Sustainable sawmill expands

The workers’ co-operative that operates the UK’s first sustainable sawmill is growing rapidly.

Earlier this year Towy Timber Co-operative in Llandeilo, South Wales, used loans from the Industrial Common Ownership Fund plc and the Co-operative Loan Fund to purchase new machinery. This resulted in increased capacity and more jobs. The co-operative took on three new workers and now has five full-time employee-owners.

Its expansion is continuing. It has just raised a further £60,000 by issuing loan stock which will be used to buy specialist forestry equipment including a forwarder. Towy Timber plans to recruit more staff next year.

Towy Timber’s main products are sawn timber, fencing panels, sheds and garden furniture. The co-operative also builds traditional timber frames buildings, including houses, workshops and barns and is developing a flat-pack timber frame building system. Most sawmills are very large enterprises, so as relatively small operation Towy Timber is able to provide a bespoke service to customers.

The co-operative has a very strong commitment to environmental responsibility. All timber is sourced as locally as possible from sustainable forests and the co-operative operates a zero waste policy. Llandeilo Sawmill is powered entirely by the sun using solar PV panels mounted on the roof.

Towy Timber a fully mutual workers’ co-operative and unusually it operates an equal pay structure and job rotation.

Co-operative member and founder Mark Chapman said: “All our members, from management to machine operatives receive the same wages. We recognise that our team members are our greatest resource and without each of them, our mission would be that much harder to achieve.”

Ian Taylor of Co-operative & Community Finance said: “Towy Timber appears to be going from strength to strength. They are extremely busy and have taken on three new people. They have also extended their space threefold. This is a great success story.”