Certified wood wins in pile planking environmental analysis

The consequences could be serious if specifiers and customers don’t effectively assess the environmental impact of materials for use in marine civil engineering projects.  That’s the conclusion of new life cycle analysis of pile planking commissioned from EY Climate Change and Sustainability Services by the Royal Netherlands Timber Trade Association (NTTA)/ Centrum Hout and FSC Netherlands.

The study focused on certified tropical timber species, but included exploratory assessment of the environmental impact of different materials in the same application. This found that, over a 30-year life cycle, use of certified wood sheet piles had lowest environmental impact. Depending on type of timber selected, recycled plastic impacts were up to four times as great, while a steel sheet pile wall came out worst, causing as much as 140 times the environmental damage as certified wood sheet piling alternatives.

The detrimental impacts of steel and plastic, including recycled, start at manufacturing. This both requires considerable energy and releases pollutants, which barely registered in the case of certified timber use.

 “The LCA results confirm those of a 2013 study on cycle bridge construction, where certified wood also came out more favourably,” said Eric de Munck of NTTA/ Centrum Hout.  “It’s not surprising since, in well-managed forestry, there’s hardly any environmental damage while, at the same time growing trees absorb CO2, helping reduce greenhouse effects.”

FSC Netherlands Director Liesbeth Gort said she was not surprised certified timber performed best in LCA, but was ‘amazed’ by the gulf in performance with steel and plastic.

“We know sustainable forest management is an effective tool to preserve forests, but the degree to which selecting the right material impacts climate gains is really surprising,” she said. “It’s important that local authorities, water boards and other clients and specifiers realise that.”

The pile planking LCA study was made possible by the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition. For the executive summary of this and the earlier cycle bridge analysis click here.

The relative environmental scores of timber versus man-made materials

The relative environmental scores of timber versus man-made materials

Photo top by GWW Houtimport

A quarter of Indonesian forest set for certification

With its support, The Borneo Initiative (TBI) expects Indonesia to have achieved FSC® certification of 25% of its actively managed forests by the end of 2017.

That, says the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC), will not just be a major achievement in itself. It will also spell a significant increase in availability of certified material for traders in Europe and worldwide to promote and sell to the marketplace, to the benefit of the forests and the certified tropical timber sector as a whole.

The Borneo Initiative is a not-for-profit launched in 2008 by Netherlands-based IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative and other donors. Its aim is to “ensure supply of legal and sustainable material is not the missing link in sustainably sourced tropical timber chain”, complementing STTC’s goal of raising awareness of the availability and potential of that timber in the marketplace.

Besides making steady progress in the implementation of its SVLK Timber Legality Assurance Scheme in recent years, Indonesia has already made significant advances in FSC certification.  Currently 20, or one in seven, of its natural forest concessions (covering 2.1 million ha), are fully certified, while three (260,000 ha) have FSC controlled wood certification.

The Borneo Initiative aims to add impetus to the process and has already facilitated most of the FSC certification projects so far. It awards grants to concessions for principal certification costs; including chain of custody and reduced impact logging training, social impact   and high conservation value assessments. Funding also covers the cost of FSC audits and certification coaches, a role performed by GFTN, TNC, TFF,  or Wana Aksara.

FSC-certification is not only seen by the Indonesian forest companies as a route for achieving sustainable forest management, but also for accessing overseas markets. The Borneo Initiative supports this ambition too, participating in trade events under the banner; “Indonesian hardwood products: Sustainable. Quality. Guaranteed”.  It also sets up market links and trade encounters with potential customers, an area where it now works with the STTC and where both see their informal collaboration as mutually beneficial.

Overall The Borneo Initiative supports 39 concessions; 38 in Indonesia and one in Papua New Guinea (PNG). In the former to date it has facilitated 16 FSC certificates covering 1.6 million ha of forest and three controlled wood certificates covering 260,000 ha. The PNG concession is managing 148,900 ha.

