Rotterdam raises the sustainable tropical timber procurement bar

Photo: Gemeente Rotterdam, Roel Dijkstra

Next year will see further developments in Rotterdam’s sourcing and application of sustainably sourced tropical timber arising from its membership of the STTC.

Already ranked as one of the most sustainable major cities globally, according to the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index, Rotterdam signed up to the Coalition at the latter’s 2016 Conference, for which it was also the venue. The city authority has an established strategy of sourcing its own timber, which it then supplies to its contractors.

Its timber procurement policy follows the Dutch government’s Timber Procurement Assessment System (TPAS).

By becoming an STTC member, Rotterdam’s goals were both to put its procurement systems under still closer scrutiny and to help develop and drive application of sustainable tropical timber, including lesser known timber species (LKTS). The motivation was to take forward its climate policy and support spread of sustainable forest management in supplier countries.

In 2018 Probos, the institute for sustainable forestry and forest products, will monitor whether Rotterdam is hitting its target to procure 100% of its timber from sustainably managed forest. Working with city project managers, it will also audit a number of public works using tropical timber; checking that the requirement for sustainably sourced material has been included correctly in contracts and the latter then observed.

Reports from these assessments will be one focus of a subsequent workshop for project managers and experts from Rotterdam’s municipal construction department, plus possibly neighbouring urban authorities. This event will also explore how timber applications can be developed and where LKTS can be used.

Probos will present on the vital link between using sustainably sourced tropical timber and supporting and incentivising sustainable forest management. In addition,  a timber life cycle analyses (LCA) expert will share results from recent  STTC supported studies evaluating the LCA performance of sustainable tropical timber used as marine plank piling  and for pedestrian/cycle bridges versus man-made competitor materials.

Opportunities and challenges for tropical timber will be discussed, and the outcomes of the workshop will be used in drafting Rotterdam’s action plan for further development of timber sourcing and use.

Commenting on the task ahead, Rotterdam city council sustainable procurement specialist Léon Dijk said: “Using our natural resources wisely is key to sustainable procurement which means thinking carefully about what you buy and considering the social and economic impacts of each purchasing decision. Together with our suppliers, Rotterdam can drive a transition to sustainable consumption and production throughout the world.”

Boosting lesser known species’ profile

STTC-backed initiatives to evaluate the performance potential of lesser known tropical timber species (LKTS) are forging ahead.  The ultimate aim of the projects in Denmark and the Netherlands is to deliver data that can be used to market the timber worldwide in a range of applications and further incentivise sustainable forest management in the supplier countries.

In the Danish city of Aarhus, the Kulbro-View project has already done much to raise the market profile of LKTS. This comprises the construction of a viewing platform on part of the concrete framework of the old Coal Bridge, originally built to transport coal to the city centre from the harbour. The latter is now undergoing major redevelopment  and the goal is to transform the bridge into an elevated public walkway.

Initiated by FSC Denmark, the STTC-supported Kulbro-View is both a testbed for evaluating the potential of lesser-known tropical species, plus a shop window for them. In total it uses 17 species. ”We wanted to ensure that sustainability is thought into future projects and to introduce knowledge on sustainable tropical timber and flag it is as a possible way to address social and environmental challenges,” said project coordinator from FSC Denmark, Kristian Jørgensen. “We see Kulbro-View as FSC’s way to address the theme “Let’s Rethink”. What better way to do it than by building bridges to the tropical parts of the earth, ensuring income for the forest workers and using the forests sustainably. “On top of that, by using LKTS we are highlighting that, if you are open to using many different wood species, and not just the same five, tropical forest management can be even more sustainable.”

The initiative has also involved Danish timber suppliers, of which 11 joined the STTC at the 2017 STTC Conference. They form a network pledged to both support the use of sustainably sourced tropical wood through their procurement policy and further promote LKTS. With the support of the STTC, FSC Denmark is also further developing its dedicated website

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands various importers, in association with Probos and FSC-certified concession holders in Suriname are undertaking a programme of tropical LKTS laboratory and field testing, market education and promotion. It’s the latest phase of an STTC-supported project to develop trade in a broader basket of Surinamese species with the European market. Other donors include the Dutch Embassy in Paramaribo, Centre for the promotion of imports from developing countries (CBI); SKH and the importers involved.

