New energy to drive EU sustainably sourced tropical timber market

The European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) is moving to the next stage of its programme to boost EU sales of certified tropical timber.
The new phase involves closer strategic partnership with the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF), re-energised communications and membership drives and, critically, a funding initiative to back private and public sector Action Plans and projects.

The STTC started in 2013 in response to a long-term fall in EU tropical timber sales, with its main architect, the Netherlands-based IDH-the Sustainable Trade Initiative, backed by partners from the timber sector, retail, end-use industries, government, and NGOs.

The STTC’s concern was that the EU tropical timber business decline would not only deprive end users and consumers of this valuable, versatile material, it could also potentially disincentivise tropical producers from introducing sustainable forest management practices.

The first two years saw the STTC lay its foundations with communication, promotional, business linking and technical projects.

In the current phase two, it aims to broaden its Coalition and become more proactive still. The ETTF, a founding STTC partner, has taken an oversight role, help grow membership and administer the funding programme. The latter, said Federation Secretary General André de Boer was particularly important. “Concrete procurement commitments are what creates real impact,” he said. Timber businesses, he explained, can receive match-funding for activities in the framework of an STTC Action Plan for up to 30% of the cost, or €15,000. Federations are eligible for grants up to €30,000 for developing sustainable sourcing policies. In addition, STTC partners and participants can submit project proposals with a requested STTC contribution up to €50,000 if it contributes to STTC objectives.

The new website – –lays out STTC goals and the all-round case for using certified tropical timber. It provides technical data, tropical timber application case studies, lists STTC partners and members and explains how to join and apply for funding.

The STTC’s initial target is a 50% increase in EU certified tropical timber sales over 2013 levels by 2020.

“There’s increasing awareness that avoiding tropical timber does not ensure forest conservation,” said Mark van Benthem, Probos Senior Advisor and STTC Consultant. “And in verified sustainably sourced tropical material we’ve a great story to tell, with definitive evidence that timber is often the environmentally right choice.”

ETTF opens international trade gateway

“Supporting growth, transparency and diversification of international timber trade.” That’s the welcome line of the new Gateway to International Timber Trade, the European Timber Trade Federation’s new online timber sector legislation and industry information website.

Launched on January 7, is a ‘one-stop information point’ for timber industry regulation and broad trade and business data in selected countries. Its aim is simultaneously to help international traders do business with tropical and other suppliers worldwide and ensure the trade is legal.
The industry worldwide faces increasingly strict rules to curb illegal timber trade, with the EU Timber Regulation, US Lacey Act, Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition and Japan’s Goho system most prominent. Against this background, ETTF members decided they needed a current, easy-reference tool on legislation, primarily in tropical supplier countries where legality questions are most in focus. Hence the new Gateway site.

The goal is to support importing companies in their illegality risk assessment, due diligence and due care procedures under these stringent new legality rules. Its aim is also to create a level playing field in satisfying these requirements between small and large companies.

“To meet their requirements, importers must obtain documentary evidence that suppliers are operating in accordance with national laws and regulations,” said ETTF Secretary General André de Boer. “So it’s essential they can readily access current information on those laws, and especially how they’re being translated at practical level and procedures they require. With the Gateway they can.”

At the same time, it was decided to make the new site a versatile business tool, so users can source a range of useful data in one location. It includes up to date industry figures, business, industry organisation and government contacts, and links to further information. The Gateway is supported by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) and Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) and the site was developed by Dutch forestry, plantation and certification consultancy Form international. It draws on ITTO, FAO, ITC/Tradecom and other databases and has an ‘extensive contact network of experts providing input and helping keep it up to date’.

A Review feedback facility enables visitors to comment and submit information for inclusion. Countries can also apply to be profiled. “It’s the first time timber sector information exchange has been organised and centralised on such a scale,” said Mr de Boer. “That should ultimately lead to greater supply chain transparency.”

At launch, the site offered an extended profile of Ghana and currently less detailed basic profiles of Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Guyana. By the year-end another 19, all expert reviewed, will be live and the ambition, pending support, is to grow from there. “As the data builds, it will become an ever more comprehensive, useful and practical timber trade resource,” said Mr de Boer, who presented on the Gateway at the last ITTO meeting in Japan. “We welcome initial comment, and ideas for further development.”

Tropical timbers top life cycle tests

Sustainably sourced tropical timber species out-performed competitor materials in a demanding life cycle analysis project backed by the European STTC.

Eric de Munck of Netherlands–based timber research body Centrum Hout led the trials, which pitted tropical timbers against key market rivals in the manufacture of marine application pile planking and window frames.

The pile planking life cycle analysis (LCA) project was proposed to the STTC by the Netherlands Timber Trade Association (NTTA) and other industry players due to the fact that tropical timber faces increasingly strong competition in this market from steel, PVC, plus other varieties of wood.  The research team also said that existing environmental data for the species used in this application was out-dated and unreliable.

The study, undertaken in association with the FSC Netherlands, has already generated impressive figures in favour of tropical timber in terms of cradle to grave environmental cost per square metre.

The species used were sustainably sourced African Azobé and Okan and South American Angelim vermelho. They were evaluated against two types of PVC planking – one comprising all virgin raw material, the other recycled – and steel.

The researchers chose a popular form of pile planking and applied equivalent LCA methods to all materials types.  Preliminary results showed that, over a 30-year lifespan, the environmental performance of tropical timber planking is 24 times better than virgin-material PVC and 21 times better than recycled.  Compared to steel it’s 133 times better.

The final LCA data from the research will be added to the Dutch Environmental Database and international data resources Ecoinvent and ILCD (the International Reference Life Cycle database). The results will also be publicised via the trade media, presentations to industry events and direct to tropical timber end users and specifiers.

The window frame LCA, which is being undertaken in association with the Netherlands Woodworking Industry Association, is using sustainably sourced African, Asian and South American reference wood species. The competitor materials in this case are softwood, modified softwood and PVC and initial results are expected by the end of next March.

Both studies will be completed and implemented by the end of next June, with the outcomes widely publicised.

Gateway to International Timber Trade

ETTF launches new website The website ‘Gateway to international Timber Trade’ ( has been launched by the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF). International timber traders will find here a one-stop information point for forest industry information, legal timber trade, country requirements and export from timber producing countries. The overall objective is to enhance and facilitate […]

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