We sit down with Timberlink’s Sustainability and Certifications Manager to talk about the importance of science in Timberlink’s approach to sustainability, initiatives Dion has been involved with since starting with the company, and deep-dive into exciting product releases scheduled for this year.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into sustainability. Did you always know you wanted to work in this field?

Well, it wasn't exactly my plan from the start, although when I was studying at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, where I did a Bachelor of Business Management, I found that I really enjoyed the papers that were focused on sustainability. While completing my studies, I had the opportunity to work in a variety of roles, starting with a job as a Māori mentor at Waikato University, where I helped Indigenous students navigate their way through university.

Then I moved to Melbourne and worked in the waste industry for about six years. Seeing some of the landfills in Melbourne really opened my eyes and made me realise that I wanted to make a positive impact on the environment. From there, I worked on a range of projects focused on reducing electricity and fuel consumption, ensuring environmental compliance, finding ways to reduce waste, and contributing to the circular economy. I even did a stint as a sustainable packaging consultant before starting my current role with Timberlink.

And what’s your current role like?

As the Sustainability and Certifications Manager, I am responsible for the management of all our certifications, which include things like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Responsible Wood, and our product certifications. I work closely with our quality and technical teams who manage manuals and the vast majority of the day-to-day, and I support them where and when needed.

Sustainability is where I spend the majority of my time. Since starting with Timberlink, I've been busy further developing our sustainability strategy. I have been working on integrating new areas of the strategy, implementing new projects, and working on some of the major initiatives that were already underway.

It sounds like sustainability is a top priority for Timberlink. Can you tell me more about the company's approach to sustainability?

Sustainability is incredibly important for Timberlink. It's a key part of our identity and something that we're always striving to improve upon. We take a very scientific approach to sustainability and like to base our decisions on evidence. For example, we're committed to science-based targets that will help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and align with the goals of the Paris Agreement. We set carbon reduction targets which had our Scope 1 and 2 targets in line with the more ambitious Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees instead of the well below 2 degrees target.

And what are some of the key sustainability initiatives Timberlink is working on?

We're committed to reducing our environmental impact and making a positive contribution to sustainability and for future generations. A key focus for us currently is the Science Based Target Initiatives (SBTI) – that's all about keeping our carbon emissions in line with the 1.5-degree target. We've just completed work on updating our carbon footprint to include the latest greenhouse gas protocols and the new FLAG Guidance (Forest, Land, and Agriculture) based on last year's data, and we're now updating our SBTI targets to reflect that work.

But that's not all – we're also making sure we're prepared for the future reporting frameworks, like upcoming mandatory International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) S1 and S2 disclosures which will incorporate the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). We're also committed to reconciliation and have just registered with Reconciliation Australia, with the goal of getting our first Reconciliation Action Plan accredited.

In addition, we've become a signatory to the Australian Packaging Covenant, which means we will be looking at all our packaging through a sustainability lens and making sure it's as sustainable as possible. We're also working on improving biodiversity on our sites by undertaking flora and fauna surveys in onsite wetlands and swamp forests to see how we can increase their biodiversity values. And of course, we're always looking for ways to reduce our waste, water, and energy usage on our sites.

We're really proud of the ESG strategy we have in place now, but we're constantly exploring new ways to have an even bigger impact.

You also mentioned that you have some new products coming out later this year. I'm curious, what role did sustainability play in their development?

Sustainability is entrenched in our overall purpose at Timberlink and that extends to the products we manufacture. In 2019 we announced that we would begin manufacturing Engineered Wood products including Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels and Glue Laminated Timber (GLT) members under the NeXTimber brand. These products help to provide a renewable and more sustainable alternative to traditional building materials, promote responsible resource use as well as reduce the embodied carbon of a project – something that is becoming increasingly important for architects, designers, builders, and specifiers alike.

NeXTimber feedstock will be sourced from the co-located Timberlink mill with dual certified sustainability credentials. Utilising timber from sustainably managed forests means that carbon is continually captured from the atmosphere as the forests are replanted.

In addition to our CLT and GLT products, our Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) product – which will be released to market this year – is another way we will contribute to the circular economy with a focus on increasing the value of materials. We will take wood residues and post-consumer recycled plastic from items like shampoo bottles and use them to create a product that reduces the need for virgin resources.

We're focusing on contributing to a more sustainable world, where materials are reused instead of disposed of.