This initiative has already included a European timber-company mission to FSC forestry operations in the South American country, which currently only exploits 5% of its forest area for timber. It is also supported by FSC Netherlands, and conservation and development body Tropenbos International.

The five Dutch importers now trialling the timber are World Timber Products, Sneek Hout, Nailtra, Houthandel Van Dam and GWW Houtimport, with their first batches of material supplied by Surinamese FSC-certified concession holders and sawmills Soekhoe & Sons and Greenheart Suriname.

Their goal is to develop a customer base for the LKTS and in so doing boost the commercial and environmental sustainability of the Suriname forestry and timber sector. Currently the latter focus on exploitation of around 20 species, with take-off estimated at just 8m3 per hectare on a 25-year cycle, making for a barely economic timber operation.

The five importers are now supporting lab tests conducted by SHR, evaluating the LKTS performance against such standards as NEN-EN 350 and TS 15083-1 and 2,  plus pilot testing in live projects. The Surinamese / northern Amazon species Pakuli (Bacuri) is one of the species selected for further lab tests, but also included in the Kulbro view project for field testing. A nice synergy between the two STTC supported projects. The other species selected for testing are: Gindya udu (Tanimbuca); Ingipipa (Tauari); Kimboto (Casca); Manbarklak; and Bostamarinde. Click here to view the first draft fact sheets.

Scientific name Surinamese name Commercial name
1) Buchenavia tetraphylla Gindya udu Tanimbuca, Fukadi
2) Couratari spp. Ingipipa Tauari
3) Pradosia ptychandra, P. surinamensis &P. schomburgkiana Kimboto Casca, Abiu, Chupon
4) Eschweilera spp. Manbarklak Manbarklak, Kakaralli
5) Platonia guianensis, P. insignis, Rheedia spp. Pakuli Pacouri

The eleven Danish companies who became STTC participants are: Keflico, Wennerth Wood Trading, Gert Skyt International, A/S Global Timber, Lund & Staun A/S, XL-BYG a.m.b.a.,Cicon Timber A/S, TRACER, STARK/DT Group, and International Timber Trading ApS.

Progress in trade federation policy plans

A marketing toolkit, a YouTube video and a dedicated website are among the first results of STTC-backed sustainable tropical timber plans being undertaken by EU national timber trade federations. In total four federations are signed up to these STTC-backed projects to develop their national markets for sustainably sourced tropical timber and assist their members in procurement and promotional strategies; those of France, Germany, Spain and Denmark.

One of the first to report on its latest action plan activities was Le Commerce du Bois of France (LCB). It has organised regional meetings with NGO´s and leading importers to discuss key sustainable tropical timber sourcing and market development initiatives. LCB has also created a sustainable tropical timber digital toolkit which it features on its website, and offers on a  USB stick. It includes a directory of French tropical importers, technical and environmental guides,  videos and information on the STTC.

The French association also approached 22 architectural schools to offer  presentations on sourcing and construction potential of sustainable tropical wood. This, however, was the least successful of its activities. “We had difficulties mobilising architects  and think this deserves  strategic reflection within the STTC and European Timber Trade Federation on how to reach out to specifiers more efficiently,” said LCB Director Eric Boilley. He added that his organisation is also now proposing presentations to vocational schools providing timber-related degrees.

In Germany,  the GD Holz federation has focused on the fact that commercialising tropical timber , albeit sustainable, is still “like a red rag to a bull for many people”. Consequently it has produced a consumer and specifier-targeted video for its YouTube channel. This highlights that “circumstances in many tropical timber producing countries have changed and the use of sustainable tropical timber has become a key factor in preserving global rainforests. It shows in a simple and entertaining way the benefits of using sustainably certified tropical wood,” stated GD Holz, which invites others to post it on their websites (the English version is at “It’s not possible to provide all the relevant information in a 100-second clip, but we will also be setting up a distinct information section at with additional facts about the positive effects of sustainable development in the use of tropical wood,” said GD Holz.

