STTC considers share of certified tropical wood in
The EU¡¯s Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC
http://www.europeansttc.com/) held its annual conference
in Paris on 26 September. The conference highlighted the
ongoing work to promote tropical timber in Europe by
STTC participants and raised questions about the role of
targets for procurement of ¡°certified sustainable¡± products
that are central to STTC activities.
Over 55 Europe-based organisations are involved in the
STTC, grouped in various categories according to their
type and level of involvement as Partners, Participants and
Supporters. All STTC participants are invited to ¡°draft an
Action Plan for activities that will increase market share of
sustainably sourced timber from tropical forests¡±.
The underlying idea behind STTC is summarised on the
organisations¡¯ website: ¡°The alliance of public and private
sector and NGO backers behind the STTC is concerned
that EU tropical sector¡¯s shrinkage could on one hand
ultimately deprive specifiers, end users and consumers of a
technically high performance, diverse construction and
manufacturing material. Critically, it could also disincentivise
tropical suppliers from introducing sustainable
The focus of the Paris Conference, attended by around 80
representatives of trade, NGOs and government, was on
the ¡°use of data to drive market share¡±. The question of
market data was interpreted quite narrowly, focusing on
the question of how to assess the share of certified and
legally verified wood in total EU imports of tropical wood.
The share of tropical timber relative to other timber
products and commodities was not addressed.
This focus was closely linked to the STTC Roadmap
developed through consultation with STTC participants
and which built on discussions at the previous 2017 annual
conference in Aarhus.
At that meeting, the IDH, an organisation supported by the
Dutch government to encourage sustainable trade in
several commodities, announced extension of its financial
support for STTC to 2020.
STTC has established a 2020 target ¡°to increase European
sustainably sourced tropical timber sales to 50% above
2013 levels¡±. To monitor progress, the IDH Roadmap
supports publication of three annual report (2018, 2019,
2020) that on a European level will ¡°make data available
on market share of sustainable tropical timber, per country
and per sector¡±.
A key source document to the STTC conference was the
STTC report prepared by Probos, a Dutch consultancy and
published in June this year which estimates the ¡°current
market share of verified sustainable tropical timber¡±. The
key finding of this report was that an estimated 30% of
primary tropical timber products placed on the EU market
in 2016 met the STTC definition of ¡°verified sustainable¡±.
While the STTC report does not explicitly define ¡°verified
sustainable¡±, the measure of ¡°share¡± is based on best
available information on the quantity of FSC and PEFC
certified timber placed on the European market relative to
uncertified wood. This definition of ¡°sustainable timber¡±
aligns with government procurement policy in the
Netherlands and Germany and which has been adopted in
trade association codes in several European countries.
The STTC report also comments on the role of FLEGT
licensing in relation to certification: ¡°while not necessarily
considered evidence of sustainability, FLEGT licensing is
widely recognized as an important tool for promoting
sustainable forest management. Most stakeholders in the
sector would agree that a combination of certified
operators and a FLEGT-based legal system provides the
best assurance for sustainable forest management¡±.
The ITTO FLEGT Independent Market Monitor (IMM)
project, which was well represented at the Paris
Conference, is co-operating closely with STTC to ensure
that this data is collected and reported alongside the data
on certified timber.
The report also makes clear that the 30% estimate of EU
certified wood in total tropical imports is only preliminary.
The report notes that for the period when the report was
prepared, survey data covering a large proportion of
importers was only available in a limited number of
European countries including Belgium, the Netherlands,
Spain and the UK.
According to the report, the estimated share of certified in
total tropical primary product imports (logs, sawnwood,
veneer and plywood) varied widely between European
A relatively high share is reported for the Netherlands
(63%) and the UK (49%), but this falls to 20% in
Germany, 12% in both Belgium and France, 5% in Italy
and 4% in Spain. There was no data for the other two
countries included in the survey, Denmark and Norway.
Joint STTC-PEFC work to promote certified supply in
South East Asia
Julia Kozlik of PEFC reported at the STTC Conference on
joint work by PEFC and STTC to increase certified forest
area and certified product trade flows in South East Asia.
This has involved a variety of work to help build
certification capacity, provide training, and to establish a
support desk in Vietnam linked to awareness raising
activities targeting trade and industry press and events.
M. Kozlik noted that PEFC has already endorsed two
national systems in South East Asia ¨C in Malaysia and
Indonesia - and that the system in Thailand is expected to
be endorsed by PEFC soon. The Thailand PEFC system is
particularly innovative as it showcases new procedures for
certification of ¡°trees outside forests¡±. Certification hasn¡¯t
been readily accessible to farmers and small plantation
holders in the past, and the new procedures are designed to
fill this gap.
