top of page

What are the Sustainable Wood for Cities Pathways?

Sustainable Wood “Pathways” represent the diverse approaches to sourcing sustainable wood, each with different methods, tools, criteria, and representatives. The eight Pathways can be used – independently, or layered together – as a qualitative framework for decision-making to create more powerful wood sourcing Strategies that match a city’s sustainability goals, and build capacity within agencies (fig. 1). Having city officials create holistic strategies using this guide is intended to help them integrate the latest knowledge, research and experience into stronger city policies and planning frameworks (fig. 2).

Pathway Verification

Any sustainable wood framework depends on verifying the interconnected criteria of sustainability “pathways”. Depending on the pathway, this may include: precise source location, forest management plan, adherence to local regulations, means of harvest, final production methods, or social impacts. Without verification of these factors, the sustainability benefits of diligent and creative sourcing will not be guaranteed. But verification is not always clear-cut or simple to achieve. There are different degrees and approaches to verification depending on the Pathway in question.


To address these challenges and encourage incremental progress, we have organized a matrix of verification types and methods that aim to 1) demystify the verification process, 2) demonstrate how diverse pathways lend themselves to different types and levels of verification, and 3) aid in user capacity-building and “systems development” through better knowledge and tools.

In this matrix, users will find three types of verification: 1st party (seller performs internal evaluation), 2nd party (buyer evaluates seller), and 3rd party (independent party evaluates seller). Within each of these types, verification may be determined via personal contact, official documents, or technological tracing. There is some overlap between these types and methods. They are designed to serve as building blocks for project-specific verification strategies and empower cities and other users to understand the options and benefits with respect to their specific needs.

Sustainable Wood for Cities Pathways
Figure 1: A sample flow diagram showing the integration of Pathways into multiple project Strategies
Sustainable Wood for Cities Sourcing Matrix
Figure 2: A sample Pathways and Strategies Matrix - with hypothetical project strategies in comparison



1. Forest Certification

Selecting wood that is certified under a third-party system such as FSC or PEFC. Forest certification systems offer a one-stop generalized approach to supporting Sustainable Forest Management (SFM).

2. Social Forestry

Sourcing wood that supports sustainable community livelihoods, community forest management, and conservation. Based on a business model that returns maximum value to the community and encourages local ownership and empowerment.

3. Species & Grade

Intentionally selecting and diversifying the choice of wood species and grades to improve forest outcomes. Allows consumers to become active partners in building markets for under-utilized species while reducing demand for over-harvested species.

4. Strategic Geography

Sourcing wood from specific places addressing sustainability & legality, i.e. jurisdictional approach and voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs)

5. Local & Urban Wood

Utilizing trees and forests inside or near cities that can be a source of timber while supporting local economies and innovation.

6. Reuse & Long Life

Specifying wood that has previously served a useful purpose and/or designing wood components specifically to serve a long life through reuse, upcycling, recycling, etc.

7. High Efficiency Production

Using sources that have optimized the efficiency of the wood production system, from harvest to manufacturing, to reduce waste and increase the percentage of wood yielded from a forest area that makes it into long-life applications.

8. Net Carbon Accounting / LCA

Conducting detailed and credible calculations of net carbon storage using both long and short term models which include: forest management, efficiency of production, life of wood products and construction LCA.

bottom of page