Meanwhile in Denmark, the Danish Timber Trade Federation (DTTF) has focused on “developing the base for communications about tropical timber” for its members to use in day-to-day business. “We’ve been working to elaborate and explain key messages – that sustainably sourced tropical timber is a safe and versatile material, which is readily available in the marketplace – so that members can use them consistently and repeatedly in their own communication to sell the positive story about sustainably sourced tropical timber products,” said Director Jakob Rygg Klaumann. This information toolkit is available at  It includes facts about tropical timber, and details about legal and sustainable forest management, timber properties and applications, the link between a viable market for sustainable timber and maintaining the forest and between the latter and tackling climate change. The DTTF is particularly targeting this information to retailers as key market influencers “to help them overcome negative perceptions about tropical timber among their customers”.

LCA-centred promotion

Dutch timber companies are developing a new promotional strategy for use of sustainably sourced tropical hardwood in civil works after the material scored highly in life cycle analysis projects, supported by the STTC.

The LCA study on marine pile planking was coordinated by Netherlands Timber Trade Association’s (NTTA) Centrum Hout operation, with additional backing from FSC Netherlands. The LCA itself was performed by Ernst &Young Climate Change and Sustainability Services (EY CaS), and independently verified by the LCA department at Stichting Houtresearch (SHR)

This compared performance of sustainably sourced timber marine pile planking versus plastic alternatives. The sustainably sourced tropical wood came out the best in carbon performance and overall environmental impact .

Similar results came out of a Dutch government-commissioned LCA project, evaluating the use of sustainably sourced tropical timber, concrete, steel and reinforced composites in cycle bridges.

Subsequently a group of 12 NTTA member companies plan to use these outcomes in a programme of sustainable tropical timber promotion. The new campaign will target civil engineers, and address sustainable tropical timber’s environmental benefits in relation to climate change mitigation, renewability and low environmental impacts. It will also highlight its technical, design and maintenance performance.

Click here for more information on the LCA´s mentioned and to learn more about the environmental benefits of growing and using wood.

Seismic shifts in hardwood consumption

Consumption and trade patterns in the global hardwood market are undergoing significant shifts, according to keynote speakers at the 2017 International Hardwood Conference. The event, held in Venice in November, drew an international audience of 150, with presentations delivered by a panel of experts from around the world addressing everything from regional trade developments to branding legal and sustainable tropical timber.

Analyst Rupert Oliver of Forest Industries Intelligence said that global hardwood export  and import statistics were in balance in 2017 at US$35 billion, underlining ongoing lack of market value growth in the sector. However, underlying this was a significant shift in consumption, with the key trend being China’s soaring consumption.  In 2016 its hardwood log imports (temperate and tropical) rose to 15.4 million tonnes, 1.1 million more than in 2015. At the same time its hardwood  lumber imports were up 12.5% at 9 million tonnes.

Researcher Davide Pettenella of Padua University reported on an interesting study, asking whether market legality controls were creating a dual market for primary tropical timber products. This compared trade trends in EU states, the USA and Australia, representing developed countries with strict timber market legality regulation, and China, Vietnam and India, representing emerging consumers with lighter controls.  This highlighted import swings towards the latter. In 2001 of all tropical timber imported by these countries, the developed economies accounted for 63% and 72% by volume and value, the emerging countries 37% and 28%.  Today the respective division is 44% and 47%  and 56% and 53%.

However, while legality controls may be implicated in this trend, Mr Pettenella cautioned against assuming direct cause and effect. He said increasing intra-regional trading growth was as, if not more significant. “It’s a phenomenon which should concern policy makers,” said Mr Pettenella. “In 1990, there were just 20 intra-regional trade agreements. Today there are 283.”

