Photo: Cross Trade
In the latest of our interviews with Fair&Precious partners, we ask Klaus Schmidt, Managing Director of Cross Trade, about the company, its approach and perspectives on the tropical timber sector.
STTC/F&P Newsletter: How would you describe Cross Trade; who you are, what you do and what you stand for?
Klaus Schmidt: At just under 12 years old, Cross Trade is still a relatively young company, but, as part of the HIF/TT Group, we can trace our roots back to the 1990s. This gives the business extensive experience of trading exotic woods from around the world. Since those early days we have also been committed to supplying verified sustainably sourced timber and today support for legal and sustainable forest management is integral to our company. It’s in our genes and around 85% of our procurement is now certified wood.
STTC/F&P: Why did you become a Fair&Precious partner?
KS: Use of verified sustainable tropical wood helps ensure the existence of the sustainably managed forests where it comes from. But sustainable forest management can only be assured with the active involvement of the people who live there. The populations working and living in certified forest regions must be supported and derive benefit from forest management in terms, for example, of being given better access to goods and services, such as drinking water, sanitary facilities and electricity. Fair&Precious is an important partner in enabling us to communicate this better.
STTC/F&P: What would you say are the major challenges for the European tropical timber sector in holding on to its market share?
KS: If everyone involved recognizes the benefits and added value of verified sustainable tropical forest management and timber production, we can make a positive contribution to combating climate change. But this requires a social rethink in consumer markets to change perceptions around tropical timber. It’s a big challenge we must all face and as quickly as possible.
STTC/F&P: Do you believe the tropical timber sector can rebuild its presence in Europe?
KS: The total area of the world’s tropical forests is several times a multiple of temperate forest zones. The latter are also extensively sustainably managed so offer only limited potential in terms of providing more timber. However demand for wood products is set to increase further worldwide. So the proportion of the market served by tropical species will have to increase, although this can only happen, of course, if the forests are maintained through certified sustainable management.
STTC/F&P: In which market do you see greatest possibilities for growing sustainable tropical timber sales?
KS: I do hope in Europe, but we have to be careful not to miss the boat, given the growth potential of other consumer markets worldwide.
STTC/F&P: Do you see new applications opening for sustainable tropical timber in the future?
KS: There are already various approaches being taken to enable a broader use of different types of wood for new purposes. This trend will continue. Nowadays, many products, especially in the construction sector, are still made out of softwood. As is well known, the proportion of production forest will continue to decrease and we will have to consider whether smaller dimensions made out of exotic wood could provide the same technical benefits – so getting more use out of less timber.
STTC/F&P: Do you believe it is important to increase demand for lesser known tropical timber species?
KS: Sustainable forest management must be economically viable and this can only be achieved through appropriate pricing and at the same time cost-oriented production. The simultaneous use of lesser-known timber species can help ensure a cost-effective, commercially sound sustainable industry, while also taking the pressure off the primary types of wood.
STTC/F&P: What is your sales pitch for sustainable tropical timber?
KS: Unfortunately, many customers are still not aware of the complex issues of sustainable forest management and its importance in the context of the climate debate. As a result they are not solely focused on using certified wood. So it’s down to us as an industry to keep our customers happy through good quality and service and to gradually raise awareness of these subjects.
STTC/F&P: Are you optimistic for the future of the sustainable tropical timber sector?
KS: Very much indeed. All the arguments are in favour of more intensive use of verified sustainable resources and it is only a matter of time before these shape purchasing decisions in wider society.