Fair&Precious Partners in the spotlight
In the latest in our series of interviews with Fair&Precious Partners, we ask Belgian trade federation Fedustria about its role and objectives.
STTC/F&P: How would you describe Fedustria; who you are, what you do and what you stand for?
Fedustria: Fedustria is the Belgian federation of the textile, woodworking and furniture industries. We represent some 1,700 companies in Belgium (of which more than 90% are SMEs), which together create more than 36,300 direct jobs and generate turnover of € 8.9 billion, with 70% coming from exports.
Our mission is to help companies in the textile, wood and furniture industry to develop successfully by preserving and strengthening their competitiveness, which is achieved through a wide range of specialised services.
STTC/F&P: Why did Fedustria become a Fair&Precious member?
Fedustria: We strongly believe in the importance of sustainable forest management in preserving tropical forests and in providing economic, social and ecological benefits to society. Above that, using more certified sustainable timber is a good way to tackle climate change. By joining forces together with Fair&Precious, we are stronger in sending these messages.
STTC/F&P: The tropical timber sector has battled to hold on to market share in recent times. What do you see as its challenges?
Fedustria: One of the major challenges facing use of wood in general is the negative perception about harvesting wood. Consumers want beautiful wooden furniture, interiors and so on, but they do not seem to understand that a tree has to be cut down to have this wood available. For tropical timber, this negative perception is even worse.
Another challenge are green claims made for other materials, through major promotion campaigns, which are sometimes green washing. We, in turn, must be careful not to let different types of wood or applications compete with each other – there are enough opportunities to use wood and each wood species has its own characteristics and possibilities.
STTC/F&P: Does Fedustria believe the tropical timber sector can recover lost ground in the European market?
Fedustria: We certainly see opportunities to increase tropical timber use, but with certified timber playing a key role in this.
STTC/F&P: Where does Fedustria see greatest possibilities for growing tropical timber use?
Fedustria: We see great opportunities in construction, as one of the key value chains of the European Commission’s Green Deal and Circular Economy Action Plan. The EC acknowledges the importance of circularity in construction and sustainable tropical timber is a perfect circular, bio-based building material.
STTC/F&P: Do you see new applications opening up for tropical timber in Belgium?
Fedustria: Lots of research and innovation is underway, both in techniques for using it and the species used. We certainly see new applications arising in construction across the EU. That’s why we’re also very active in the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries CEI-Bois, where innovation is monitored closely and technical issues discussed.
STTC/F&P: Does Fedustria also have a role talking out to the specifiers and the wider market?
Fedustria: In 2021 we launched our ‘Wood: The natural choice’ promotion campaign. It focuses on climate and sustainability as among the many reasons for choosing wood. It aims to make target groups, including architects, interior designer, contractors, journalists and policy makers, aware that wood is an excellent material for multiple applications – https://houtdennatuurlijkekeuze.be.
STTC/F&P: What would Fedustria advise the sales pitch for sustainable tropical timber should be?
Fedustria: “Wood. The natural choice – use more sustainable tropical timber and help tackle climate change!” Moreover, by using certified sustainable tropical timber, tropical forests will have economic value, which is key to safeguarding their future.
STTC/F&P: Longer term, is Fedustria optimistic for the sustainable tropical timber sector?
Fedustria: Of course. We are strongly convinced of the positive story of sustainable tropical timber. The important thing is that everyone in the value chain is involved and sees the necessity of certified sustainable forest management, from producers to importers to consumers. We just need to repeat our messages again and again, and that’s why we welcome initiatives such as Fair&Precious, which bring all those stakeholders together!