Following the path to verified sustainable tropical timber

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

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

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

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

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

Core topics will be:

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

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

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

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

Exploring pathways to verified sustainable tropical timber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STTC and Fair & Precious talk cooperation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federations commit to build on STTC communication projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Partners develop new insights into sustainable tropical timber trade

The STTC-backed study of sustainable tropical timber flows into the EU, the follow-on from its 2018 report, ‘How Sustainable are Europe’s Tropical Timber Imports?’, has started its data-analysis process.

First presented at the STTC’s Conference last October, the EU Sustainable Tropical Timber Data Partner project involves a consortium of bodies experienced in monitoring the sector. It promises new insights into the trade with a goal of greater transparency and more accurate data to aid EU sustainable tropical timber market analysis and also better targeting of development initiatives.

The undertaking is led by the Global Timber Forum (GTF), the international network of associations and timber sector stakeholders, with Netherlands-based forest and timber sustainability advisors and analysts Probos as lead technical partner. It also has the support of the FLEGT Independent Market Monitor project (IMM).

Since its launch last year, the project’s partners have obtained the latest COMEXT trade data for the year 2018 and “cleaned” it to ensure that it is as accurate as possible as a starting point for further analysis. To enhance the process the team have collected data through international databases for tropical countries producing timber and assessed the forest area under each forest management function, for example if they are production or conservation areas. It has also collated data for the FSC and PEFC certified natural forest area in tropical countries, plus their FSC Controlled Wood areas and are working on their production volumes. Analysis of these factors will allow a refinement of the estimates of certified wood for the final report.

Further outreach will continue in the next quarter, with the report due to be published in June.

Strong welcome for EU deforestation action

Photo: Mark van Benthem, Probos

EU proposals for new measures to combat tropical deforestation, and particularly to control forest conversion to agriculture have been backed by the timber sector, NGOs and other stakeholders. Some actually urge it to go further than the steps put forward.

An EU roadmap, ‘Deforestation and forest degradation – stepping up EU action’, was put out for feedback at the start of the year. The goal, it stated, was to develop ‘an integrated EU approach to combat deforestation, protect forests and promote sustainable supply chains’.

“Deforestation is a major global problem, leading to biodiversity loss, climate change and poverty,” said the roadmap summary. “The causes are many and complex, though increased production of commodities, such as soy, beef, palm oil, coffee, and cocoa, drives almost 80% of all deforestation.”

Possible EU actions include building partnerships with producer countries to support uptake of sustainable agriculture and forestry and reduce pressure on forests. Another goal is to back creation of sustainable and transparent supply chains for sustainably produced commodities.

New partnerships with other major consumer countries are proposed, plus steps to better implement and communicate existing EU actions on deforestation.

Responding to consultation on the Roadmap, which closed in January, Netherlands timber sector research and communications hub Centrum Hout backed EU proposals. “Our efforts to support sustainable forest management should not be frustrated by import of [other] forest risk commodities that cause deforestation,” it stated. “It would also be very helpful to have policies and tools that not only stop deforestation and forest degradation, but support sustainable forest management.”

John Hontelez for the Forest Stewardship Council urged two actions from the EU. The first was to put pressure on EU importing companies to work with credible certification schemes that incorporate robust environmental and social requirements and have effective verification tools. “This pressure can start with public procurement requirements,” he said. The FSC also recommended fiscal incentives for adoption of certification, including via harvesting, concession or export fees, or VAT.

In response to the wider consultation from January through February on EU proposals, the WWF said current EU anti-deforestation policies were inadequate and among other tropical forest products it cited wooden goods as a key risk commodity where action was needed to curb forest degradation impacts. It also stressed that any EU action plan should be underpinned with legislation. That included in terms of ensuring transparency to identify investment linked to deforestation. “There should be action in the EU as well as producer countries to address drivers of deforestation and conversion which should combine voluntary with binding measures,” said the WWF.

The Environmental Investigation Agency also welcomed the roadmap and consultation, but expressed concern at its statement that any initiative would be “non-legislative”. Fellow NGO Fern picked up the same theme.

The UK Timber Trade Federation backed the EU proposals and the fact that it concentrated on agricultural commodities, notably palm oil and soya the ‘real forest risk commodities’. But it felt it could do more.

“In the EU Timber and FLEGT regulations it has regulatory systems that work. By blocking illegal timber’s access to the EU market they effect industry change,” said TTF Managing Director David Hopkins. “The EU should now impose similar regulatory controls, with mandatory due diligence, on these other commodities.”

The European woodworking industries Confederation CEI-Bois also backed the EU’s focus on non-forest products.

Following its consultation, the EU said it would issue a communication on its deforestation proposals in the second quarter of 2019.

Data collection and coordination key to unlocking sustainable tropical timber market growth

The participants at the STTC conference in Paris. Photo: Elise Héral, ATIBT

The Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition’s goal is to see an increase in the share of European tropical timber sales taken by verified sustainable material from today’s about 30% to 50% in 2020. This in turn, will be a significant driver for further spread of sustainable forest management in tropical supplier countries.

