ATIBT at 70 focused on the future

To mark its 70th anniversary, the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT) ran a discussion forum on its stand through the three days of the Carrefour International du Bois (CIB) in Nantes. General manager Benoît Jobbé-Duval said the aim of the Forum at the French timber trade show, which was the biggest to date with 14,000 visitors and over 600 exhibitors, was to celebrate ATIBT’s seven decades of achievement, supporting the technical, economic and environmental development of tropical timber industries. But the focus was also very much on current projects and plans to develop the organisation’s role.

Pan African Forest Certification initiative
A central focus was one of the most significant initiatives it’s been involved in to date – the development of the Pan African Forest Certification (PAFC) Congo Basin initiative. Endorsed in December by PEFC International, it is the first regional scheme to come under the latter’s global certification umbrella and is being seen as a model for development of others. It brings together the national PAFC schemes of Gabon, Republic of the Congo (RoC) and Cameroon. ATIBT, led by president François Van de Ven, has been development and standardizing body, with input from RoC Forest Economy minister Rosalie Matondo, International Tropical Timber Organisation Executive (ITTO) director, Sheam Satkuru and Thais Linhares of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). PEFC Development Officer Thomas Seyvet said the world-first project was developed with a range of aims; to drive certification efficiency, cut costs, share expertise and best practice, encourage certification uptake across the Congo Basin and facilitate marketing of its certified timber and wood products.

The ATIBT Forum also looked at the Thémis initiative to drive European procurement of verified sustainable timber, in which it has been a development partner, together with French timber trade association Le Commerce du Bois (CDB) and Belgian timber, wood furniture and textile federation Fedustria. Devised by sustainable timber and forestry analyst and advisor Probos, with IT specialist Graphius, the key elements of Thémis are its data collection tool and online portal. Development of the project benefited from Probos’ experience in monitoring and reporting on verified responsible sourcing by members of the Netherlands Timber Trade Association (NTTA) for 11 years now. This highlighted the impact the process can have on trading patterns. The NTTA has used the data to set baselines for targets, until today 94% of members’ total imports are third party certified sustainable. The exercise can also have market benefits for federations. The environmental commitment and support for SFM it demonstrates helps differentiate member companies.

Led by ATIBT and Le Commerce du Bois, with Netherlands timber market development body Centrum Hout as technical partner, it is supporting development of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and French FDES environmental and health certificates for tropical timber products. Mr Jobbé-Duval said the objective is to strengthen commercial prospects for tropical timber in an international market which attaches increasing importance to environmental performance and validation.