The man behind Certified Wood Products (CWP), company president Dan Haugen, stands in front of the companyʼs logo signage at his offices in Maple Lake, Minn.
CERTIFIED WOOD PRODUCTS: Making A Difference, One Board At A Time
By Clare Adrian
Maple Lake, Minn.–It isn’t enough to be best in quality and it’s not enough to be sustainably sourced for the lumber and plywood distributed by Certified Wood Products, located here. Any forest products that pass through company president Dan Haugen’s hands on its way to users, must also be certified as responsibly managed, economically, socially, and environmentally. Anything less won’t do.
That was the decision he made in 2000 when he started the company. “It wasn’t an economic decision but a value-based one. At some point you start thinking about the legacy you’ll leave behind,” he stated, “what kind of impact you’ll have on the environment. I chose FSC because it’s a stewardship issue for me. We need to be elevating that sensibility, trying to do a better job of managing and stewarding what's been created.
Haugen and FSC inventory from Roseburg Forest Products, CDX Western Fir plywood.
“We try to get any FSC products to market,” affirmed Haugen. Suppliers such as CollinsWood and Roseburg, both in Oregon, Potlatch in Idaho, and others across Canada, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, ship in carload and semi truckload quantities of FSC certified Hem Fir, Douglas Fir, Red Pine and Inland Red Cedar, in the form of framing lumber, boards, plywood, preservative treated lumber and plywood, fire retardant treated lumber and plywood, hardwood boards, plywoods, and particleboard. Annually, 2,000,000 BF of Softwood, 100,000 BF of hardwood and 1,500,000 BF of paneling is dropped at the facility. Haugen and crew break it down into specific lengths and quantities mix them together, and ship as requested on a per project basis to general contractors and retail companies across the country who aspire to using FSC certified materials. He contracts with over 30 independent truckers to deliver product across the country, east to west as far as Denver, Colo.
Thoughts of legacy show up in the considerations of long-term thinkers such as Haugen. “Our culture doesn’t think that way. Most everything is decided in short term measure.”
Vision, combined with entrepreneurialism, a 25-year history in the lumber industry and a concern for the environment and you have the inception of Certified Wood Products, Inc.
FSC framing lumber at CWP, stocked and ready to ship.
A lone voice at the time, Haugen sold his millwork company to implement his principle-centered startup, a concept that had been incubating since the 1980s.
His interest in the natural world was rooted in an agricultural background, having grown up in a rural Minnesotan farming community near Northfield. In college he started out as a biology major. Wanting more opportunities than teaching or research, he merged the practical with his ideals, enrolled in the college of natural resources in forestry, and obtained a degree in forest products marketing. He worked in the field and then went into business for himself.
Immersed in the industry, he was aware of the conflict between environmentalists and the West Coast sawmills and plywood mills, habituated in sourcing timber from public land. Sales were getting tied up in the court system, as various environmental groups used the judiciary system to block the exchange of timbers between the companies and the federal government. It became apparent to Haugen, that the argument was framed wrong. “The real question is not if you harvest, but how. And that question wasn’t being addressed.”
Rick Wald began working in sales for CWP in 2008.
Haugen wasn’t condemning the whole industry he’s a part of, rather acknowledging room for improvement. “There has been some good and sustainable forest management practices going on for a long time. But it’s not about how much wood fiber you grow, rather how well you do it. For example, here in Minnesota, Aspen grows quickly. So rapidly renewable, it was being harvested aggressively, which is great for pulp or oriented strand board mills. But what was coming back was a monoculture of Aspen. Other species need to be part of it or biodiversity suffers.”
The earnest discussion of “how” that began in the 1990s got Haugen’s attention. In 1993, the Forest Stewardship Council, a voluntary global organization was formed, successfully bringing together the environmental community, industry, social groups and the timber industry to talk about how to steward forests, framing the debate in healthier way than before.
The discussion became not just about forest management, explained Haugen. It’s a fabric of lumber, wildlife, soil, water, and societal factors. “If logging in rain forests of Brazil, Bolivia, Indonesia, Uruguay, you have to be concerned about indigenous people’s rights, not exploit the resource, leaving the local community with nothing. FSC addresses and monitors that issue. It’s not a perfect system, but FSC is really making a great effort to be as perfect a system as they can.”
By adhering to a number of the FSC’s 10 principles and 57 criteria, companies become members and are eligible for LEEDS points and benefits. “I felt the FSC management model was the best model at the time and still is,” confirmed Haugen. And it’s in line with his world view.
Handling shipping/receiving is warehouse manager Tony Schroeder, with the company since 2005.
FSC is still a small part of the market, said Haugen, but increasing. “I’m encouraged by that, pleased, and excited to be part of the larger narrative.
Haugen was free to flex his entrepreneurial muscle when he did because his wife of 30 years was gainfully employed in a job she enjoyed. After he’d had the company up and running for a few years, she chided him, asking if it was a business or hobby. “It took a few years to figure out if it would work. You can make value-based decisions but they also have to make economic sense.”
Growth was gradual, as Haugen lined up clientèle and slowly built the company up enough to buy land, build a 20,000-square-foot warehouse and as of today, have the help of five employees.
The wood products that come through the doors comply with the same set of standards and criteria as CWP, itself Forest Stewardship Council chain of custody certified through SmartWood, a program of the Rainforest Alliance.
Committed to making a difference in the forest industry, Haugen, through his company, links up responsible users with responsible producers, his mission, to facilitate and reward excellent forest management.
Accountant Andy Schumacher has been employed at CWP since 2006.
Operations and behaviors at the CWP shop expand continuously to as green a level as possible, which dictates reusing or recycling whatever is acceptable, working with as many FSC certified companies as he can find. He purchases FSC certified paper and prints on both sides before recycling it. Some companies use banding made from recycled plastic pop bottles. That and the lumber unit wraps, he makes sure, are reused when breaking lumber units apart to mix different quantities, or if metal, recycles them. “We don’t even have a dumpster,” he maintained. With skylights in the warehouse, not a light needs to be turned on in the summertime. His resolve in how he operates his business is plain and simple. “We’re not looking to sell it. We’re just looking to walk our talk.”