This development, said analyst Pierre Desclos, would be reinforced by population growth. Citing Africa as an example, he said the continent, which has 15% of the world’s forests, would account for a third of global population by the end of the century. Consequently it would consume a growing proportion of its own timber within the African region, leaving less for export.  This would necessitate the global trade focusing increasingly on supply, yield and logistics.

Delegates also heard from the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT) about its new branding initiative for legal and sustainable tropical timber, Fair & Precious.  This, explained the organisation’s Managing Director Benoît Jobbé-Duval,  was designed to enable the sustainable tropical timber trade to take back control of messaging and agenda setting in its sector and the wider marketplace.

Marketing Programme Coordinator Christine Le Paire explained that companies along the supply chain could use Fair & Precious branding in their own publicity, provided they supplied and traded in verified sustainably and legally sourced tropical timber. “It is effectively an umbrella brand covering all credible sustainable certification and verification schemes, such as FSC, PEFC and PAFC in Africa,” she said.  “Overall the Fair & Precious message is that a viable sustainable tropical timber sector has environmental, social and economic benefits.”

Counting the cost of uncertified

A new environmental impact calculator has been developed by FSC Netherlands and global business consultancy EY (Ernst & Young) to help users evaluate the impacts of using FSC-certified versus non-certified timber.

The online FSC Impact Calculator ( requires users to key in a timber species name and the quantity used. It then calculates the value in €/m3 of net CO2 emissions and loss of biodiversity avoided if FSC-certified timber is used rather than non-certified, based on the eco-costs model developed at the Delft University of Technology.

Currently focused on 27 tropical species, the approach assumes that harvesting FSC-certified timber causes negligible biodiversity loss and also that the net emission of carbon is zero as the FSC certified forests’ ability to regenerate naturally is not compromised.  At the same time it assumes the worst case scenario that uncertified timber from unknown origin is replaced by agricultural crops, resulting in the loss of all previous biodiversity and release of all carbon stored in the original forest.  The end values expressed are the additional costs that would be incurred by society to maintain environmental impacts at a sustainable level if uncertified timber is used.

FSC Netherlands has used the calculator on real life hardwood applications. For instance, in a 547-property renovation project, the Ymere housing corporation used 365m3 of FSC-certified mahogany. This, according to the FSC tool, avoided environmental costs compared with using uncertified timber totalling €570,000.

The calculator also assessed that if a typical small cycle bridge being renovated in the Netherlands, averaging 2.5m3 of timber, used FSC azobe, the maximum environmental costs avoided would amount to €11,000 for each bridge.

“By showing the benefits of choosing FSC certified tropical wood, FSC can increase the market share of certified tropical wood while helping to reduce the negative impacts of non-certified wood,” said EY. “Using the tool for specific construction projects in the Netherlands has revealed that using FSC certified tropical hardwoods avoids natural capital depletion with a value of approximately 20% of the direct project costs.”

The tool additionally highlights the social value of using certified sustainable timber in terms of ensuring workers’ rights, social and health services and rights of indigenous peoples. It also stresses forests are home to 300 million people worldwide, while 1.6 billion depend on them forests for their livelihood.




EU FLEGT initiative and sustainability

The EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT VPA) and FLEGT Licensing initiatives are best known for their focus on timber legality assurance and verification. Now, however, the European FLEGT Facility has highlighted the sustainability aspects of the wider EU FLEGT programme.

In the Facility’s article, which features in the FLEGT Independent Market Monitor’s just launched newsletter (, it stresses that FLEGT licences are not a claim to sustainability. But the piece, headlined ‘Beyond Legality’ says that  licensing of  timber and wood products exports to the EU, which Indonesia was the first FLEGT VPA signatory to start doing a year ago, is underpinned by policy reforms and sectoral improvements which help ensure forests support economic growth and poverty reduction and contribute towards sustainability.

“The process [behind licensing] has positive impacts on democracy, justice, jobs, welfare, security, climate change and biodiversity,” states the article.