But vital to achieving this objective, says the STTC, is to improve accuracy, accessibility and analysis of trade statistics, hence the title of its annual conference in October – held, appropriately, in the Tropical Gardens in Paris – ‘Using data to drive market share’.

To date the STTC has primarily focused, with private and public sector partners, on market education and promotion initiatives, encouraging uptake of lesser-known tropical species and supporting sustainable procurement policy implementation.

Now, with founder IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, it has made the strategic move to focus increasingly on gathering and interpreting trade data; to get a better handle on verified sustainable tropical timber volumes entering European supply chains, its origins and destinations. The objective is to inform further market development activity and ensure it is precisely targeted.

Until now, the Coalition acknowledges, the European verified sustainable tropical timber market has lacked a coherent source of definitive trade figures. Some national data monitoring has proved successful, but the pan-European picture has been less clear.

However, the Conference also highlighted that this is changing. Alongside the STTC’s efforts, other initiatives, some with its support, have emerged to track the wider European tropical timber market. Speakers also highlighted growing cooperation in the field between different players sharing the same objective of understanding sector trends and market development potential. These included the Global Timber Forum, the ITTO and the EU FLEGT Independent Market Monitor project.

Other presentations were delivered by a wide range of voices, including FSC, PEFC, IDH, Probos, the UK Timber Trade Federation, the ATIBT, the French Development Agency, Le Commerce du Bois, SNCF and the Alliance for the Preservation of Forests.

New approaches, delegates heard, were also being evolved to improve tropical timber trade monitoring, including the ‘exposure to certification’ method. And there was also a call for ‘new metrics’ for sustainability, to complement current certification schemes.

In addition the Conference featured presentations on complementary STTC-backed projects to grow European awareness of sustainable tropical timber availability and exploit its market potential. These included the ATIBT’s My Tropical Timber Website, the FSC’s new ‘Together we are FSC’ campaign, PEFC International’s programme for growing certified timber trade flows from Asia to Europe and Le Commerce du Bois’s range of verified sustainable tropical timber marketing initiatives.

Highly animated Table Talks also enabled delegates to debate the issues, focus in on specific topics and give feedback.

The Conference themes were clearly ones that struck a chord. The event attracted over 90 delegates from across the EU and tropical supplier countries. They included the range of timber businesses and representatives of industry federation representatives from across Europe and supplier countries, NGOs and certification schemes.

STTC Conferences are gaining a particular reputation for their level of delegate participation. And led with zest by enthusiastic professional moderator Peter Woodward – now an STTC Conference regular – this year’s event also sparked lively audience discussion and debate.

The Conference closed with a presentation of the STTC’s 2018-2020 roadmap from IDH Tropical Timber Programme Manager Nienke Stam. She said that further data research to steer tropical timber market development would be a core element of the STTC’s focus going forward. And among new data-based reports would be a 2018 follow-up to its 2016 publication ‘How Sustainable are Europe’s Tropical Timber Products? ‘. The original report highlighted the bottom line of growing the market for verified sustainable tropical timber. It concluded that if Europe’s seven leading timber-consuming countries sourced exclusively verified sustainable primary tropical timber products, 5.3 million ha more tropical forest would be brought under sustainable management to supply the demand.

For the full report on the STTC Conference click here

Partners promise new insights into sustainable tropical timber trade

George White presenting the project at 2018 STTC Conference. Photo: Mark van Benthem, Probos

The new STTC-backed study of sustainable tropical timber flows into the EU involves a consortium of lead bodies experienced in monitoring the sector and, using new methodologies, promises key new insights into the trade. The goal is greater transparency and more accurate data to aid EU sustainable tropical timber market analysis and better targeting of development initiatives.

The EU Sustainable Tropical Timber Data Partner project is led by the Global Timber Forum (GTF), the international network of associations and timber sector stakeholders, with Netherlands-based forest and timber sustainability advisors and analysts Probos as lead technical partner.

The consortium also includes the ITTO-managed, EU-funded Independent Market Monitor project (IMM), which monitors trade flows and market impacts of FLEGT licensed timber and products from FLEGT VPA engaged countries. It will additionally draw on data from the online Sustainable Timber Information Exchange (STIX), which is being developed by the GTF and analyst Forest Industries Intelligence to improve accuracy of global timber trade flow statistics in support of market monitoring and policy implementation.

Unveiling the project at the STTC Conference in Paris in September, the GTF’s George White said that understanding of the EU sustainable tropical timber sector is limited by the fact that neither FSC nor PEFC collect certification  data at source. “Moreover, timber trade federations and importers are reluctant to share their own internal data when there is no obligation and it is not in their interests to do so,” he said. “This currently makes core data collection challenging.”

Focusing on the seven lead EU tropical timber importing countries and primary timber products, the new Data Partner project aimed to achieve better understanding and analysis of their certified tropical timber trade, but also import flows of FLEGT-licensed products and timber from VPA-engaged countries.”

The project breaks new ground in using a measure of ‘exposure to certification ‘market monitoring methodology which has been developed by IMM. Still being fine-tuned, this takes the proportion of certified forest in a supplier country, based on figures from FSC and PEFC, and calculations of productive forest from the UNFAO,  and applies that percentage to its exports to specific national markets.

