Technical and communications synergies for tropical timber

This is the first joint newsletter from the Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition and Fair & Precious marketing initiative. It follows their agreement last year to cooperate to reinforce their individual strengths and objectives. The two organisations see their roles and strategies as ‘deeply complementary’. Operating in tandem, they maintain, they can more effectively achieve their shared goal of growing the European market for verified sustainable tropical timber, which in turn will increase uptake of sustainable forest management in tropical countries. 

“This partnership is a logical progression and something we should maybe have considered   before. The STTC and Fair & Precious work in different ways, but ultimately we share the same goals. The STTC has undertaken a lot of research and technical work into the availability, supply, demand and performance of sustainable tropical timber, while F&P is highly effective in terms of broader communications, use of visuals and branding.  Combining these capabilities, provision of technical information and communication skills and tools, will create a powerful resource for verified sustainable tropical timber in the marketplace.”
Nienke Sleurink, Program Manager at STTC founder IDH-The Sustainable Trade Initiative.

“The ATIBT and STTC  have common aims; promoting FSC and PEFC-certified tropical timber and increasing its European market share. We now have a two-step approach to driving  synergies between us. We are starting with collaboration on quickly achievable aims and discussing stepping up our activities in 2020. We are working on a co-branded market data report, which FSC, PEFC, the European Timber Trade Federation and maybe NGOs can use   as a stepping off point to help increase certified market share. Our joint newsletter will disseminate our tools and reports to a wider audience and we will use STTC’s data to support the Fair & Precious campaign.  Together we are also stepping up use of social media.”
Benoît Jobbé-Duval, Managing Director Fair & Precious founder ATIBT.






EU risks missing sustainable sourcing targets

Europe is still contributing to deforestation through trade in ‘forest risk’ commodities.

According to a report from IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, large-scale EU imports of tropical timber, soy, palm oil and cocoa continue to result in forest destruction and degradation and the consequent environmental damage.

Titled The Data Speaks, the report says that businesses are still buying ‘alarmingly low’ sustainable, responsibly sourced commodities, despite EU government and business pledges to import these exclusively by 2020.

To hit this target, IDH urges business and government to implement nine ‘key actions’ to create more sustainable supply chains.  

The report reviews global trade in these commodities. Except for palm oil, only 30% or under were imported by the EU as certified sustainably sourced, with the figure for timber at just 28.5%.

Sustainable trade performance varied widely between north western and southern Europe. For example, 65-70&% of the Netherlands’ primary tropical timber imports are responsibly sourced. In Italy and Spain the figures are estimated around 5-10% and 2.5-7.5%.

“Current EU progress is not enough,” said Daan Wensing, Director of the IDH Landscape Program. “It is dangerously behind when it comes to meeting responsible sourcing and no-deforestation pledges. We need urgent action from industry players and governments to jointly fight deforestation in supply chains, while securing economic development and livelihoods in producing countries.”

Research from the Global Forest Watch (GFW) reinforces IDH’s findings. It reveals that 3.6m hectares of tropical forest have been cleared since 2002, largely driven by agricultural commodity production.

However, according to a YouGov poll, commissioned by the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fern, Greenpeace and WWF, 87% of European consumers are demanding deforestation-free products.

IDH has been at the forefront of efforts to encourage corporations, producers, governments and civil society to introduce forest protection strategies, which also protect the livelihoods of local people.

IDH’s nine key actions to drive sustainable forest product trade are:

  1. Introduction of EU sustainable sourcing requirements for all commodities
  2. Development of industry association sustainable roadmaps, backed by government incentives and NGO input
  3. Implementation of mandatory reporting guidelines for businesses importing large volumes of commodities
  4. Identification of deforestation hot spots among sourcing regions to prioritise industry action
  5. Establishment of Verified Sourcing Areas, backed by incentives to drive transition to sustainable land use
  6. Mainstreaming of sustainable commodity production through government and private sector investment
  7. Direction of European commodity sourcing to deforestation hotspots to incentivise sustainable production
  8. Creation of government-to-government partnerships between the EU and supplier countries to grow capacity, strengthen enforcement and support land use planning
  9. Grow sustainable importing in non-EU countries by supporting sustainable production and through dialogue and knowledge sharing.