Under the EU FLEGT initiative, countries sign a VPA, undertaking to establish a comprehensive legality assurance framework from forest to export despatch. Once implemented to the satisfaction of EU and signatory country government, the latter’s authorities can then issue exports to the EU with FLEGT licences. This grants them exemption from further due diligence under the EU Timber Regulation. To date all FLEGT VPA engaged supplier countries are tropical.

The FLEGT Facility says FLEGT licences “attest to compliance with laws related not only to forest management, biodiversity conservation and harvesting, but also to processing, transport and trade, covering aspects such as workers’ rights, fee payment and impacts of forestry operations on local communities or indigenous peoples”.

Licensing, it maintains, also “supports all three pillars of sustainability”; that forests are managed in line with legal requirements, including those on forest management and biodiversity conservation; where tenure rights and use-rights may be affected by harvesting, the initiative verifies respect for those rights; and in guaranteeing stakeholder participation in defining legal requirements for sustainable forest management it ensures these are comprehensive.

Multi-stakeholder processes established under a FLEGT VPA, says the FLEGT Facility, also address legal and policy reform needed to overcome governance challenges that are a barrier to countrywide sustainability. “In so doing, they create the foundations from for addressing drivers of deforestation and promoting sustainable forest management,” the article states, adding that the process also engages civil society organisations in monitoring their countries’ FLEGT programme.

Besides the latter, FLEGT licensing also entails official auditing of the supply chain, and monitoring by EU and supplier country authorities, bringing “unprecedented scrutiny [to bear] on the forest industry”.

“The EU and FLEGT licensing partner country commit in their VPA to monitor social, economic and environmental impacts of the agreement and to mitigate adverse effects on groups [such as] indigenous people and local communities,” states the FLEGT Facility.

In an interview with the European Timber Trade Federation Newsletter (, European Commission Director General for the Environment Daniel Calleja Crespo has also stressed the importance of communicating that FLEGT licensing is about more than verifying timber legality and granting a green lane through the EU Timber Regulation. Read the full article here.

IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, has also produced a study on the EU FLEGT initiative as a basis for certified sustainable forest management:


Highlight EU FLEGT VPAs wider impacts, urges EC Director

European Commission Director General for the Environment Daniel Calleja Crespo has stressed the importance of communicating that FLEGT licensing is about more than verifying timber legality and granting a green lane through the EU Timber Regulation.

In an interview with the European Timber Trade Federation Newsletter (, Mr Calleja Crespo said that the first year of FLEGT licensing its exports to the EU by Indonesia, the first country to start licensing, had been a success. In total it had issued around 36,000 licences on timber and wood product valued at €1.1 billion.

However, he added, that “for too long communication about FLEGT licensing has been framed around how it facilitates trade through compliance with legality requirements, such as the EUTR”.

FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements with supplier countries, he said, have also been instrumental in supporting establishment of national processes leading to timber and forestry sector policy reforms, participatory decision-making, better law enforcement and increased transparency.

“This contributes not just to better forest protection, but also protection of the rights of individuals, local communities and indigenous peoples,” said Mr Calleja Crespo.

Looking forward, the Director General said the EU FLEGT VPA and licensing programme may need to both support existing participant countries through the process and encourage more to join, although he highlighted that the former already account for 80% of the EU’s tropical imports.

He also said the EU may consider redirecting investment in  countries where VPA negotiations are not advancing to ‘where it’s needed most’.

The ETTF newsletter, published to mark the anniversary of Indonesia’s start of FLEGT licensing, also included a report on the country’s willingness to share its expertise and experience through its VPA and licensing launch processes. This, it said, was going on with a number of other VPA countries at private and public sector and CSO levels.

