SVLK/FSC differentiation is needed, says Biomaderas

Photo: Biomaderas

Importer and STTC member Biomaderas found suppliers in Indonesia keen to know the market health and level of interest in sustainable tropical timber in Europe on a trip to the country. But the company’s Christian Körting was also concerned at the number of Indonesian companies substituting FSC-certified timber and wood products with FLEGT-licensed / SVLK-accredited material. He also maintains that more European market education about sustainable tropical timber is needed.

German-based Biomaderas sells principally in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and imports from Vietnam, Peru, Bolivia and Columbia, where it has a small team coordinating procurement, as well as Indonesia.

Mr Körting was in the latter to attend the workshop ‘Boosting international trade in certified wood products from Indonesia’, jointly organised by FSC, the Borneo Initiative and Indonesian legal association APHI. He also visited FSC-certified suppliers and met more at the Jakarta IFEX exhibition.

“I found some suppliers were thinking of not renewing their FSC certification because of the availability of the SVLK [legality assured] certificate,” said Mr Körting. “So it’s very important for them to know that there is an interest in Europe in sustainable products and that they can do better by marketing the fact that they’re certified.” Biomaderas products are now 80% FSC- and 20% SVLK-certified.

“We’d like to have only certified products in our portfolio but it’s getting harder to find them because of either availability, pricing or quality,” said Mr Körting. “But we’re in contact with several organizations, which promote the use of sustainable tropical timber and encourage certification in Indonesia, including   The Borneo Initiative.”

He does not feel that the SVLK, which is the timber legality assurance system underpinning FLEGT certification, was a serious threat to FSC or PEFC certification overall. “But to co-exist successfully, more needs to be done to differentiate the schemes, including through education by the FSC and PEFC themselves, as some companies are marketing FLEGT licensing and EUTR compliance as a direct replacement for certification,” said Mr Körting.

Biomaderas sees a role for European business in this area too. “For example, we’ve been able to reach a lot of final customers through our online shop and inform them about the sustainable tropical timber,” said Mr Körting.

Going forward, he added, still more also needs to be done through such channels as the STTC to educate the European customer about the availability of verified sustainable tropical timber. That in turn will lead to market growth, increasing interest in tropical countries to supply the market and underpinning sustainable forest management. “If the final customer asks for verified sustainable tropical timber products the market will automatically try to fulfil their needs. If they aren’t well informed they’ll keep buying wood plastic composites, thinking they’re helping preserve the rainforest by not buying tropical forest products.”



Raising tropical sustainable timber profile an urgent task

Photo: Mark van Benthem, Probos

Reports on problems faced by European forest concession operators in Central and West Africa further underline the importance of efforts, including those of the STTC, to grow and diversify Europe’s market for sustainable tropical timber.

The 1-15 August edition of the International Tropical Timber Organisation’s  Timber Trade Market Report cites several developments as evidence of weakening European presence in the African timber sector.  These include the administrative receivership of France-based Rougier and subsequent sale of its Cameroon and Central African  Republic operations, Dutch-based Wijma’s disposal of four out of five of its Cameroon concessions and Italy-based Cora’s sale of a Gabon concession.

Immediate reasons for Europeans downsizing African operations, states the ITTO, include logistical issues at the Cameroon port of Douala and slow repayment by African governments of VAT on timber exports.  But longer-term structural market shifts are also involved.

“While these problems impact all operators, they’ve fallen particularly heavily on European-owned companies because of declining European consumption of tropical timber and low profitability of certified sustainable timber operations, which receive little or no market premium for higher operating costs,” says the report.

The decline in European tropical timber sales is attributed to continuing poor consumer environmental perceptions, declining availability of Europe’s most popular African species and growth in competition, including from engineered and modified wood and composites.

Overall latest data from the EU FLEGT Independent Market Monitor shows Europe’s share of African timber exports falling in the decade to 2017 from 49% to 21%. At the same time the proportion taken by China, which accepts a broader range of species and grades, rose from 25% to 57%. Moreover the report says that some anticipate a boost to Chinese African imports following its imposition of a 25% tariff on US hardwoods.

