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  • An interview with Ken Walsh, Danzer UK

An interview with Ken Walsh, Danzer UK

The Danzer Group comprises wood processing companies worldwide specialising in the manufacture of high quality sawn timber products and decorative real wooden surfaces.

Responsible forest management is a key concern for the Group, and it holds FSC certification for its 1.1 million hectares of forest concession in Africa.

In the UK, the company is a leading supplier of high quality hardwoods and clear softwoods and is headed up by Ken Walsh, MD, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the timber industry.

Ken Walsh, MD, Danzer UK

Like many young people considering their options after finishing school, Ken Walsh wasn’t sure if higher education was the right route for him. Although he had been offered a place to study economics and political history at the London School of Economics, he decided to take a year out and try his hand working with a timber company – a decision that ultimately lead him to his role as MD of Danzer UK, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of high quality timber products.

As a young man in the late 1970s with qualifications to his name, there were plenty of job opportunities available for someone with spark and ambition. Ken decided to plump for a role within the timber industry over more traditional careers like insurance, as this seemed to be the most interesting option.
Ken joined Price & Pierce in 1978 as an office junior. When he started the Aldwych-based company had a strong global footing, and Ken quickly gained experience in dealing with timber suppliers worldwide.

“For a young lad with a thirst for a challenge, Price & Pierce was a fantastic place to work. The central London location obviously appealed from the start, but it was the rich and diverse nature of the work that kept me enthralled. Working with foreign traders, uncovering exciting new products and markets and bartering for the best price – it’s a far cry from what I could’ve envisaged had I chosen to go to University.”

Joining Danzer

After 10 years with Price & Pierce, and having worked across different territories and timber products, Ken was ready for a step change. He wanted to fast-track his development in a company with a larger global footprint. This aspiration saw him move to Danzer UK, part of the Danzer Group, which has operations in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia.

Appointed as sawn timber Sales Manager, Ken continued to develop his expertise in hardwoods, as well as assuming responsibility for product orders, stock management, tenders, business investment and staff.

When the existing MD retired in 2003, Ken stepped into the role. Since taking over the helm, he has diversified Danzer UK’s offering to include added-value products such as kitchen worktops, flooring, stair parts and laminated door and window components, whilst developing top-end commodities including Vinterio and 3D veneers.

“Day-to-day, I oversee the running of the company, which includes procurement, sales and customer services. Nurturing long-term relationships with customers and suppliers is a large part of my role and I meet with them regularly. It’s about mutual relationships, making sure our partners feel valued and that we’re aware of any potential developments or problems.

“Danzer UK is an independent wholly-owned subsidiary, which means we face the same pressures as other independent traders, having to vie for orders and complete negotiations with Danzer Group. This means how the business develops is largely in our own hands. As long as we comply with Danzer Group ‘Responsible Procurement’ obligations, we’re able to determine the product ranges we stock and the levels at which we buy these in, which means we can anticipate and drive trends in the UK timber market.

“As well as Danzer Group products, we supplement our offering through outside producers which share our values. Navigating a large supply base requires us to be agile, understand what will complement our product portfolio and ensure that any products brought in adhere to the high ethos of Danzer Group.”

Responsible Sourcing

Responsible procurement is a principal priority for Ken. Danzer UK carries FSC/PEFC certification plus various third party legality verification Chain of Custody certificates. Timber products supplied with these certificates can be traced back through chronological documentation to provide assurances that these wood products originate from legal and sustainably managed forests.

“My approach is perhaps more hands on than other MDs, and this is in part down to personal preference, but also due to the volatile industry in which we operate.

“Tropical timber can be a high risk product, calling for compliance with robust regulations. All procurement at Danzer UK goes through me to ensure complete accountability, which means I can say with confidence that the timber we offer is ethically sound.

“We are also a member of the Timber Trade Federation and a signatory of its Responsible Purchasing Policy (RRP). In following this framework, we can certify that our products are sourced through credible, sustainable sources and eliminate the risk of illegal timber entering our supply chain.”

As part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) drive, Danzer UK is an active supporter of Wood For Good, the industry awareness campaign that aims to demonstrate how increasing the use of wood will benefit the economy, environment and community.

“Our partnership with Wood For Good is a natural fit. The campaign underscores everything we at Danzer UK stand for; that, when sourced from a sustainably-managed forest, timber is a versatile, environmentally-friendly and aesthetically-pleasing building material.”

As a family business, Danzer Group takes CSR very seriously, providing education and social welfare to local employees in many of the areas in which it operates.

“While lessening the environmental impact is important, we also realise that a sustainable business model needs to deliver more than this. One of our overriding concerns is the societal impact our activities have on employees and communities, and we make substantial investments in those areas where we have a base. Again, we find the Wood For Good campaign complements our sentiments nicely – it’s about creating better living conditions for all, not just turning a profit.”

Driving demand

Today, Danzer UK boasts a small but dedicated workforce, with many staff having clocked up more than a decade with the company. Of the three board members that sit alongside Ken, two have been at Danzer UK for 17 years and the third has eight years of experience.

Ken is now coming up to 25 years with the company and remains ambitious about its future plans.

“Our aim is to maintain Danzer UK’s position as a major supplier to the UK timber industry and strengthen that market. As an industry we have a fantastic proposition, but a lack of awareness around building with timber and the benefit that it imparts is holding us back. We need to better communicate our cause to achieve future growth.

“Driving demand for responsibly-sourced timber is integral to winning this battle, and we’ll continue to invest in production and communities, while supporting Wood For Good, to position wood as the building material of choice.”

For more information on Danzer UK visit www.danzer.co.uk

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