As part of the EU’s commitments to evaluate market impacts of  FLEGT licensing and the EU FLEGT VPA initiative the FLEGT Independent Market Monitor Project (IMM) has also launched its first newsletter and website ( The IMM’s role is to monitor trade flows from FLEGT licensing and VPA countries and to gauge trade response to EU FLEGT initiative both in the latter and in the EU trade.  Surveys of the latter have already been undertaken in the seven leading tropical timber importing EU countries by IMM correspondents. Importers and traders are largely supportive of the FLEGT initiative, although highlight the need for more market communication about it and for more VPA countries to reach FLEGT licensing stage.




New tropical brand unveiled

A new tropical timber branding initiative is being launched by the ATIBT (International Tropical Timber Technical Association) focused on encouraging ‘qualitative and participatory’ consumption that is ‘respectful of mankind and the environment’.

The promotional campaign will focus on the brand ‘Fair & Precious’, which will be available for use by companies which “affirm their adherence to strict environmental standards and allocate significant budgets to ensure compliance as verified by audits conducted by independent bodies”.

These, at least initially, will be ATIBT’s core African tropical timber producer members, and their customers among timber processors, traders and distributors in Europe and around the world.

It’s hoped that businesses that will use and promote the brand will include public and private sector tropical timber procurers, specifiers, retailers and end-users large and small.

As well as the importance of sustainable procurement and the environment, a strong focus of the campaign will also be on social and corporate responsibility.

“Fair & Precious companies will participate in solidarity-based economic and social growth that is conducive to the well-being of people living in [tropical timber] production areas, providing them services such as education, health care and housing,” states the ATIBT.

“The brand will be administered from France, where ATIBT is based, but it is intended to be a European and even global promotional initiative,” said ATIBT Marketing Programme Coordinator Christine Le Paire. “Besides companies in African countries and France, our members include   Dutch, German, Spanish, Italian, English, and American companies.”

Fair & Precious will be officially launched on November 8 by ATIBT President Robert Hunink at Paris’s Garden of Tropical Agriculture in Nogent-sur-Marne.

For more:

STTC Participant in the picture: City of Madrid’s year of sustainable tropical timber action

A wide range of projects are underway in Madrid as part of the city’s European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition Action Plan.

The multi-faceted initiative is targeting the range of citizens, from timber suppliers and procurers, to school students. It is also including everything from online informational campaigns, literature and presentations, to tropical timber posters and brochures.

On signing up to the plan, the Madrid City Council Municipal Consumption Institute said that it aligned with the Spanish capital’s long-term commitment to minimise environmental impact and encourage responsible consumption. It has been an accredited Fair Trade City since 2011 and was one of the first cities to back the STTC on its launch in 2013.

More recently, Madrid’s drive for sustainability has stepped up again.

“The city is facing a new era with a new municipal government even more involved in these matters,” said the council in its Action Plan proposal. “It has led to Madrid becoming an example for other Spanish cities thanks to its capacity to raise public awareness and develop new initiatives for responsible consumption.”

As part of its broader civic Sustainable Consumption Plan, running to 2019, Madrid has launched an open access sustainable consumption website with information and links. Under the STTC Action Plan this will now include a section on sustainable tropical timber procurement, with articles, brochures and a diary of Action Plan Events.

Another project is the creation of ‘good practice files’, detailing sustainable tropical timber procurement best practice, for inclusion on the municipal website

Educational sustainable consumption workshops will also take place in schools in the final term of the year, targeting children and teenagers from five to 16. Offered to 345 schools, these will cover the environmental benefits of using sustainable tropical timber and responsible consumption of timber more generally.

Madrid is also set to host the fourth national meeting of Fair Trade Cities on October 26, including a presentation on tropical timber sustainability issues by Iván Bermejo Barbier of responsible trade NGO Copade.

Moreover, the latter has collaborated with the city in producing a special brochure for dissemination at municipal events detailing STTC activities. This includes sections on the role of sustainable tropical timber application in helping meet Sustainable Development Goals and life cycle assessment research supported by the STTC.

A sustainable tropical timber bus shelter poster campaign will also run in November and tropical timber events are planned for Madrid’s ‘emblematic new public space’ dedicated to promoting ‘responsible consumption in a social economy’. This is set to open in January 2018.