Fair&Precious Partners In the Spotlight


In our In the Spotlight interviews with Fair&Precious partners we ask them about their perspectives on partnership and prospects for the sustainable tropical timber sector. Here we talk to Michael Jakobsen, Regional Director Business Development of Preferred by Nature, the organisation that provides sustainability certification services and supports land and business management practices that benefit people, nature and climate (www.preferredbynature.org)

STTC/F&P newsletter: How would you describe Preferred by Nature; who you are, what you do and what you stand for?

Michael Jakobsen (MJ): Preferred by Nature is a non-profit organization that has promoted sustainable forest management (SFM) practices and responsible sourcing through partnerships and broad stakeholder initiatives across forest and timber sectors for more than 30 years.


  • Support rigorous certification solutions and offer robust auditing of legal and responsible forest management practices and downstream supply chains
  • Provide tailored services to companies on responsible sourcing policies and due diligence practices that are aligned with, for example the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR)
  • Capacity build through training courses, seminars, and webinars run globally
  • Engage in projects to build capacity, raise awareness, conserve nature, and streamline sustainability through innovation.


STTC/F&P: Why did you become a Fair&Precious partner?

MJ: Preferred by Nature share the vision of F&P to grow European sales of verified sustainable tropical timber to incentivise responsible forest management in tropical countries.We recognize the need for joint efforts of stakeholders across regions and supply chains to achieve the vision and see the F&P and STTC initiatives as important in this respect.

STTC/F&P: Is your activity providing sustainability certification services and legality validation in the tropical timber sector a significant part of your work?

MJ: We work with partners at all steps of the supply chain to evaluate and provide assurance of legal and responsible forest management practices. Certification of forest management to robust legality and sustainability standards has high priority for Preferred by Nature, not least in the tropics where we work with partners in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We recently certified Sabah Forest Department and Deramakot Forest Reserve to FSC and Preferred by Nature Standards. In consumer markets for tropical forest products, including timber from natural forests, but also timber, rubber and biomass from plantations, companies are implementing due diligence systems requiring transparent supply chains and assurance of legal and responsible management practices based on, for instance FSC, PEFC, SBP or Preferred by Nature (formerly LegalSource) certification. This development is driven by legislation but also companies’ own policies that may go beyond legal requirements.

STTCF&P:  It’s widely regarded that a viable market for certified sustainable and legal tropical timber can underpin uptake of SFM. However, the European tropical timber sector has battled to hold on to market share. What would you say are its challenges?

MJ: Preferred by Nature is not an actor directly involved in the value chain and so does not have the same hands-on feel with the factors impacting the European market for tropical timber as many of our partners do. However, we see some factors that seem to influence the market, one of them being   increased requirements for risk management. Both legislation and private sector policies require companies to understand and manage supply chain risks. Unfortunately, the strategy of avoiding risks can negatively impact the demand for tropical timber.  In our view a better strategy is to engage with supply chain partners to create incentives and market pull for supply chains that are transparent and have robust evidence of legal and responsible forest management, for example, by sourcing certified timber. This is also why we have engaged actively in initiatives such as the Risk Information Alliance to provide robust and transparent risk assessments, which can guide supply chain actors across sectors on how to address risks and provide proper assurance of compliance, rather than terminating sourcing.

With new EU legislation, such as EUDR, coming into force, it is becoming increasingly important that we find solutions for tropical timber and especially smallholders. Preferred by Nature has further developed our LegalSource certification program to align fully with EUDR and changed the name to Preferred by Nature certification. We offer this certification to forest management units and downstream processors and traders who want to provide assurance of their EUDR aligned due diligence systems, either as a stand-alone certification or as an add-on to FSC forest management certification.

The increased demand for assurance and documentation is particularly challenging for smallholders. As part of our smallholder programme, we are engaged in projects in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to build capacity for small and medium sized enterprises focusing on legal compliance and helping smallholders achieve certification. We also work with trade associations and their SME members to develop and implement due diligence systems aligned with EUDR.

STTC/F&P: Do you believe the tropical timber sector can rebuild its presence in Europe?

MJ:  Growing demand for timber and wood fiber generally in the green economy could potentially lead to an increase in demand for tropical timber products. ­­­­­­However, in a market with increasing focus on other ecosystems services, such as biodiversity, carbon sequestration and the interests of local communities it will likely be required to provide not just assurance, but also measurable data about the impact forest management has on these services. So, supply chains of tropical and non-tropical timber products must be transparent and have robust assurance and verified data about origin and what their ecosystem services impacts will be.

STTC/F&P: Greater use of verified sustainable lesser-known tropical species is seen as making more sustainable use of the tropical forest. How do you see the importance of this and in your activities are you seeing suppliers looking to exploit these species more?

MJ: We’ve promoted cases where our clients use lesser-known tropical timber species in articles on certification and we do separate posts to raise awareness of consumers of this type of timber on Instagram.

STTC/F&P: How do you see Preferred by Nature’s work in the sustainable tropical timber sector developing in the future?  

MJ: Within our field of work, due diligence, risk assessment, risk mitigation and certification we are already seeing development and uptake of technological solutions that can help primary producers and downstream supply chains to share robust data, and help assurance systems to become most cost-effective, so focusing efforts and costs where it provides most value.

STTC/F&P: What do you think the timber trade’s sales pitch for sustainable tropical timber should be – and are you optimistic for the future sustainable tropical timber sector?

MJ: SFM has the potential to protect forests, provide livelihoods for local communities, secure indigenous peoples’ rights, and preserve high conservation values (HCVs) and areas of high carbon stock (HCS). We are also convinced that both protection and management of natural tropical forests, including sustainable timber production, will play a key role in local and global efforts to preserve biodiversity, fight poverty and support transition to a green economy. However, SFM, and protection of forest ecosystems is not a private sector obligation alone. There is also a need for strong laws and law enforcement in producer countries to achieve these goals. And we are hopeful that regulation and market mechanisms will better take into account the wide variety of values that tropical forest ecosystems provide to local and global communities and recognize that sustainable timber production is an important part of the solution to preserve forest ecosystems. We are also engaged in initiatives that can support this trend, including ecosystem restoration, carbon verification and FSC Ecosystems Services certification.