“Forest loss continues at an alarming rate,” concluded Daan Wensing. “The good news is that we have the partners and tools to fight it and, by pooling Europe’s demand for sustainable commodities from hotspot regions, the situation can be changed. Commitments matter. but stopping global deforestation and climate change will take more than just words – together, we need to turn pledges into action.”

IDH will present its findings at the International Sustainability Week of the Amsterdam Declaration Partnership (ADP) in Utrecht from 11-14 June. The ADP is a partnership between Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and UK promoting deforestation-free, sustainable commodities.

IDH was supported in producing The Data Speaks by The Sustainable Trade Initiative, the European Palm Oil Alliance, Probos and the Netherlands’ IUCN National Committee.

See #pledges2action

Bringing tropical timber on board with Amsterdam Declaration

EU-wide action to ensure import of 100% sustainably sourced forest commodities, including tropical timber, was the topic of a special Sustainable Tropical Timber Event organised by IDH-The Sustainable Trade Initiative and the STTC. Preliminary findings of the new market report on verified sustainable tropical timber imports were presented, concluding that 25-32% of tropical timer imported into the EU is ‘exposed’ to certification.

The Utrecht event on 12 June attracted public and private sector delegates. It was part of a series of events IDH organized during the International Sustainability Week Towards Deforestation-free, Sustainable Commodities of the Amsterdam Declaration Partnership (ADP). The ADP commits its signatories to eliminate deforestation resulting from trade in agro-commodities by 2020, comprising beef, leather, palm oil, paper, pulp, cocoa and rubber. The fact that it does not include timber and that action on all forest-risk commodities is not moving fast enough are the focus of a just-published IDH report, The Data Speaks.  and were also the theme of the Utrecht meeting. The concern was that, without further measures and the inclusion of timber in any strategy, ADP signatories may not hit their 2020 target.

“Commitments matter, but stopping global deforestation will take more than words. It requires real actions from European producers and on the ground in producing countries, while transforming markets globally,” states IDH. “With 2020 coming closer, it is clear that the ambitious objectives of many players concerning no-deforestation in supply chains will not be met.”

The conference included the release of the preliminary findings of the forthcoming report on European market share of verified sustainable tropical timber from forests and timber sustainability advisors and analysts Probos and the Global Timber Forum (GTF).  This looks at latest trade trends in verified sustainable tropical timber, concluding that 25-32% of tropical timer imported into the EU is ‘exposed’ to certification (that equates to the certified production forest area of supplier countries). It also estimated that 12.5 million ha of tropical forest would additionally be impacted if the EU imported 100% verified sustainable timber.

The audience agreed with the findings and recommendations of the Probos/GTF report. “They also made important points and raised questions,” said Mark van Benthem of Probos. ”They highlighted the need to include secondary timber products in these kind of studies, like furniture and flooring, and for more insight into indirect imports, such as those from China into the EU”.


Delegates also asked whether a greater area of sustainably managed, certified forest in South East Asia could be linked to FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement being in place with Indonesia. As far as the audience knew, there has not been research bringing evidence of a relationship. In addition, MTCS and The Borneo Initiative have been working in the region pushing for certification in the region for 2 decades already.

At the Conference, Chris Beeko of the Ghanaian Forestry Commission also addressed FLEGT and its Voluntary Partnership Agreement programme. He explained that, although the market has shifted dramatically since the start of the FLEGT process and Europe now only plays a minor role for the Ghanaian timber trade, the country is keen to proceed with the FLEGT programme, which has significantly benefited  the forest based sector through greater stakeholder participation, implementation of timber tracking and other developments.

This was followed by a discussion on the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Initiative (FLEGT) and certification between UK Timber Trade Federation Managing Director, David Hopkins, Remi Souria of the PEFC and John Hontelez of FSC.

