Data key to unlocking sustainable tropical timber market growth

Accurate data is key to growing the market share of sustainable tropical timber, according to the ‘Using data to drive market share’ conference hosted by Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC), founded by IDH, in Paris on 25 October 2018.

© Mark van Benthem/ Probos

The overarching ambition of the STTC is to see an increase in sustainably sourced materials share of European tropical timber sales from 30% to 50% by 2020. Improving accuracy, accessibility and analysis of trade statistics is vital to achieve this objective.

To date the STTC, comprising private and public-sector partners, has primarily focused on market education and promotion initiatives, encouraging the uptake of lesser-known tropical species on the EU market and supporting sustainable procurement policy implementation. The next move is to focus on gathering and interpreting trade data to better understand the volumes of sustainable tropical timber entering European supply chains, its origins and destinations, and to inform and better target further market development activity.

The STTC acknowledged that, until now, the European sustainable tropical timber market has lacked a coherent source of definitive trade figures. Some national data monitoring has proved successful, but the pan-European picture has been less clear. However, this is changing. Alongside the STTC’s efforts, other initiatives, some supported by the STTC, have emerged to track the wider European tropical timber market. Speakers also highlighted growing cooperation in the field between different players sharing the same objective of understanding sector trends and market development potential. These include the Global Timber Forum, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the EU FLEGT Independent Market Monitor Project.

Other presentations and table discussions were delivered by a wide range of industry voices, including the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), IDH, Probos, the Timber Trade Federations of the UK, Spain, France and Europe, the Association Technique Internationale des Bois Tropicaux (ATIBT) , the French Development Agency, the French National Railway Company (SNCF) and the Alliance for the Preservation of Forests. New approaches are evolving to improve tropical timber trade monitoring, including the ‘exposure to certification’ method. And there was also a call for new metrics for sustainability, to complement current certification schemes.

In addition, the conference featured presentations on complementary STTC-backed projects to grow European awareness of sustainable tropical timber availability and exploit its market potential. These included the ATIBT’s My Tropical Timber Website, the FSC’s new ‘Together we are FSC’ campaign, PEFC International’s program for growing certified timber trade flows from Asia to Europe and Le Commerce du Bois’s tropical timber marketing initiatives.

© Mark van Benthem/ Probos

The event attracted over 90 delegates from across the EU and tropical supplier countries. They included a range of timber businesses and representatives of industry federation representatives from across Europe and supplier countries, NGOs and certification schemes.

The Conference closed with a presentation of the STTC’s 2018-2020 roadmap from IDH Tropical Timber Programme Manager Nienke Stam.

Further data research to steer tropical timber market development will be a core focus of the STTC. This includes developing a 2018 sequel to the How Sustainable are Europe’s Tropical Timber Products? report, which highlighted the bottom line of growing the market for responsibly sourced tropical timber.

If Europe’s seven leading timber-consuming countries sourced exclusively verified sustainable primary tropical timber, it concluded, 5.3 million ha more tropical forest would be brought under sustainable management.

Find out more about IDH’s tropical timber program.