This weeks Idea: Fish do it. Cattle do it. Even cauliflowers do it. Should you?

Yes. Fish, cattle and even cauliflowers do it. And so do forest product companies – but they haven’t been doing it very well.  “It,” of course, is telling consumers where their products come from, and how they’re made.

In the forest products industry (where I have a growing number of coaching clients these days), there are more than 50 certification programs worldwide. But. None of them specifies the exact source of the products they certify. Instead, they simply, well, certify them. And the multitude of certification systems has caused confusion. (What do all those labels actually mean?) 

Are disreputable loggers to blame? 

Some believe that the jumble of conflicting (and competing) certification programs is caused by logging companies that intentionally want to confuse buyers by declaring themselves “certified” when they display certifications that look and sound similar to the real deal (e.g. Forest Stewardship Council or FSC Certification).

Logging companies – particularly in the developing world – are notorious for declaring products “certified” when they come from countries and regions where standards are not rigorously enforced.

Daniel Arbour, Chair of the Canadian Model Forest Network explains the “ThisForest” program to wood product manufacturers in Vancouver

Daniel Arbour, Chair of the Canadian Model Forest Network explains
the “ThisForest” program to wood product manufacturers in Vancouver 

The solution: Something called “forest traceability” and it’s catching on – fast! Two of the forest products organizations that I work with – BC Wood and FPInnovations – just held a workshop on traceability here in Vancouver, Canada, and were surprised by the high turnout. The workshop was led by ThisForest, a group that uses QR technology to connect consumers with producers. Next time you buy a piece of custom wood furniture, or flooring, or wood doors and windows – or even a log or timber frame home – look for a ThisForest QR code. If you see one, capture it with your smart phone camera – and you’ll be linked to a web page that tells the story behind the item you’re buying. And. You will also receive an alpha numeric trace code that you can type into a search box on the ThisForest site. When I spoke to Natalie Hunter of ThisForest (this morning) she added that a timber frame home builder now engraves and mounts these trace numbers on their customers’ buildings, for permanent reference. (You can see this whole process in action by visiting and typing this trace number into a search box: F1007056). Neat huh? 

Your call to action:

What has all this got to do with you? Plenty. The truth is that buyers – both B2B and B2C – are getting “really” interested in the source of the products they purchase. (Hey. I want to know if my fish is wild or farmed, don’t you?). And. As Scott Buchholz of BC Wood said when I called to ask about the workshop, “traceability gives buyers not just the origin, but also the story behind where, how, and by whom, the product was sourced and produced.”

Key point: People love to learn the story behind interesting things they buy – and wood products are right up there with works of art when it comes to creating interest. So. Wise wood products manufacturers are jumping on board. And so could you – no matter what you do. All you need is a QR code and a web page that tells the story behind your products and the people who make them. This isn’t dangerous marketing, it’s “Great Marketing” – marketing that creates buzz – buzz that produces referrals and sales. So. Go get buzzy.

See you next week.


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