The ITTO quotes a blog by Alain Karsenty, CIRAD Research Director in which he describes these developments as part of a trend of structural change in the African timber industry, as “operations are reoriented away from Europe towards Asian markets”.  He is also cited by Mongabay pointing out that no Asian operator had yet ‘sought to become FSC-certified’

However, the ITTO report says that the long term potential of an African timber business model based on certification should not be dismissed out of hand. It highlights efforts to ‘bolster awareness of the benefits of sustainable tropical timber’, such as the ATIBT’s ‘Fair & Precious’ brand marketing campaign and the work of the STTC. The latter said the report, was communicating the economic, social and environmental benefits of certified tropical forest operations. “STTC is also working to expand the European market for certified tropical forest products by developing pan-industry partnerships, promotion of lesser known tropical species, and provision of technical advice,” it stated.

The report also points out that there has been some recovery in solid tropical wood consumption in the EU and that the FSC and PEFC had increased the appeal of their certification schemes by aligning chain of custody and legal conformance standards to EUTR. PAFC Gabon had also awarded its first certificate, potentially paving the way for lower cost African certification models.









Totally tropical construction

Photo: Natrufied Architecture

Netherlands-based Natrufied Architects continues its striking use of tropical timber, not only for specific elements of projects, but for entire structures.

Among the company’s latest designs is Bosvilla, or ‘forest house’.

This imposing private home with its dramatic upward V-shaped roof is based on an iroko glulam structure. It features jatoba for its window frames, afrormosia for the ceiling and cumaru for exterior wall cladding. “It also uses afzelia as exterior decking and inside flooring,” said Natrufied founder Boris Zeisser. “And that’s to name just a few hardwoods in the house.”

The practice has also not long completed a 1500-pupil school in Breda which mixes jatoba and loura gamela in exterior cladding. “And projects underway include a beach pavilion in Bergen aan Zee in iroko and houses in Texel with cumaru cladding,” said Mr Zeisser.

Natrufied uses third party sustainably certified wood only, but insists that using the timber incentivises spread of sustainable forest management, while abandoning it for alternatives can help lead to conversion of tropical forest land to such uses as oil palm plantation and cattle ranching.

“That’s how I explain to clients and students why using sustainable tropical wood can be among the most environmentally positive ways of building,” he said. “It can help ensure we have tropical forests, rather than just fields of cows!”

Focus on EU FLEGT feedback at Berlin IMM consultation

Photo: IMM

The third EU FLEGT Independent Market Monitor Trade Consultation of 2018 takes place in Berlin on November 16 and the stress will be on delegate participation and exchange.

The free event is being held with the support of the German timber trade federation GD Holz and runs from 10am to 2.30pm at Berlin’s Verbändehaus.

IMM Trade Consultations communicate latest findings from the organisation’s monitoring of EU trade flows and market impacts of FLEGT-licensed timber products from Indonesia and goods from other FLEGT VPA-engaged countries. They also allow EU stakeholders to share their perspectives and give their suggestions for the development of the EU FLEGT VPA project.

The first took place at London’s Building Centre with the support of the UK Timber Trade Federation, the second in Nantes in conjunction with the Carrefour International du Bois exhibition and in association with the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT). Delegates attended from across import, end-user and specifier sectors.

Responding to feedback from the first two events, the Berlin Consultation will place an even stronger emphasis on workshops. These will focus on three themes, with delegates able to attend all sessions.

  • Trends in the European tropical timber sector.
  • Recognising priorities and purchase dynamics for tropical wood products, including the impact of FLEGT licences.
  • FLEGT and “sustainability” – European timber procurement policies/sustainable timber definitions and their recognition of FLEGT.

The final programme and speaker line-up will be on the IMM website soon (

To register click here and for more information contact IMM Lead Consultant Sarah Storck at

Roadmap sets new directions for STTC

Nienke Stam (IDH)

Several key destinations are plotted out in the latest ‘roadmap’ for taking the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) forward from 2018 to 2020.

These include generating more and more reliable data for the European verified sustainable tropical timber market and developing pan-industry partnerships for its mission to grow that market and incentivise the spread of sustainable tropical forest management to supply it. The goal is also to strengthen industry investment in and ownership of the STTC to make it  increasingly self-sustaining.

