Royal Boogaerdt sets sail on ambitious action plan

Royal Boogaerdt Timber’s (RBT) Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition action plan is ambitious. It’s also a precise fit with the latter’s goals and criteria, which is why the company has secured one of the Coalition’s match-funding awards to help implement it.

The aim of the long-established Netherlands importer/processor is multi-faceted; to boost tropical timber’s profile and sales in several key end-user industries; encourage effective implementation of the Dutch government’s sustainable procurement policy, increase certified timber supply and ensure it gets to market in the form the market wants.

To say RBT has experience of the timber sector, and tropical timber sector in particular, is an understatement. It traces its roots back to 1741.

The company has particular expertise and reputation in the shipbuilding and yacht deck sector, hence its launch of a sister company, teak deck producer and fitting specialist Royal Deck, in 2004.

RBT itself sources a wide array of tropical timbers from around the world for the full range of applications, including marine use and general construction. It also supplies North American clears and Accoya modified wood.

The company clearly realises that now more than ever the tropical timber sector has to go the extra mile, not just to ensure that its own sustainable procurement practices are watertight, but that specifiers and end-users appreciate the value of certified responsibly sourced tropical wood and its availability.  That way, as the STTC stresses, sustainable forest practices are incentivised in tropical producer countries, and sustainable timber supplies and the forest are secured long-term.

So RBT joined the STTC and applied for its sustainable procurement Action Plan funding, of which the Coalition has over €1 million to distribute to European companies, federations and local authorities.

Part one of the company’s plan, in association with the Netherlands Timber Trades Association (NTTA), is to raise awareness and drive specification of certified sustainable and legally verified timber in the yacht building sector, a lead consumer of high value tropical wood.

Aiming for its Myanmar teak imports to be 100% certified sustainably sourced, another step in RBT’s project is to have its supply chain from the country independently verified for legality.

The company is also participating in NTTA efforts to raise the profile of sustainably sourced and legally verified timber in the important trailer flooring business, and it’s backing the Association’s campaign to ensure Dutch state agency specification of sustainably sourced tropical timber for public projects is consistently met by contractors.

Finally RBT wants to improve flows to Europe of tropical certified roundwood logs, which many supplier countries have banned from export. On the strict proviso this material is certified, the company believes it could boost European sustainable tropical timber demand as processors still need roundwood for certain applications and to be able to respond quickly to orders.

“Boogaerdt has been pushing to reach 100% sustainability in the import of tropical hardwoods,” said RBT director Cees Boogaerdt. “Now 88% of all wood imports by members of the Netherlands Timber Trade Association is from sustainable sources, but unfortunately the growth of sustainable hardwoods will level off because of the extreme high extra costs for certified wood”

The company has been awarded STTC match funding of €15,000 towards its action plan, investing €35,500 itself. It has already increased imports of sustainably sourced tropical timber from 7,435m3 in 2014 to 8,200m3 in 2015.  The 2016 aim is 9,016m3.

Despite the threat of the price competition between legal and sustainable wood, RBT recognises the potential value of the STTC programme in boosting sustainable tropical timber sales in Europe.

“Most companies are already committed to sourcing only the most possible of either legal or sustainable timber, but the STTC funding and its wider initiatives are an added incentive and support in this area,” said Mr Boogaerdt.


Interholco IFO book – Writer gets under skin of giant Congo FSC forest

In his latest book, Dutch specialist nature conservation and sustainability author and researcher Meindert Brouwer shows how effectively and efficiently managed forest and timber operations can balance the needs of business and the environment.

Brouwer dedicates a whole chapter of his new book, Central African Forests Forever, to the IFO forest concession and timber operations in the Republic of Congo, which, he starts by underlining, are colossal.

“IFO’s concession, forming part of the Congo Basin, covers 1.2 million ha, which is a quarter the size of the home  country of Interholco, IFO’s Swiss parent company ,” he says. “It employs nearly 1100 people and has 16,000 dependents in local communities.”

