EU sustainable timber sourcing could protect over 5 million ha of tropical forest

If just seven Europe’s leading tropical timber-importing countries (the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Spain) committed to 100% sustainable sourcing of timber, over 5 million hectares of tropical forest could be sustainably protected.

This is one of the headline findings of the latest report from the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC), convened by IDH and written by the forest and timber sector expert Probos.

The report, titled ‘How Sustainable are Europe’s Tropical Timber Imports?’ identifies trends in the trade of tropical timber on the EU market, and explores how an EU commitment to 100% verified sustainable tropical timber can contribute to deforestation-free supply chains and help meet climate change mitigation targets.

It presents as key findings that:

  1. Just 30% of tropical timber products on the EU market are estimated to be verified sustainable.
  2. If the seven main timber-consuming countries (Germany, France, the UK, Netherlands and Italy plus Belgium and Spain) sourced only verified sustainable primary tropical timber, an estimated additional 5.3 million ha of tropical forests can be sustainably managed and protected.
  3. More European ambition and public-private action is needed to push up the market share of verified sustainable tropical timber to 100%.

There is considerable scope to push up this market share of verified sustainable tropical timber in the EU, in countries like France, Belgium and Spain, where the market shares are as low as 12%, but also in countries like the UK and Netherlands with market shares stagnating around 60%.

Six out of the seven main markets have signed the Amsterdam Declaration, committing to sustainable sourcing of the ‘deforestation commodities’ palm oil, soy and cocoa – but not timber.

Nienke Stam, IDH’s Tropical Timber Program Senior Manager says:

“If we are serious about halting tropical deforestation, the European deforestation-free commodity agenda needs to include ambitious targets on verified sustainable timber.”

At present, tropical forestry operators have limited market incentives to continue sustainable operations, while competition from mainly Asian markets, which are in general not committed to sustainability standards, is fierce. With the market recovering, the report calls for governments, NGOs and the private sector in EU timber importing countries to focus more attention on increasing the market share of verified sustainable tropical timber.

Daan Wensing, IDH’s Landscapes Program Director says:

“IDH supports initiatives related to agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy and cocoa with the aim to get to 100% verified sustainable imports for the entire EU. For timber we aim to do the same, in partnership with the private and public sector in producing and sourcing countries.”

To support such an agenda, IDH and the European STTC partners also recognize the need for more reliable data on the market share of verified sustainable timber, for improved transparency and accountability. At the date of publishing this report, a new partnership is being forged to report on this from 2018 to 2020.

Mark van Benthem of Probos says:

“Our experience in the Netherlands tells us that accurate market intelligence is key for knowing which market to target for measures to increase sustainability to be effective. These market figures can now be linked to an area of tropical forest which is positively impacted by the choices we make in Europe. This should give a strong boost to our message: sustain forests, support sustainably sourced timber.”

The majority of Europe’s tropical roundwood, sawnwood and veneer is imported from Africa and its tropical plywood mainly originates from Asian countries.

Download the report here.


The next meeting of the Amsterdam Declaration signatories takes place in Paris on 27 June 2018. Find out more.

The subject of using data to grow the market for verified sustainable timber uptake will be discussed at the 5th annual European STTC conference ‘Using data to drive market share’ in Paris on 25 October 2018. Register for the event here.


About IDH’s timber program: The IDH timber program aims to contribute to a reduction in deforestation, and works via a two-tier approach: by increasing sustainable (including legal) supply of tropical timber; and by increasing demand for sustainable tropical timber through the Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC).

About the STTC: The European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC), founded by IDH, is an alliance of industry, business, government and NGOs dedicated to increasing European demand for sustainably sourced tropical timber. The STTC’s aim is to develop the market in order to incentivise the growth and spread of responsible forest management in tropical countries.

About Probos: Probos is an independent non-profit institute for forestry, forest products and services. Through applied research, pilot projects, and engagement with the sector, Probos enhances the know-how and awareness on key issues in the forest community, with the ultimate aim to contribute to sustainable forest management worldwide.

Image: Mark van Benthem/ Probos