The central question was on how FLEGT can be a stepping stone towards sustainability and lay foundations on which sustainable forest management measures can build. Differences between FLEGT and certification mentioned were that one is mandatory, the other voluntary and that the former may allow genetic modification, but PEFC and FSC do not. FLEGT also brings scale, in terms of nationwide coverage and product volume, whereas certification takes less time to implement.

A sign that the two are recognising that they can be complementary, however, was FLEGT countries exploring the possibility with PEFC of additionally adopting certification. In general, there was agreement on the importance and role of FLEGT among the speaker panel.

At the event, IDH Landscapes Program Director Daan Wensing also explained the nine actions to drive sustainable forest commodities sourcing detailed in The Data Speaks report.

LKTS support trade group meets


The working group of a new trade initiative to develop the European market for lesser known timber species from the Congo Basin (LKTSCB) has held its first meeting.

The LKTSCB emerged from a business marketing summit in Libreville, Gabon, last summer, the FSC Congo Basin Business Encounter where the focus was on driving uptake of certified sustainable forest management across the region.

The LKTSCB was set up following the conclusion that a key factor in incentivising supplier countries to opt for certification is a growing market for the resulting certified timber. Creating demand for lesser known species in particular can make certification more economically viable.

The stated aim of the new European trade group, which is overseen by the FSC, is to introduce and promote selected lesser known species simultaneously in France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the UK and Belgium.  Attending its inaugural meeting in Utrecht in January were Ewa Bazydlo of Lathams in the UK, Emmanuel Groutel of Wale/CBG in France, Gijs Burgman of Wijma and Jan Kemps of Hotim Veteka both in the Netherlands, Klaus Schmidt of Cross Trade in Germany, Dirk Debussche of Vandecasteele in Belgium and Kristian Jorgensen of FSC Denmark. Co-ordinating was Ben Romein of FSC Netherlands.

Delegates presented strategic views on prospects for LKTS in their respective markets and a common promotional approach. They also discussed species selection and who should take various roles in the initiative. They also addressed budget and promotion and marketing issues, with support to be provided by the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT).

They identified seven Congo region species related and market areas to target; Alep, Amouc, Andoung, Eveuss, Eyoum, Gombé, Movingui, Olon and Ozigo. These varieties will be

further evaluated by the working group and once approved, the introductory phase will start and a promotional programme and timetable developed.




STTC and FSC together back sustainable development

FSC launched a new campaign in early 2019 to promote broad engagement with its certification programme and help businesses align corporate strategies with sustainable development goals (SDGs).  The campaign has a strong tropical timber theme to it, supported by STTC in 2018.

The ‘Together we are FSC’ campaign and marketing and promotion tool kit was outlined at the STTC Conference in Paris last year by FSC Europe Regional Director Anand Punja. He said that effective and well-meaning NGO campaigning to combat indiscriminate logging in rainforests had ‘turned people off tropical timber’. ‘Together we are FSC’ aims to develop equally impactful messaging, underlining the environmental, economic and social benefits of buying verified sustainable tropical timber ‘to turn people back on to it’. It also connects these benefits to the wider SDGs as a way to make the benefits more aligned to the international agenda and more accessible to a wider public.

The campaign website provides a range of stories and case studies business can use to explain and raise awareness of the livelihood, well-being and environmental impacts of sustainable forestry and timber production.

Designed in a consumer-style with high impact visuals and sound bite messaging, it is also clearly targeted at specifiers and the wider public. Each project described is also linked to a specific SDG, such as poverty eradication, education provision, achieving responsible consumption and production, climate action and combating loss of biodiversity and pollution .

The site includes profiles of two Gabon sawmill supplying certified timber.  Not only does this incentivise local sustainable forestry, it says, it is committed to high welfare standards for workers, while the use of wood residues from milling are used to generate energy to power the plant.

Another section highlights the emphasis certification places on gender equality. “To overcome challenges in achieving gender equality in the forest sector, FSC standards require equality in employment practices, training opportunities, awarding of contracts, processes of engagement and management activities,” it says.