“We also support forest concessions on Papua and the Moluccas, and we aim to extend our support across the border as well, into Sarawak and Sabah,” said The Borneo Initiative’s Programme Director Wim Ellenbroek. “In addition, we are supporting two Sulawesi plantation forests to FSC certification to see if we can also undertake this work with plantations.”

Given more funding, The Borneo Initiative believes the Borneo forest sector, with its support, can go even further than its 2017 goal and increase the FSC-certified area to 6 million ha, with some of it potentially in Malaysian-Borneo.

STTC Conference – participation and practical value

The free-of-charge European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) Conference promises real value. It will tackle a range of live timber industry issues around sustainable procurement policy implementation and building market awareness and demand for sustainably sourced tropical wood products. And it will also provide an excellent opportunity to network widely on these issues.

Registration for the June 23 Rotterdam event is now open at www.europeansttc.com, and delegate numbers, currently standing at over 75, are growing, drawn from across the trade, NGOs, local and national authorities and the timber research and development sector.

The Conference title is Real Impact Through Timber Purchasing Policies, with breakout sessions following the theme Timber Procurement Policies in Practice for both the private and the public sector.
“Both underline the aim of the event to tackle current relevant topics and deliver information that has genuine application in the marketplace,” said André de Boer, Secretary General of the European Timber Trade Federation, the STTC implementing partner and one of the Conference co-supporters with the City of Rotterdam, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, and local government sustainability initiative ICLEI.

The morning session will comprise presentations from expert keynote speakers, followed by questions and answers. These will focus on various aspects of STTC’s core messages; how trade and specifier procurement policy can drive a vibrant, growing European market for sustainably sourced tropical timber and how this, in turn, can incentivise the spread of sustainable forest management in supplier countries.

Speakers will include EU Green Public Procurement Policy Officer Robert Kaukewitsch, Stéphane Glannaz and Peter Gijsen of STTC participant companies Precious Woods and BAM, environmental policy analyst Duncan Brack, Maja Valstar of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, Léon Dijk environmental coordinator of the City of Rotterdam, Netherlands Timber Trade Association Managing Director Paul van den Heuvel, André de Boer and Lidia Capparelli of Italian national procurement agency CONSIP.

Conference moderator Peter Woodward of Quest Associates will ensure delegate engagement and participation throughout the day, and the afternoon breakout workshops will open up still more participation and discussion around different key subjects.  These will include:

  • The activities of the STTC, implementation of sustainable procurement action plans by members, and trade input on its possible future strategies
  • Barriers to sustainable tropical timber becoming mainstream and  overcoming them
  • Tackling price differences between certified sustainably sourced and non-certified timber
  • Financial incentives and instruments favouring sustainably sourced timber products, with new research from analysts CE Delft
  • Dealing with threats to tropical timber from alternative material substitution
  • Strategies for developing sustainable tropical timber’s market image and perceived value.

Moderators of these sessions will include André de Boer and, also representing the private sector, Eric Boilley, Director of French federation Le Commerce du Bois, and Alberto Romero, General Secretary of Spanish federation AEIM.

Alongside breakout sessions for the public sector will address topics including:

  • Barriers and building blocks in developing sustainable timber procurement policies (STTPs)
  • Developing public sector participation and public-private partnerships in the STTC
  • Linking STTPs to ‘hot topics’, such as climate change
  • Specifying sustainably sourced timber in contracts
  • The status of FLEGT-licensed and recycled timber in STTPs

Moderators here will be STTC Consultant Mark van Benthem, Ulrich Bick of the German Thünen Institute, Peter Defranceschi of ICLEI, and Ms Capparelli.

A final plenary will include breakout session reports, a panel discussion and further questions and answers.

For more information contact Joyce Penninkhof on joyce.penninkhof@probos.nl, or +31 (0) 317-466557.


Go ahead for Suriname lesser-known species project

Phase one of a potentially impactful project to develop European demand for lesser known certified sustainable timber species (LKTS) from Suriname has been approved for co-funding by the European STTC. The project team is now calling on importers to join the project.

The initiative is a collaborative effort between the European Timber Trade Federation and Netherlands-based forestry services, conservation and development bodies Probos and Tropenbos International (TBI), plus other partners.

