SVLK/FSC differentiation is needed, says Biomaderas

Photo: Biomaderas

Importer and STTC member Biomaderas found suppliers in Indonesia keen to know the market health and level of interest in sustainable tropical timber in Europe on a trip to the country. But the company’s Christian Körting was also concerned at the number of Indonesian companies substituting FSC-certified timber and wood products with FLEGT-licensed / SVLK-accredited material. He also maintains that more European market education about sustainable tropical timber is needed.

German-based Biomaderas sells principally in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and imports from Vietnam, Peru, Bolivia and Columbia, where it has a small team coordinating procurement, as well as Indonesia.

Mr Körting was in the latter to attend the workshop ‘Boosting international trade in certified wood products from Indonesia’, jointly organised by FSC, the Borneo Initiative and Indonesian legal association APHI. He also visited FSC-certified suppliers and met more at the Jakarta IFEX exhibition.

“I found some suppliers were thinking of not renewing their FSC certification because of the availability of the SVLK [legality assured] certificate,” said Mr Körting. “So it’s very important for them to know that there is an interest in Europe in sustainable products and that they can do better by marketing the fact that they’re certified.” Biomaderas products are now 80% FSC- and 20% SVLK-certified.

“We’d like to have only certified products in our portfolio but it’s getting harder to find them because of either availability, pricing or quality,” said Mr Körting. “But we’re in contact with several organizations, which promote the use of sustainable tropical timber and encourage certification in Indonesia, including   The Borneo Initiative.”

He does not feel that the SVLK, which is the timber legality assurance system underpinning FLEGT certification, was a serious threat to FSC or PEFC certification overall. “But to co-exist successfully, more needs to be done to differentiate the schemes, including through education by the FSC and PEFC themselves, as some companies are marketing FLEGT licensing and EUTR compliance as a direct replacement for certification,” said Mr Körting.

Biomaderas sees a role for European business in this area too. “For example, we’ve been able to reach a lot of final customers through our online shop and inform them about the sustainable tropical timber,” said Mr Körting.

Going forward, he added, still more also needs to be done through such channels as the STTC to educate the European customer about the availability of verified sustainable tropical timber. That in turn will lead to market growth, increasing interest in tropical countries to supply the market and underpinning sustainable forest management. “If the final customer asks for verified sustainable tropical timber products the market will automatically try to fulfil their needs. If they aren’t well informed they’ll keep buying wood plastic composites, thinking they’re helping preserve the rainforest by not buying tropical forest products.”