Brouwer details the felling operation, health and safety procedures in the forest and how trees are selected for natural regeneration. This leads on to use and active promotion of lesser known species, which the company wants to sell more of simultaneously to minimise risk of supply stress on more popular varieties, notably sapele, and to make simultaneously more economic and sustainable use of the same area of forest.

Antoine Couturier, IFO director of environmental and social company polices and certification, discusses the company’s efforts to protect wildlife by funding patrols of government-employed ‘ecoguards’. He also described the FSC process, which made the company’s the biggest single FSC-certified forest concession in Africa.

Social welfare and local engagement are also key, writes Brouwer, with 300 meetings between IFO representatives and local inhabitants annually, and the company investing €130,000 into social and development projects a year.

Ulrich Grauert, director of Interholco AG, tells Brouwer that the company’s parent, Austrian-based international timber giant Danzer, has been dedicated to minimising its environmental impact and supporting local communities since its start in the 1930s.

“Their opinion was that a timber company is responsible for its workers and ecology, that forest management has to be economically successful and ecologically and socially sustainable,” he said. “For us getting FSC certification was a natural thing to do and a good structure to ensure continuity of our company values in the long term.”

Brouwer himself concludes that FSC-certified forest management is a ‘blessing for the Congo Basin’.

“Its standards and principles contribute highly to safeguard forests and biodiversity,” he says. “Moreover it’s a key instrument to reduce poverty and enhance community development.”


Trade agreement on FLEGT pluses and minuses

There has been backing from the EU timber trade for conclusions of an independent report on the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and TRADE (FLEGT) Action Plan, which said improvements were needed in the anti-illegal timber initiative.  But this is balanced by agreement with some of the study’s positive conclusions and its optimistic outlook on FLEGT’s longer-term potential impact.

In terms of room for improvement, the independent Evaluation of the FLEGT Action Plan said support for supplier countries signed up to EU FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements   should be delivered in a more ‘demand-driven’ way. Bottlenecks   to the delivery of FLEGT-licensed timber from these countries should also be tackled, and more private sector involvement encouraged in FLEGT and EU Timber Regulation implementation.

Improved market communication around FLEGT was also needed and greater   collaboration with other initiatives and partners globally.  It also required still greater political and financial support.

However, the Evaluation authors also concluded that the initiative is “a relevant innovative response to the challenge of illegal logging” and “has led to major improvements in forest governance worldwide”.

They said FLEGT had succeeded in pushing illegal logging up the agenda for industry, government and public.  It had also helped improve forest governance in all targeted countries, including both suppliers signed up to FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) and non-VPA countries. FLEGT’s objective of reducing EU illegal wood imports   was being achieved and FLEGT-licensed timber from FLEGT VPA countries, when it arrives, will have “clear EU added-value through market leverage and increased political weight”.

André de Boer, Secretary General of Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition implementing partner, the European Timber Trade Federation, said the non-arrival of EUTR-exempt FLEGT-licensed timber to date was a key issue for the trade under the initiative.

“FLEGT licensing is an aspect of the Action Plan of paramount interest,” he said. “In that sense the results so far have been disappointing. To the key-evaluation points, we’d also add that the Plan might have been more effective if it had addressed regions or species rather than whole countries.”

However, he added, FLEGT had contributed to raising  European awareness on illegal timber issues and improving education. It had also supported development of producer country legality assurance systems significantly.

“This in turn has been instrumental in helping increasingly bar illegal trade from importing countries,” said Mr de Boer. “This trend can continue to build, but we believe giving greater recognition to third party environmental certification schemes under the FLEGT initiative would make it still more effective.”

STTC on show at Carrefour du Bois

The Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) will have a profile at the Carrefour International du Bois in Nantes (CIB), arguably Europe’s leading exclusively wood trade fair, with a number of STTC supporters exhibiting.

The exhibition, running from June 1-3, is expecting to attract more than 10,000 visitors and 550 exhibitors. At the last count these will include  STTC members and partners Interholco AG of Switzerland, Royal Boogaerdt Timber of the Netherlands, Rougier Sylvaco Panneaux and Rougier Afrique International of France, Vandecasteele of Belgium and French timber trade association, Le Commerce du Bois.