It also describes how FSC’s certification scheme help  to bring social benefits such as education to children in tropical forests as part of the standards requirements in such places for those forest businesses that want to achieve certification and promote their product as an FSC certified product.

“Many certified forests, especially in the Southern hemisphere often include betters schools for the children of forest workers,”  states FSC.

Certification, says the FSC, also helps achieve a range of other SDGS, including provision of clean water, improving health care and tackling hunger.

Communicating this connection can in turn drive uptake of certification, said Mr Punja.

“SDGS have increasingly become a policy guide for the world’s businesses and public authorities to show their purpose as an entity has wider benefits for society,” he said. “So they provide an excellent opportunity to communicate the wider positive benefits of verified sustainable/certified tropical timber trade to a sustainable production and consumption framework that is becoming increasingly widely adopted worldwide.”

If you are interested in using the materials or indeed have other ideas for the campaign then get in touch with Anand Punja, FSC European Director (

ATIBT among partners backing PEFC in Congo Basin

Congo river, © Klas Sander, coutersy Danzer

The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is ‘scaling up’ its drive in the Congo Basin region to grow uptake of certified sustainable forest management, working with international stakeholders, the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT) and concession holder and timber producer Olam International.

The PEFC highlights that the Congo Basin is among the most important environmental resources on the planet. It has the second largest area of rainforest, comprising 18% of the world total and provides livelihoods for 50 million people.

The PEFC acknowledges that increasing uptake of certification in this region is a challenge, hence this cooperation with partners to make it more accessible.

Operating in the area as the Pan African Forest Certification initiative, PEFC already has three regional members; PAFC-Gabon, PAFC-Cameroon and PAFC-Congo (in the Republic of Congo).

The first to achieve PEFC endorsement was PAFC Gabon, with backing from the ATIBT and  IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative supporting auditor training and preparing concessions for forest management audits. The first PAFC Gabon sustainable forest management certificate was issued to Precious Woods in 2018. This was followed by award of two PEFC chain of custody certificates.

Managing Director Benoît Jobbé-Duval said the ATIBT backs the PEFC’s programme to open up third-party certification in the Congo Basin and enable more operators to be certified, adding that the Central African Forest Commission supports expansion of the PAFC to its other member countries.

“It’s strategically important that a second certification system is implemented in the sub-region as soon as possible,” he said. “In terms of development and implementation, this regional approach will result in economies of scale, minimising the overall costs of certification for companies. The regional strategy to develop a detailed and operational forest management standard for companies and auditors is also innovative and could subsequently be applied in other tropical regions of the world.”

As part of its project in the area, PEFC representatives have also visited the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo to meet a range of stakeholders. A regional PEFC/PEFC office is also planned.

For more on the PAFC regional strategy click here.


Following the path to verified sustainable tropical timber

The STTC conference in Paris, 2018. Photo: Mark van Benthem, Probos

The 2019 Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition conference will examine two key themes – growing the market for verified sustainable tropical timber, and the capacity of regional and national programmes, such as the EU FLEGT VPA and Verified Sourcing Area initiatives, to increase uptake of sustainable forest management.

Titled Exploring Pathways to Verified Sustainable Tropical Timber, the Conference takes place in Berlin on November 20 and attendance is free.

Delegates will hear speakers from the private sector, trade federations, NGOs and certification schemes. They will share their views on sustainable tropical timber marketing and market development, discuss best practice and be available for questions from the audience.

The role of verified sustainable tropical timber sales and promotion tools in supporting the market will also be examined.

Core topics will be:

  • The importance of reversing decline in tropical timber use
  • Best practice in verified sustainable tropical timber promotion and sales tools
  • Outcomes of a new sustainable tropical timber market share study from forest and timber sustainability analysts and advisors Probos and the Global Timber Forum.
  • The stepwise approach towards verified sustainable timber
  • The roles of the EUTR, FLEGT and certification and how they can complement one another
  • Certification impacts for landscapes.

