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

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.