Initial evaluation, including an ETTF-member trade mission last year, concluded that Suriname’s FSC-certified forest operations have major potential to increase sustainable timber output. However this depends on harvesting and developing demand for a wider range of species.

The country’s forests (which cover 94% of its 164,000 km2 land surface) operate under a government harvest system permitting an annual allowable cut of 25m3/ha on a 25-year cycle. But, as only around 20 of the better known species are used, the actual volume felled is less than a one third of this. Moreover there is a risk of supply stress on the more common varieties.

Three of Suriname’s four leading concession operators, which between them manage 400,000m3 of FSC-certified forest and are also sawmillers, will take part in the project to evaluate the performance characteristics, possible applications and, subsequently, the European customer base for selected LKTS.

The latter will be drawn from an initial list of 10 varieties, which may be extended, drawn up earlier by Netherlands sustainable trade analysts and consultants PUM at the request of TBI.  Their commercial names are Fukadi, Mandio, Tauari, Timborana, Quaruba/Yemeri, Ebano, Abiu/Chupon, Sapucaia, Kakaralli and Pacouri. And potential end-uses proposed by three of the four participating Suriname businesses include joinery and structural applications, decking, fencing and other garden products, interior design, including furniture making, bridges and marine products, pallets, packaging and industrial flooring – even chopsticks.

Phase one of the project will be undertaken by a range of environmental and forest issue specialist partners; including lead coordinators Probos and Tropenbos International Suriname, the Suriname Foundation for Forest Management and Production Control (SBB); Stichting Hout Research (SHR), CBI, Innovita and FSC Netherlands.  Their initial research will lead to production of fact sheets for each species.

Best practice for introducing LKTS to the market will also be evaluated and at least three European importers will be engaged for support and advice in selecting, trialing and marketing the species with best commercial prospects.

Ultimately at least five of the ten species will be selected for phases two and three of the project, pending their approval and go ahead. These will comprise technical laboratory testing, application pilot projects and finally market communication, promotion and commercial introduction.

Phase one is expected to take six months and the whole project 2.5 years.

Importers interested in joining the project can contact Mark van Benthem at mark.vanbenthem@probos.nl or +31-317466560.

For more: http://www.europeansttc.com/projects/lkts/.

ATIBT backs STTC as partner

The International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT) has joined the STTC as Partner.

The ATIBT’s core role is to support development of international trade in tropical timber, both as a viable business, and a means of helping maintain the tropical forest and the habitats and biodiversity it supports.

André de Boer, Secretary General of the European Timber Trade Federation, which is a fellow STTC partner and manages the European STTC programme, including its sustainable procurement policy funding initiative, welcomed the organisation on board.

“We’re very pleased that the ATIBT has joined the STTC,” he said. “Both have the ultimate aim to grow trade in sustainably sourced tropical timber to help incentivise spread of sustainable forest management, and ATIBT’s STTC partnership should be mutually beneficial.”

ATIBT President Robert Hunink agreed that the two bodies shared key goals and that their collaboration could help achieve them.

“ATIBT is aware that, besides helping to increase market demand for certified wood in the traditional timber species, the partnership with STTC is also very important for the introduction and promotion of the so-called ‘lesser used species’,” he said. “Successful promotion of these species is especially crucial for the economic viability of operators in the Congo Basin and, to maintain a balanced species composition in the forest. ATIBT is looking forward to share its broad experience of more than 65 years with STTC.”

ATIBT’s move was also greeted enthusiastically by Hans Stout, programme director of STTC founder-partner, Netherlands-based IDH, the Sustainable Trade initiative.

“IDH is delighted to have ATIBT as an official STTC partner, which is in fact a formalisation of a long and excellent cooperation between IDH and ATIBT,” he said. “ATIBT was already active in the working groups of the STTC and we also cooperated with ATIBT in our Congo Basin [Tropical Timber] Program.”

