Growing secondary wood product demand to support tropical forests

In 2019, 33% of secondary tropical wood products imported by the EU and UK were certified sustainable, positively impacting 763,000-925,000 ha of tropical forest, according to a new report from IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative. If importers sourced 100% certified sustainable, it concludes, this figure would rise to over 2 million ha.

The just-released publication, ‘Understanding sustainable secondary tropical wood products through data’, covers the four main types of tropical secondary products imported by the EU and UK – doors, mouldings, windows and other joinery. It was commissioned by IDH for the STTC and undertaken by sustainable forest management institute Probos and the Global Timber Forum.

It builds on these partners’ 2019 report, which covered EU and UK primary tropical wood products imports, estimating that 28.5% were certified sustainable. Bringing the findings of the two publications together, the new report states that, if all these countries’ tropical timber imports were certified, 18 million ha of forest would be positively impacted. This, it says, could also cut global carbon emissions by 100 million tonnes per year.

Like the earlier report, it estimates volumes of FSC and PEFC-certified timber imports using the ‘exposure to certification method’. This takes the certified percentage of a supplier country’s total forest area and projects the share onto its exports to consumer countries.

The new report additionally takes account of EU and UK imports of FLEGT-licensed products (from Indonesia, the only country so far to start licensing under the EU FLEGT initiative), from other FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement countries and products covered by other verified legality schemes.

Of the EU and UK’s 187,500 tonne import total of secondary tropical wood products in 2019, 90% were accounted for by France, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and the UK. The Netherlands was the biggest importer of such products exposed to certification, with a total of between 25,800 and 27,800 tonnes, followed by France, Belgium, Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain. Biggest overall suppliers were Indonesia and Brazil, together accounting for 77% of EU and UK imports, while Indonesia was the biggest provider of products exposed to certification, with 76% market share.

The report also draws on findings of an enquiry undertaken by the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT) and Probos. With input from companies in Central and West Africa, it compiled data on forest yields, certification and its impacts, and trade flows. The information on yield was used by the IDH report authors to help calculate potential impact of EU and UK demand on sustainable forest management area.

The report concludes that ‘all actors must support raising the bar to 100% sourcing of verified sustainable tropical timber products and promote their applications’. The sector should also work together to further ‘improve availability, quality and transparency of information’ to inform strategies for achieving this objective. Given the goals they have in common to advance SFM, the report also urges exploration of synergies between the EU Timber Regulation, FLEGT licensing and certification.
“A growing European market for sustainable timber can foster sustainable forest practice across the world, and a more resilient and sustainable society and environment globally,” concludes IDH chief executive Daan Wensing. “We urge European governments, companies, and NGOs to act to reach 100% verified sustainable tropical timber imports.”

Read the report