Cities back STTC membership with action

Photo: Eddie Visser

Among key members of the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition and supporters of its objectives to drive up public and private sector procurement of verified sustainable tropical have been urban authorities across Europe. Cities joining have included Rotterdam, Berlin, Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona. ICLEI, the international organisation for promoting sustainability in local government, also urged cities to back the STTC.

The objective of the STTC in bringing cities into membership was to support their adoption or further strengthening of sustainable procurement policies. It was also to encourage greater use of tropical timber in public projects and thus incentivize the timber sector to supply certified sustainable wood.

At the time of joining , a spokesperson for Berlin’s city development and environment administration said it hoped the move would create a stimuli for its use of certified sustainable timber. “Where we see a potential application, we will advocate its use,” they said. “In fact, we aim to increase use of timber overall in construction as it is such a sustainable raw material.” They added that the Life Cycle Assessment performance of tropical timber, a key focus for the STTC, added to its attraction for the Berlin administration. The city was also attracted by the STTC’s focus on driving demand for verified sustainable lesser known tropical species, to help strengthen the environmental and economic case for sustainable forest management. “It’s important planners and architects procure the types of timber that are available from sustainably managed forests and know which new species can be introduced,” said the spokesperson.

Rotterdam joined the STTC in 2016, after hosting the Coalition’s annual conference. The city authority already had an established strategy for sourcing timber in compliance with the Dutch government’s Timber Procurement Assessment System, which it provided to its contractors. By becoming an STTC member, Rotterdam’s goals were to subject its procurement systems to still closer scrutiny and help develop and drive application of sustainable tropical timber, including lesser-known species (LKTS). The wider motivations, said city council sustainable procurement specialist Léon Dijk, were to take forward its climate policy and support spread of sustainable forest management in supplier countries.

Speaking to the STTC newsletter in 2022, Mr Dijk said Rotterdam’s membership was in line with its ‘ambitious sustainable targets and focus on sustainable timber procurement’. “While many public authorities outsource supply of wood via subcontractors, Rotterdam has its own framework agreements with suppliers,” he said. “This enables us to have maximum control over our supplies.” Rotterdam took valuable lessons from being part of the STTC. “We learned that sustainable forest management benefits from growing demand for certified tropical timber,” said Mr Dijk. “At first sight, we felt this was very controversial, but in the end it makes sense as it leads to a higher economic value for the forest.”

The momentum and focus Rotterdam built up in this area continues today. “We want to join the Cities4Forests initiative this year and will actively research how to introduce more tropical species in our public works and adapt our procurement policy accordingly.” Reflecting on the city’s support for the STTC Mr Dijk said: “Rotterdam strongly believes coalitions with private industry are more effective in boosting sustainability compared to unilateral agreements reached by public bodies alone.”