The STTC roadmap has developed through consultation with members and partners and grew out of discussions at its successful 2017 annual conference in Aarhus. At the same meeting IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative also announced extension of its support for the STTC to 2020.

The goal for market monitoring is to produce annual reports on European market share of certified sustainable, verified legal and FLEGT-licensed tropical timber.   The aim is also to include secondary processed timber products, growing volumes of which not covered by the EUTR are reported entering the EU market from China and India.

Data collection and analysis partnerships with bodies including certification scheme owners, trade federations, the IMM, ITTO and FAO will also be explored, as will membership fees and project co-funding with private sector and other partners.

An STTC Technical Committee, including representatives of the FSC, PEFC, ATIBT, the ETTF and key national federations, is also being formed. This will have a range of oversight, communication and strategy formulation roles to facilitate the STTC becoming a ‘platform for shared ambition and agenda setting for key private sector stakeholders promoting sustainability’.

Additionally an STTC Political Committee, comprising government, civil society and market research representation will inform and comment on the annual report and advise follow-up action.

The STTC aims to step up lobbying of European governments,  and disseminate communication tools, technical research and other information to partners. It will also focus on clarification of FLEGT licensed timber’s status relative to verified sustainable material.

In addition the STTC will continue to raise awareness on key topics via its annual conference, website and newsletters.

Using data to drive tropical market share

Renovation sea dyke Oostende (photo: Gebroeders van Huele NV)

Reliable data is today the key to unlocking market share in any business, and the market for verified sustainable timber is no exception.

That is the stepping off point for this year’s annual European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition Conference in Paris on October 25, which is why it takes market intelligence, its collection and analysis as its core theme.

The premise is that good data helps identify the best market areas and segments to target efforts to grow share and has the potential to increase overall transparency and trust in tropical timber. But while there is general agreement that the European timber sector’s shift to sustainability must be data driven, it is also widely acknowledged that it does not currently  have the high quality intelligence needed to determine actions required to generate market momentum.

To address this, the STTC Conference will gather speakers and delegates from trade federations, government, and NGOs. Presentations will tackle approaches for using data in support of verified sustainable tropical timber. Speakers will also address data gathering best practice and establishing cooperation in this field with market partners.

Additionally there will be updates on the STTC, the impact of its activities so far and future plans.

The event, which will link to the ATIBT’s celebration at the same venue on October 24, is also billed as a valuable opportunity to network with buyers, suppliers and specifiers from across Europe.

The last STTC Conference in Aarhus took focused on marketing and promotion under the title Sustainable Tropical Timber  – Selling a positive story and drew positive comments from delegates.

“The exchanges that took place, facilitated by an excellent moderator, produced a great convergence of ideas on marketing and highlighted the need to put in place a real tropical timber sector action plan,” said Benoît Jobbé-Duval, managing director of the ATIBT, which will be marking the anniversary of its Fair&Precious tropical timber branding campaign at the time of its own and the STTC’s 2018 Conference.

“It was a great experience and I took back a marketing motto from one of the workshops ‘Purchase-2-Protect’.  It’s so relevant as as we need to convey more and more the message of how important it is to buy tropical timber to protect forests on a long-term basis,” said Ulrich Grauert, Interholco AG CEO.

The 2018 STTC Conference takes place at the Paris Botanical Gardens. For more and to register online go to



European sustainable sourcing pledge could benefit huge forest area

If Europe’s seven leading tropical timber importing countries committed to 100% sustainable sourcing, it could enhance the sustainable management of over 5 million ha of tropical forest needed to supply the material.

This is one of the headline findings of a new report commissioned for the STTC by IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative from forest and timber sector not-for-profit consultancy Probos.

How Sustainable are Europe’s Tropical Timber Imports?’ looks at trends in primary tropical timber supply to key European markets and current levels of certified sustainable sourcing. It also mentions the possibility of a government pledge to the latter. Its model for such a commitment is the Amsterdam Declaration. Under this seven countries (Germany, France, the UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy and Norway) agreed initially to sustainable sourcing of palm oil, then widened their focus to other ‘deforestation commodities’, palm oil, soya and cocoa.