At the ATIBT International Forum last October, Mr de Boer presented on the ETTF’s new ITTO and STTC-backed online database, which combines business information for mainly tropical producer countries and details of their forest and timber legislation relevant to EU Timber Regulation due diligence.

The Forum also featured the ATIBT’s first Architects Workshop, aimed at developing use of tropical timber in construction.

PEFC is latest STTC partner and proposes activities

The PEFC is the latest leading timber and forestry sector organisation to join the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) as a Partner.

Now the two bodies are discussing a project aimed at freeing up trade flows to Europe of increasing volumes of certified timber coming on stream in Asia.

PEFC is one of the two leading international forestry and timber certification bodies. As of December 2015, 272 million ha of forest worldwide were PEFC certified and 17,787 timber and other forest products companies held its chain of custody certificates.

Asia is among PEFC’s principal focus areas, and it had a high profile presence, supported by regional national members, at the recent Asia-Pacific Forestry Week at Pampanga in the Philippines.  One of the discussion events it hosted focused on emerging governance mechanisms in ASEAN countries and improving the quality of infrastructure for forest sector legality and sustainability initiatives.

This links with its project proposal with the STTC, co-funded by the latter, PEFC and the private sector. The key aim is to create improved linkages between growing certified Asian timber output and the EU market.

“It focuses on addressing critical bottlenecks in Asia’s EU facing supply chains,”  says PEFC. “This will immediately enable more certified products to reach EU markets.”

Proposed activities  focus on delivering certified timber to the EU. Vietnam, Malaysia, China and India will all be targeted.

In conjunction PEFC will promote certification and certified timber availability in the EU.

Proposed key performance indicators include exposure of the activites achieved, chain of custodies issued, and EU buyer leads followed up.

New energy to drive EU sustainably sourced tropical timber market

The European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) is moving to the next stage of its programme to boost EU sales of certified tropical timber.
The new phase involves closer strategic partnership with the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF), re-energised communications and membership drives and, critically, a funding initiative to back private and public sector Action Plans and projects.

The STTC started in 2013 in response to a long-term fall in EU tropical timber sales, with its main architect, the Netherlands-based IDH-the Sustainable Trade Initiative, backed by partners from the timber sector, retail, end-use industries, government, and NGOs.

The STTC’s concern was that the EU tropical timber business decline would not only deprive end users and consumers of this valuable, versatile material, it could also potentially disincentivise tropical producers from introducing sustainable forest management practices.

The first two years saw the STTC lay its foundations with communication, promotional, business linking and technical projects.

In the current phase two, it aims to broaden its Coalition and become more proactive still. The ETTF, a founding STTC partner, has taken an oversight role, help grow membership and administer the funding programme. The latter, said Federation Secretary General André de Boer was particularly important. “Concrete procurement commitments are what creates real impact,” he said. Timber businesses, he explained, can receive match-funding for activities in the framework of an STTC Action Plan for up to 30% of the cost, or €15,000. Federations are eligible for grants up to €30,000 for developing sustainable sourcing policies. In addition, STTC partners and participants can submit project proposals with a requested STTC contribution up to €50,000 if it contributes to STTC objectives.

The new website – www.europeansttc.com –lays out STTC goals and the all-round case for using certified tropical timber. It provides technical data, tropical timber application case studies, lists STTC partners and members and explains how to join and apply for funding.

The STTC’s initial target is a 50% increase in EU certified tropical timber sales over 2013 levels by 2020.

“There’s increasing awareness that avoiding tropical timber does not ensure forest conservation,” said Mark van Benthem, Probos Senior Advisor and STTC Consultant. “And in verified sustainably sourced tropical material we’ve a great story to tell, with definitive evidence that timber is often the environmentally right choice.”

ETTF opens international trade gateway

“Supporting growth, transparency and diversification of international timber trade.” That’s the welcome line of the new Gateway to International Timber Trade, the European Timber Trade Federation’s new online timber sector legislation and industry information website.

