Photo: Sietze van Dijk
The European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition was founded by IDH-The Sustainable Trade Initiative, which for the last decade has also been its principal funder. In a strategic move, IDH has now shifted its focus and resources to supporting sustainable supply chains through a verified landscape approach in sourcing jurisdictions. However, it sees the ongoing value of the STTC and would like to see it attract new backing and continue.
IDH’s aim in creating the STTC, a grouping of European timber trade, retail, construction, central and local government, was to grow the market for sustainably certified tropical timber and so build on its interventions in sourcing regions by strengthening the business case for SFM certification. “The intention was to help newly certified companies develop a market for sustainable timber,” said Hans Stout, Director of IDH’s tropical timber programmes at the time of the STTC’s launch. “The STTC was less an organisation, more a coalition of partners. We contacted cities, countries, major consumers, and timber trade federations; countries to support our objective through legislation, other supporters for a commitment. More than 80 entities signed up.”
“The aim was to reverse declining demand for tropical timber by raising awareness and training European public and private timber buyers and changing their procurement practices,” said Willem Klaassens, IDH Director Markets and SourceUp. “The view was that a critical mass of timber buyers could influence the European market and raise market share of sustainable tropical timber considerably, with a strong message to producers in the tropics, incentivising them to produce sustainably. In IDH’s vision, the improved business case for SFM and the adoption of SFM practices within anti-deforestation strategies could result in reduced deforestation and adoption of SFM for more areas. Certified SFM practices would prevent degradation of forests, ensuring their long-term biodiversity benefits and maintaining or enhancing high conservation values.”
To support tropical timber market development, said Mr Stout, the STTC backed life-cycle assessment studies of the material and investigations into the performance and application of lesser known timber species (LTKS); both key to establishing tropical timber’s circular economy credentials. “We also funded the European Timber Trade Federation to support national timber federations in setting sustainable procurement goals in their countries,” he said.
Mr Klaassens said IDH moved to a sustainable landscape approach, which includes SFM, to further its impacts on the ground in supplier countries and regions. “It’s an integrated approach, encompassing production, protection and inclusion (PPI) to mitigate deforestation, while improving smallholder and community livelihoods and ensuring supply security for businesses,” he said.
Mr Klaassens said IDH would ‘love to see STTC continue with its work in Europe’. “The convening and sharing of learning and knowledge among European tropical timber stakeholders remains important,” he said. “A new funder would be able to give new impetus to the work of the STTC and create a new, evolved purpose for the Coalition.” Mr Stout agrees. “We still have a way to go to develop the market for sustainable timber in Europe and some countries are far behind,” he said. “The STTC can also help influence policy making; encouraging and supporting national governments and the EU to set goals for sustainable timber sourcing.”