The STTC 2019 Conference links to the International Hardwood Conference, which takes place in the same venue in Berlin on November 21 and 22.  This will enable delegates to attend the two events. Both promise to be great opportunities to discuss the issues with buyers, suppliers and the wider rainforest commodity sector and to network over drinks.

Delegates will include STTC partners and participants, trade federations, timber traders, concession holders, policy makers, NGOs and other stakeholders. And the event will be moderated by ever-popular regular STTC Conference facilitator Peter Woodward.

Further details will be available shortly at The Conference will be held at the Hotel Armano Group Central and you can register here.

Exploring pathways to verified sustainable tropical timber

The STTC conference in Paris, 2018. Photo: Mark van Benthem, Probos

The European timber sector has focused on both ensuring its sources of supply are legal and on growing market share for verified sustainable tropical wood. The Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition 2019 Conference looks at how these dual efforts can interrelate to increase verified sustainable timber supply and demand and how STTC tools can support the process.

The event is titled ‘Exploring pathways to verified sustainable tropical timber’ and is being held in Berlin the day before the International Hardwood Conference. It will cover a range of themes around its core topic, including how verified sustainable forest management can build on regional and national initiatives, such as the EU FLEGT VPA programme and Verified Sourcing Areas.

Taking place on November 20, the Conference is set against the backdrop that, while, encouragingly, the EU market share of verified sustainable tropical timber is growing, total tropical timber sales continue to fall.

“It’s a very real concern that this shrinkage in demand in such an environmentally sensitive marketplace could ultimately disincentivise suppliers in tropical countries from introducing sustainable forest management practice,”  said Nienke Sleurink of the STTC. “Ensuring viable, growing demand for the end product is one of the essential underpinnings to the continuing spread of forest sustainability verification. We must make the market connection.” 

Expert speakers from across the European trade, NGOs, and the wider rainforest commodity sector will address the core issues related to these themes.

Topics covered will include how information, data and technical support from the STTC and tools from the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT), including its Fair & Precious certified timber branding campaign, can contribute to reversing Europe’s tropical timber sales decline. There will also be presentations on promotional policies and sales materials for tropical timber followed by a panel discussion and audience workshop titled ‘Making it work’.

The afternoon conference session will centre around ‘The road from EUTR to verified sustainable’. It will focus on the complementary, but distinctive roles of legality and sustainability verification and how one should ultimately lead to the other. A presentation of latest data on sustainable tropical timber market share will open discussions, followed by a look at the impact of certification on the wider landscape.

The audience will also hear about lessons learned in the Matto Grosso beef sector about use of Verified Sourcing Areas, designed to drive sustainability across whole regions,  and speakers will present a position paper on the relationship between the EUTR, the EU FLEGT initiative and certification. Delegates will have a further opportunity to engage with the issues and discuss topics raised in a series of table talk sessions, motivated and moderated by popular long-term STTC conference facilitator Peter Woodward.

STTC conferences historically attract a capacity audience, drawn from Europe-wide and beyond.  This year’s event promises to be as popular as ever, especially as it takes place just before the International Hardwood Conference at the same venue, enabling delegates to attend both. So early booking is advised.

Click here to register.
Contact Joyce Penninkhof ( / +31-317466557) for further information.

STTC and Fair & Precious talk cooperation

The two initiatives focused on promoting verified sustainable tropical timber in Europe and highlighting the role a strong timber market plays in strengthening sustainable forest management, are aligning communications and exploring further cooperation. The Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition and the Fair & Precious branding campaign of the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT) have identified a range of areas for working together.

The aim of Fair & Precious (F&P, is to promote the environmental, economic and social benefits of supplying, specifying and using timber from sustainably managed tropical forests certified under FSC or PEFC schemes. Launched by the ATIBT in 2017,  the campaign is co-funded by the French Development Agency and Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC).

At the heart of the initiative is the F&P brand. This is designed for use by campaign member companies along the tropical timber supply chain in their own marketing, branding and communications. To qualify, they must adopt a set of ten commitments on a range of environmental performance areas, prove they maintain highest ethical standards and undergo regular audit.

