - is worth more in, in dollars, then the illegal drug trade. So it is endemic - and we are committed to making sure that that doesn’t find its way into our supply chains to uphold our global brand as one that stands for sustainability