Launched on January 7, www.timbertradeportal.com is a ‘one-stop information point’ for timber industry regulation and broad trade and business data in selected countries. Its aim is simultaneously to help international traders do business with tropical and other suppliers worldwide and ensure the trade is legal.
The industry worldwide faces increasingly strict rules to curb illegal timber trade, with the EU Timber Regulation, US Lacey Act, Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition and Japan’s Goho system most prominent. Against this background, ETTF members decided they needed a current, easy-reference tool on legislation, primarily in tropical supplier countries where legality questions are most in focus. Hence the new Gateway site.

The goal is to support importing companies in their illegality risk assessment, due diligence and due care procedures under these stringent new legality rules. Its aim is also to create a level playing field in satisfying these requirements between small and large companies.

“To meet their requirements, importers must obtain documentary evidence that suppliers are operating in accordance with national laws and regulations,” said ETTF Secretary General André de Boer. “So it’s essential they can readily access current information on those laws, and especially how they’re being translated at practical level and procedures they require. With the Gateway they can.”

At the same time, it was decided to make the new site a versatile business tool, so users can source a range of useful data in one location. It includes up to date industry figures, business, industry organisation and government contacts, and links to further information. The Gateway is supported by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) and Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) and the site was developed by Dutch forestry, plantation and certification consultancy Form international. It draws on ITTO, FAO, ITC/Tradecom and other databases and has an ‘extensive contact network of experts providing input and helping keep it up to date’.

A Review feedback facility enables visitors to comment and submit information for inclusion. Countries can also apply to be profiled. “It’s the first time timber sector information exchange has been organised and centralised on such a scale,” said Mr de Boer. “That should ultimately lead to greater supply chain transparency.”

At launch, the site offered an extended profile of Ghana and currently less detailed basic profiles of Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Guyana. By the year-end another 19, all expert reviewed, will be live and the ambition, pending support, is to grow from there. “As the data builds, it will become an ever more comprehensive, useful and practical timber trade resource,” said Mr de Boer, who presented on the Gateway at the last ITTO meeting in Japan. “We welcome initial comment, and ideas for further development.”

Tropical timbers top life cycle tests

Sustainably sourced tropical timber species out-performed competitor materials in a demanding life cycle analysis project backed by the European STTC.

Eric de Munck of Netherlands–based timber research body Centrum Hout led the trials, which pitted tropical timbers against key market rivals in the manufacture of marine application pile planking and window frames.

The pile planking life cycle analysis (LCA) project was proposed to the STTC by the Netherlands Timber Trade Association (NTTA) and other industry players due to the fact that tropical timber faces increasingly strong competition in this market from steel, PVC, plus other varieties of wood.  The research team also said that existing environmental data for the species used in this application was out-dated and unreliable.

The study, undertaken in association with the FSC Netherlands, has already generated impressive figures in favour of tropical timber in terms of cradle to grave environmental cost per square metre.

The species used were sustainably sourced African Azobé and Okan and South American Angelim vermelho. They were evaluated against two types of PVC planking – one comprising all virgin raw material, the other recycled – and steel.

The researchers chose a popular form of pile planking and applied equivalent LCA methods to all materials types.  Preliminary results showed that, over a 30-year lifespan, the environmental performance of tropical timber planking is 24 times better than virgin-material PVC and 21 times better than recycled.  Compared to steel it’s 133 times better.

The final LCA data from the research will be added to the Dutch Environmental Database and international data resources Ecoinvent and ILCD (the International Reference Life Cycle database). The results will also be publicised via the trade media, presentations to industry events and direct to tropical timber end users and specifiers.

The window frame LCA, which is being undertaken in association with the Netherlands Woodworking Industry Association, is using sustainably sourced African, Asian and South American reference wood species. The competitor materials in this case are softwood, modified softwood and PVC and initial results are expected by the end of next March.

Both studies will be completed and implemented by the end of next June, with the outcomes widely publicised.

Gateway to International Timber Trade

ETTF launches new website The website ‘Gateway to international Timber Trade’ (www.timbertradeportal.com) has been launched by the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF). International timber traders will find here a one-stop information point for forest industry information, legal timber trade, country requirements and export from timber producing countries. The overall objective is to enhance and facilitate […]