“To date, timber has not come under a ‘deforestation-free’ supply chain initiatives such as the Amsterdam Declaration, possibly because of the significant decline in timber sales to Europe in the years of the economic crisis and the complexity of the timber supply chain,” says Nienke Stam of IDH’s Tropical Timber program. “But, if we’re serious about halting tropical deforestation, strengthened demand for timber from sustainable forest management is part of the solution.”

Despite recent market contraction, the report contends, national commitments to 100% sustainable tropical timber sourcing by key importers would still have significant beneficial impact in tropical forests.

Currently, Probos estimates, just 30% of European primary tropical timber sales are sustainably sourced. So, it maintains there is considerable scope for increasing sustainable timber’s market share, even in countries like the UK and Netherlands with significant levels of environmental awareness and commitment on sustainability issues.

At the same time, says the report, tropical forestry operators at present ‘have limited market incentives to continue sustainable operations’, while, ´competition from mainly Asian markets, not committed to these sustainability standards is fierce´.

It is estimated that the Amsterdam Declaration countries, plus Belgium account for 81% of all European tropical timber imports. If all these  committed to sustainable sourcing, Probos calculates that ‘it would have a positive impact on approximately 5.3 million ha of tropical forests’.

To take this project forward, the report concludes, European governments should focus more on increasing verified sustainable timber market share. It maintains that more reliable data is also required on the market, pointing out that the STTC is forging a new partnership to provide this.

“Our experience in the Netherlands tells us that accurate market intelligence is key to know which market to target for measures to increase sustainability to be effective”, says Mark van Benthem of Probos. “These market figures can now be linked to an area of tropical forest which is positively impacted by the choices we make in Europe. This should give a strong boost to our message: sustaining forests, support sustainably sourced timber.”

Key tropical events at Carrefour

Mike Jeffree

This year’s Carrefour International du Bois (CIB) in Nantes at the end of May featured key events for the tropical timber sector.

The show was the acclaimed by the organisers as the biggest and busiest CIB to date, with 11,500 visitors and 560 stands and 29% of the former and 38% of the latter from outside France. This, they said, reinforced its status as an international industry forum, something further underlined by the busy conference programme, which featured STTC relevant topics and partners.

One show event was the EU FLEGT Independent Market Monitor (IMM) Trade Consultation. The IMM’s role is to monitor EU market trade flows from supplier countries (all tropical) signed up to the FLEGT IMM Voluntary Partnership Agreements, including FLEGT-licensed timber from Indonesia. It also gauges market perceptions of the VPA initiative and FLEGT licensing in the market.

Delegates at the Consultation included importers and traders from the CIB, plus representatives of French government, the French Competent Authority, trade federations from France and abroad and NGOs.

There were presentations on FLEGT market trade flows, sustainable forest management certification in Indonesia and IMM activities in 2018. The latter include publication of an in-depth survey on FLEGT and FLEGT licensing conducted by its correspondents in seven leading EU importing countries, Indonesia and Ghana. It also plans a study of timber promotional campaigns and their acknowledgement of FLEGT, plus a follow up market study.

Breakout workshop groups at the event also gave delegates a chance to discuss key market issues.

The Consultation additionally included a presentation from STTC key partner the ATIBT on its Fair&Precious verified sustainable tropical timber branding campaign ( Launched last November, this is designed to highlight the availability and potential of sustainable tropical timber, including lesser known species, also, of course, a focus of the STTC.

The ATIBT initiative allows companies along the supply chain to use its brand, provided they commit to highest environmental, social and ethical standards, including sourcing certified sustainable material. Brand users are also subject to regular, third-party audit.

Another CIB tropical timber event also centred on marketing.  The FSC’s Approach to Developing Markets featured presentations on targeting key FSC markets and making the most of the FSC brand.

Jointly organised by FSC France and Netherlands, it also included a look at the FSC’s role in developing markets for lesser known species from Ben Romein of FSC Netherlands and Gijsbert Burgman of STTC partner Wijma, referring to STTC supported projects of tropical timber consortia in the Netherlands, Denmark and the LKTS Suriname project.

SFM certification behind FLEGT licensing needs more scrutiny

Photo: Andy Roby

FLEGT licensed timber from Indonesia is more widely backed by sustainable forestry management certification than is commonly known. But more detail and analysis of the biggest scheme, the national PHPL programme, especially relative to the FSC and PEFC schemes, is needed by the international marketplace to understand its operation and criteria more clearly.

