Successful workshop on timber procurement in Berlin

The City of Berlin underlined its determination to buy and use only verified sustainably sourced timber at a recent experts’ dialogue on public procurement supported by the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC).

The April 26 event in the city was organised by STTC partner GIZ GmbH, the German government-backed agency for international cooperation in sustainable development and education, and the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment.

Attended by over 80 participants, who provided some lively debate, the aim was to tackle uncertainties and information deficits regarding Berlin’s current timber procurement administrative regulations, with the aim of increasing demand for sustainably produced material into the future.

Berlin introduced a regulation stipulating procurement of certified timber in 2013, but which allows for the possibility of satisfying its demands by providing alternative evidence that products or material are sustainably sourced when chain-of-custody (COC) is broken.  The reliability of this latter provision is now one area of discussion.

“We are determined to ensure the city of Berlin only buys sustainably sourced timber and we get the evidence to prove it and we’re open to discuss and improve our policy where needed,” said Thomas Schwilling, who is responsible for green procurement at the State of Berlin’s Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment.

Mark van Benthem, participating in the workshop on behalf of STTC, presented on best practice in meeting procurement policies in reality.

“The workshop underlined a clear need to exchange knowledge and experiences across European member states,” he said. “For instance, participants were very interested in how CoC certification was implemented in the Dutch construction sector within a few years, with now over 1,000 construction companies certified. They were also interested in the kind of penalties used when procurement policies are not satisfied.”

He added that the upcoming STTC conference on June 23 in Rotterdam,  ‘Real impact through timber purchasing policies’, will be an excellent opportunity for all interested parties, from timber businesses, to government bodies and NGOs, to find out more about successfully implementing and meeting timber purchasing policies. It will be an occasion to discuss challenges and share knowledge and best practices with delegates from across Europe.

According to Dr. Katharina Gamillscheg of the German Timber Trade Federation (GD Holz) certified timber is available, the trade is ready to deliver it, but demand lags behind.

Anja Glatzel of GIZ said the Berlin event was its fourth experts´ procurement dialogue in German cities.

“We’re determined to support good timber procurement policies, that underpin GIZ programme efforts encouraging sustainable forest management,” she said. “That’s   also why we’re collaborating with the STTC.”

Click here for the presentations of the workshop (German only).