“This method has its limits, but we believe can be refined by, for instance, using timber produced by the supplier country, rather than forest area, and targeted trade and other stakeholder interviews,” said Mr White.

He added that there were clear indications the FSC and PEFC would collaborate with the process, with a further outcome being an improved measure of ‘exposure to certification’ monitoring model that STTC founder and funder IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, could use on an on-going basis.

The project also plans to estimate a ‘carbon footprint number’ for EU sustainable tropical timber trade, blending trade data from Comext and life cycle analysis information from the GABI database. The work is due to for completion in June 2019.

“Finding a cost-effective way to  estimate progress in the EU market for certified forest products is an important goal for a wide range of organisations,” said Mr White. “We hope the collaborative effort that this project requires will give us useful results that can be confidently used for on-going monitoring and targeted interventions by a range of stakeholders.”

Harnessing SDG’s to promote sustainable tropical timber

Together we are FSC

Worldwide business, government and other entities are looking to demonstrate their environmental commitment by aligning corporate social responsibility,  purchasing and other policy with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aim of FSC’s new STTC-backed project- ‘Together we are FSC’, to be launched fully in 2019- is to harness this trend and better illustrate the wider benefits of certified tropical timber to help drive procurement and use of verified  sustainable tropical timber.

“The backdrop to the initiative”, said FSC’s European Regional Director Anand Punja at the STTC Annual Conference, “is that worthy and impactful NGO campaigns, with the goal of combating large scale, indiscriminate logging in rainforests, had the consequence of  turning people away from buying tropical timber, despite the fact that numerous studies show the positive societal benefits that the verified sustainable certified timber trade brings to tropical forests and the local communities living within them” he said. “FSC research showed there was a gap in communicating the positive social and environmental impacts of purchasing certified tropical timber to boost demand”

This, added Mr Punja, is where the link to the SDGs come in.

“Since their adoption in 2016, the SDGs have increasingly become an important guide for the world’s businesses and public authorities to show their purpose as an entity that has wider benefits for society,” he said. “So they provide an excellent opportunity to communicate the wider positive benefits of using certified tropical timber in a way that is becoming increasingly widely accepted and utilised worldwide.”

To this end the STTC-backed FSC project will be rolled out as a campaign in 2019 to market FSC certified tropical timber, targeted at purchases and consumers. During its conception phase, the project:

  • Analysed various studies (public and internal FSC reports) demonstrating the positive benefits of the sustainable tropical timber trade and map these to the SDGs;
  • Developed engaging and compelling messaging about the benefits of the verified sustainable tropical trade in ‘SDG terms’;
  • Developed a marketing and communication toolkit with creative assets for FSC Trademark licence holders (i.e. timber) to use under the banner of ‘Together we are FSC’;
  • Marketing assets include; video’s, social media posts, posters and other promotional materials.

This project, said Mr Punja, is one of the actions to support delivery of Strategy 2 of the FSC Global Strategic Plan; to increase the market value of FSC, especially for its business stakeholders.

Taking the sustainability message across the supply chain

Digital promotion and marketing toolkits and architectural and vocational school student outreach are just latest developments in the comprehensive programme of verified sustainable tropical timber market education and promotion Le Commerce du Bois (LCB) has undertaken with support and input from the STTC.  The French timber trade federation’s goal, Communication Manager Jessica Tholon told the STTC Conference in Paris, is to highlight the benefits of sourcing and using verified sustainable tropical material across the timber supply chain in the widest sense.

LCB distributed the digital toolkits on usb sticks through a series of regional meetings in 2017 organised for the range of industry stakeholders. Here delegates were also given information on tropical timber buyers among its membership, its due diligence accreditation system and environmental charter.

“We also highlighted our dedicated self-funded website, Le Bon Choix du Bois Tropical (Tropical timber – the good choice), which covers tropical timber applications, technical performance and lists 60 suppliers across France,” said Ms Tholon.

Specifiers have also been targeted at the meetings around France, with additional contributions from WWF and the ATIBT about the importance of sustainable forest management in tropical timber countries and the end product’s potential applications.

Audiences also heard from five leading LCB members on their sourcing and active promotion of sustainable tropical timber; Rougier, Tradelink, CID Bois, Pasquet menuiseries and Bois des 3 Ports. As part of the LCB programme, these companies also undertook to work towards specific goals through 2016/17 for increasing the percentage of their tropical timber sales accounted for by certified material. “The companies set ambitious targets, but one increased the proportion over the period from 2% to 10%, and others from 51% to 55% and 26% to 30%,” said Ms Tholon.

In another particularly high profile project developed with STTC support, LCB made seven videos featuring comment from architects, developers, timber suppliers and other stakeholders under the headline “I believe in certified tropical timber”. “These have been particularly successful and widely viewed,” said Ms Tholon.

Meanwhile, the goal of LCB’s conferences for architectural and vocational schools, she concluded, was to take the core messages on using verified sustainable tropical timber to specifiers and buyers of the future.