That was the message of presentations at the EU FLEGT Independent Market Monitor’s Trade Consultations in London and Nantes in March and June.

The presentation was delivered to the public and private sector audience at the events by IMM German correspondent Gunther Hentschel and Trade Analyst Rupert Oliver.

They reported that a total of 3 million ha of Indonesian forest is FSC-certified, with a further 2.8 million meeting its controlled wood standard. The national PEFC-endorsed IFCC scheme covers 3.6 million ha, while the Ministry of Industry-initiated LEI programme, based on ITTO sustainable forest management criteria, covers 2.6 million ha.

However the PHPL scheme, which is little known in the global timber trade, covers 10.9 million ha of natural forest and 5.7 million ha of plantation, with plans to raise the total to between 22 and 23 million ha. It is also obligatory under Indonesia’s SVLK timber legality assurance system and FLEGT VPA for  wood exports to be either accredited under the SVLK’s own forestry legality standard or PHPL. On this basis, it was estimated, PHPL certification backed up to two thirds of FLEGT-licensed exports

But said the IMM speakers, while the PHPL scheme is comparable with FSC and PEFC in some areas, it lacks a traceability element and a cut-off point in time for certifying conversion forest.

They concluded that the PHPL needed to be better communicated and that gap analysis between it and FSC and PEFC schemes should be undertaken.

They also stated that Indonesian sustainable forestry management certification does not seem to have slowed down since FLEGT licensing was introduced in 2016. In fact the IFCC scheme has doubled in coverage in that time.


STTC into 2018 with ambition to expand mandate

The European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) has announced new proposals for taking its mission to grow the European market for sustainably sourced tropical wood forward into 2018 and beyond. And it is urging supporters to come forward with further input on its development.

It has also been announced that STTC has been given renewed backing by its chief funder to date IDH, the Dutch-based international sustainable trade and business convener and facilitator, dependant on its change of strategy.

IDH had planned to rein back its support at the end of 2018, but decided to continue due to the ‘clear appetite and energy of delegates at the STTC conference in Aarhus last September to develop the organisation’. At the same time, it said, a new approach was needed to achieve the Coalition’s ambitious target of 50% of EU tropical timber sales being sustainably sourced by 2020.

“A different modus operandi is required,” said IDH Program Officer Nienke Sleurink.  “The multiple smaller Action Plan projects in different countries supported to date are not sufficient to achieve the STTC’s goal. We’ve consulted with some key players in the European tropical timber market, and the consensus was that a more concerted approach and greater focus are needed.”

Initial recommendations from this consultation were that the STTC needed to concentrate on:

  • Gathering market data to evaluate how much of the European tropical timber market is sustainable.
  • Facilitating networking among supporters and associated organisations for shared target and agenda setting.
  • Lobbying and advocacy for these targets and agendas
  • Communicating factual information to promote sustainable tropical timber.
  • Disseminating tropical timber technical information, such as life cycle analysis data.
  • Communication and marketing.

In this second phase of the STTC to 2020, IDH will fund the secretariat, networking events and a data monitoring report. It will not back further Action Plans or marketing activity, although says it would support collaboration on marketing initiatives provided there was other funding.

Overall, the aim is to make the STTC more data driven, including through development of a sustainable tropical timber monitoring report for the EU.

With timber market data at a European level limited, a key task for STTC will be to determine how to gather the data and which partners to work with. The recommendation is also that it should focus on finished tropical timber products as well as the raw material.

“IDH has already explored collaboration on data gathering with other relevant parties,” said Ms Sleurink. “And STTC participants consulted also agree on the importance of having improved sustainably sourced tropical timber market share data and information for promotion and lobbying and said they’d contribute to improving market data availability.” To assist the process, she added, IDH would share its experience in publishing market data on palm oil and soy.

To achieve the STTC’s change of modus operandi, a new governance system is also being set up. The input of all players in the sector on this is welcomed, with the goal of ‘developing the Coalition into a platform owned by the tropical timber sector’.

To contribute to the consultation process contact Ms Sleurink at