From Tree to Table – A Furniture Story
Copeland Furniture in Bradford, Vermont, is right in the heart of some of the best sugar maple growing forests in the
world. Copeland became Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified in 2005 but was unable to find FSC-certified lumber from which to make the solid wood fine furniture for which they are known. At the other end of the supply chain were landowners managing their forests exceptionally well, but unable to find good local log markets that rewarded their management and their participation in FSC certification. Sitting down in 2009 with Copeland, their broker Champlain Hardwoods, and sawmill Allard Lumber, the organizers of the Forest Partnership were able to see how important each link in the supply chain is, and they worked to create an arrangement that would benefit all parties. By agreeing to buy lumber at a modest premium, Copeland allowed the other project participants to pay each previous link in the supply chain a little more for their lumber or logs, and The Forest Partnership used a harvest forecasting database and existing relationships with landowners to find previously scheduled harvests that would meet the needs of Copeland and their customers. With this market in mind, foresters and landowners selected trees for harvest, contracted with loggers, and the wood was trucked to the sawmill.
By working together, both ends of the supply chain gained satisfaction as well as a modest economic advantage. Landowners knew that the products from their forest were supporting local jobs instead of disappearing into the anonymous commodity marketplace where sustainably harvest material is mixed with material that might come from anywhere in the world, harvested illegally or without adequate environmental concern. At the other end of the chain, Copeland was able to explain to their customers where the wood came from, how the forests were managed, how the harvested logs supported good jobs, and how their Vermont craftsmanship using this raw material can lead to high quality, sustainably produced furniture. According to MarkBurzynski of Copeland Furniture, “the ability to go to market with a full line of furniture that we could point to as being manufactured with FSC Certified maple and then to add in that the maple is from Vermont forests, really added some credence to our overall story of environmental awareness.” In part due to this effort, Copeland won the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) Sage Award for excellence in the home furnishings and bedding industries through sustainable business practices, social responsibility and profitable growth.