“F&P is a stamp that conveys their environmental credentials and the special value of the material. It also gives users and their verified sustainable tropical timber products an edge in the market,” said ATIBT Managing Director Benoît Jobbé-Duval. “It’s simultaneously about promoting the industry and responsible forest management and increasing market uptake of the timber.”

He said the aims of F&P and STTC ‘are deeply complementary’.

“F&P makes extensive use of visual messaging, such as the ATIBT movie ‘how to preserve tropical forests’. It also employs testimonies from supplier countries and an appeal to the emotions to raise public awareness of the key role of the private sector in sustainable forest management. The STTC approach is strongly data-led and evidential, with in-depth reporting of the impacts of certified sustainable sourcing.”

Initially the two operations will exchange information and look to align and coordinate websites. There will be shared content, but with the STTC taking a business-centric approach, with more specialist material, the F&P site targeting a broader audience, including the public, although with the back-up of STTC science-based technical information. They will also co-produce a newsletter with joint messaging underlining their collaboration.

“Currently STTC publishes four newsletters per year, this will increase to six to eight joint editions with F&P, with distribution to a combined contact database,” said IDH programme manager Nienke Sleurink. “We will also share and co-brand the annual STTC data market data report monitoring European sales share of certified timber, with ATIBT translating it into French and supporting distribution.”

“We will additionally develop and distribute a marketing toolkit to certified operators and our official F&P partners to help communicate their activities,” said Mr Jobbé-Duval.

“Promotion tools and fact-based communications will be pulled out of the STTC knowledge and tools data base and shared,” added Ms Sleurink. “And the marketing kit will include photo materials, messaging and promotional tools in the form of downloads, with examples of how these have been used in the market.”

Currently the F&P brand is only for use by ATIBT members, but longer term, said Mr Jobbé-Duval, it may be made more generally available as part of a strategy for the campaign to become self supporting.

Federations commit to build on STTC communication projects

Indications are that the STTC-backed initiative undertaken by the Danish Timber Trade Federation (DTTF) to develop the market in Denmark for verified sustainable sourced tropical timber is having positive effects. The German Timber Trade Federation, GD Holz, also continues to develop the tropical timber communications strategy initiated under its STTC project.

According to the DTTF, 2017 statistics showed an increase both in the volume of tropical timber imported by its members, albeit from a low base, to 21,500 m3, and in the amount verified sustainably sourced to 10,000 m3, or 46%. This followed years of decline. The STTC target is for total EU verified sustainably sourced tropical timber market share of 50% by 2020.

“In our project to stimulate the market for verified sustainable tropical timber products, our core activity has been communication. In essence, we’ve worked to support our members in communicating and selling their positive stories,” said DTTF Director Jakob Rygg Klaumann. “By building a strong base of arguments, our members can communicate consistently and repeatedly that verified sustainable tropical timber is a safe, versatile material and readily available in the marketplace.”

He added that the STTC project, besides setting market share targets, had been helpful in initiating the tropical timber awareness raising and information process, amongst others via its website (

“It has made it possible for us to mobilize and unify members towards a joint effort and focus attention on the importance of communication,” he said.

The DTTF acknowledged that changing market perceptions about tropical timber is a long-term process and that to go from a defensive to a pro-active stance in communication requires time. There is also a little way to go to achieve its targets on verified sustainable market share.

“But we are committed to making further progress,” said Mr Klaumann.  “Improving the image of verified sustainable tropical timber will remain a priority area for us into the future and we are currently working to secure funding for a continuation of the communication project for the next two years.”

GD Holz is also committed to build on the achievements of its STTC project.

“Thanks to highly effective NGO campaigns on deforestation, tropical timber in Germany had one of the most stubborn public image problems in Europe,” said GD Holz Head of Foreign Trade Nils Olaf Petersen. “But we continue to develop communications through our website’s tropical timber section ( and other channels to increase appreciation of the economic, social and environmental benefits of sustainably sourced timber and wood products, and the material’s performance potential.”