M. Kozlik also mentioned on-going steps to extend the
area of the PEFC-endorsed MTCS certified forest in
Sarawak and Sabah. MTCS certified forest currently
covers 34% of total natural forest area in Malaysia, mainly
concentrated in Peninsular Malaysia. It was noted that
Malaysia already exports around 200,000 m3 of certified
tropical timber to Europe every year.
New tropical wood promotion in Europe
During the STTC Conference, Benoit Jobbe-Duval, the
General Director of ATIBT, introduced the new website
designed for the European market and which aims to
provide ready access to information on tropical timber
species availability and technical properties, and to match
species to specific applications.
The site, which has a starting budget of €51,000 funded
jointly by STTC and ATIBT targets business users of
tropical timber. It lists 90 species of timber, providing
details technical characteristics drawing from CIRAD
Although still early days in the rollout, the new website is
already attracting 4,000 visits a month, mainly in France
(70%) and Belgium (5%), with most species searches
targeting sipo, iroko and sapele. M. Jobbe-Duval invited
trade associations in Europe to take control of their own
national pages and to maintain the national list of
Anand Punja, Director of FSC Europe introduced the
¡°Together We Are FSC¡± campaign which aims to create
greater co-operation throughout the FSC network to
promote the certification brand and highlight the
contribution that certification can make to achievement of
the UN Sustainable Development Goals. M. Punja
suggested that a key message is that ¡°tropical timber,
Nordic timber, wherever it comes from, if it is FSC it is all
Positive mood at STTC Conference belies real
Generally, the mood of the STTC conference was positive,
with participants displaying considerable enthusiasm for
the messages promoted by STTC and the promotional
activities of likes of ATIBT and LCB. This is itself was an
achievement given that the conference was held against a
background of continuing stasis in Europe¡¯s tropical wood
trade, and the well-publicised financial difficulties of
Rougier and other European-owned certified operations in
tropical African countries.
To some extent the positive mood could be attributed to
the strong focus on FSC and PEFC certification which, in
the context of the European private sector, is often
perceived as an essential pre-requisite for successful longterm
market development of tropical wood.
The STTC focus on increased procurement of FSC and
PEFC certified timber has played an important role to
encourage European distributors, contractors, retailers and
NGOs to actively encourage greater use of tropical timber,
something rarely contemplated only a decade ago.
From the perspective of results on the ground in tropical
countries, questions need to be raised about the relevance
and value of a metric of market ¡°share¡± that focuses
primarily on the proportion of FSC or PEFC certified
relative to uncertified tropical products, without also
considering the impact on total European imports of
tropical timber products.
Is a procurement policy that leads to 100% certified share
of tropical timber imports, but is accompanied by, say, a
70% decline in total European imports from the tropics
really a ¡°success¡±?
This is debateable, particularly when it is also considered
that under the terms of the EUTR, there must be a
negligible risk of any timber product imported into the
EU, irrespective of origin or of certification status, being
derived from an illegal source.
Another closely related issue is the extent to which there is
equitable access to certification in tropical developing
countries, or between large and small operators in timbersupplying
Data on the implementation of certification globally (see
next section) strongly implies that FSC and PEFC
certification tends to favour operators in richer
industrialised countries compared to those in developing
countries, and that there is a strong bias in favour of larger
operators in all regions.
The need for procurement policies that avoid rigid
demands for specific forms of certification, that are built
on partnerships and co-operation with tropical suppliers
and that reward progress within realistic timescales,
remains as strong as ever.
New thinking on certification
On a more positive note, there is evidence of rising
awareness of these threats within the certification
movement, and growing recognition that there is a need
for new thinking to significantly reduce the costs of
certification and enhance the level of access.
For example, landscape approaches to certification are
gaining attention, partly in response to policy
developments such as REDD+ and FLEGT-related due
diligence and governance and partly because of growing
corporate-sector interest in deforestation-free procurement.
There is also increasing recognition that approaches at the
scale of individual enterprises or management units are
often ineffective and inefficient. Landscape approaches
seek measurable indicators that are applicable across
landscapes and which give an indication of the general
progress being made.
An indication that this thinking is becoming more
mainstream came from the final presentation at the STTC
Conference in Paris. Speaking on behalf of the Alliance
for Preservation of Forests, Jean-Manuel Bluet, Head of
Sustainable Development at Nestle, France, focused a
large part of his presentation on the potential role of
landscape-based certification in the tropics.