The CIB will give these companies significant international exposure as it   forecasts trends of recent years will continue, with more visitors from abroad in total and from a greater range of countries.

“At the last show in 2014, 22% of visitors came from outside France, and we’re confident of exceeding that this year,” said CIB International Marketing Director Sam Padden.  “And the proportion of exhibitors from abroad will be up as well, to around 35%.”

Ms Padden attributes the growing global popularity of the CIB down to a range of factors. But principal among them is the fact that it is focused on wood and wood products alone.

“That means visitors know they’re going to  have an undiluted timber experience, and exhibitors that they’re going to see existing and potential customers who are interested exclusively in wood,” she said.

The event includes a hall dedicated to use of wood in construction called Techniques & Solutions and also has a conference programme running across all three days.

There will also be a special Expo, ‘Timber in Living Spaces’, focused on wood in building and interiors.

Sustainable procurement funding project gathers pace

Interest in the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition’s (STTC) funding programme is growing among industry Federations, timber companies and local authorities across Europe.

The STTC announced earlier this year that it had over €1 million to allocate for the establishment of sustainable timber procurement policy, code of conduct and project action plans that matched its goals and criteria.

Initially the lion’s share of the funding will go to trade bodies and timber businesses in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain and France. But there is also money available for action plans elsewhere.

“So far we’ve had positive approaches from the timber trade federations of four of the five initial funding target countries,” said André de Boer, Secretary General of STTC Principal Partner the European Timber Trade Federation. “And project proposals from the private and public sectors are building up, which we expect will lead to other projects and participants in the STTC programme.  It’s a very encouraging start to the programme.”

Under the funding initiative, companies and local authorities are eligible for match funding up to €15,000, or 30% of the cost, to implement procurement strategies and other STTC-aligned activities. Federations can receive up to €30,000 to introduce sustainable procurement policies and codes of conduct.

The STTC’s aim, through supporting wider establishment of sustainable procurement policies, programmes and initiatives and through communication, awareness raising and a drive to build its partner and membership base, is to increase EU certified tropical timber sales 50% above 2013 levels by 2020. This, in turn, it maintains, will provide added incentive for the spread of sustainable forest management in tropical supplier countries.

Italians raise public procurement certified threshold

Italy’s timber sector is identifying positives in the country’s new law ruling that at least 50% of wood products procured by government for public projects are certified legal and sustainable, or recycled.

The regulation was passed at the end of 2015 and came into effect earlier this year. Its full title is ‘Environmental Provision to promote green economic measures and contain excessive use of natural resources’.

“It stipulates that all public sector bodies ensure that at least half of tenders for timber and wood products by value meet a range of environmental criteria,” said Stefano Dezzutto, Chief Executive of timber sector federation Fedecomlegno. “And it applies to local as well as central government.”

He added that the new ruling currently covers office and outdoor furniture, construction materials, windows and doors and said Fedecomlegno consulted on the drafting process. “We contributed actively to drawing up the ‘minimum environmental criteria’ for each kind of product,” he said.

The law states that the minimum 50% of wood and wood-based goods must comprise re-used or recovered timber, or include a minimum 70% of material sourced from sustainably managed forest. Proof of origin can include FSC or PEFC certification, these schemes’ recycled wood certificates, or an equivalent, which has to be independent third party verified and ISO-approved.

Fedecomlegno sees the new regulation boosting overall Italian demand for certified sustainable timber, especially wood-based panels used in furniture.

It has also communicated the details to its members so they can be prepared.

“And it’s felt that the topic will be addressed further by legislators in the near future,” said Mr Dezzutto. “Some have forecast that the government procurement threshold on certified legal and sustainable timber will be increased to 100%.”

Certified wood wins in pile planking environmental analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The relative environmental scores of timber versus man-made materials

The relative environmental scores of timber versus man-made materials

Photo top by GWW Houtimport

A quarter of Indonesian forest set for certification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STTC Conference – participation and practical value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information contact Joyce Penninkhof on, or +31 (0) 317-466557.


Go ahead for Suriname lesser-known species project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Importers interested in joining the project can contact Mark van Benthem at or +31-317466560.

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