Tropical forests continue to disappear and degrade at an alarming rate. Unsustainable timber production and harvesting practices pose threats to the ecosystem and lead to further degradation and forest land conversion.

The IDH Tropical Timber program promotes the use of sustainable tropical timber. IDH focuses on 3 main targets: to increase the uptake of Sustainable Forest Management timber products by 150.000 m3, to support the development of economically viable and sustainably managed forests via effective public private platforms, and to develop a direct sourcing connection between end-buyers and producing regions.

The IDH Timber market program

The IDH Timber market program aims to drive EU sustainable tropical timber import to 40% by 2020. To this end, IDH convened the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC), and supports bi-annual market monitoring studies to make the EU tropical tim­ber market more transparent and to create accountability. Moreover, IDH works on mobilizing investments (e.g. via the LDN Fund) and convening policy frameworks to reach market change, which is scalable.

Driving market transformation in Timber

In 2018, the first Market Data report was published, which estimated that Europe imported 3 million m3 roundwood equivalents in 2016, of which only an estimated 30% was verified sustainable. The latest report (Nov 2019) shows that between 25% and 32% of the primary tropical timber imported into the EU28 was exposed to sustainable timber certification. There exist great room for improvement and this number demands decisive action by all industry stakeholders.

Activities of the Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) include sector wide action plans with timber trade federations, individual companies and municipalities in five focus countries: Germany, Denmark, France, Italy and Spain, which source a significant amount of tropical timber. The STTC takes a more data driven approach, including improving data on market uptake and information sharing among partners. In addition, different from previous project-based approach, IDH is moving towards engaging more directly with countries at national level.

In response to declining market demand for tropical timber and in order to increase the volume of sustainably managed tropical forests, IDH founded the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition in 2012/2013. The main objective is to increase the demand for sustainable tropical timber in Europe. The initial objective of 30% sustainable tropical timber on the European market was achieved by 2015. Activities included a life-cycle analysis for wooden window frames, research into the practical use of various lesser-known timber species, engagement with municipalities on sustainable procurement, and workshops for architects.

In 2016 the STTC re-launched and attracted five new members, making the total number of participants 52. STTC’s participants range from cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Rotterdam and Amsterdam to timber importers, construction companies and large home improvement retailers. The STTC will work together with the national timber trade federations in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Denmark, engaging them formally to implement a sustainable tropical timber sourcing policy. The STTC will also engage various municipalities in the five focus countries to develop and implement policies on sustainable tropical timber procurement. 


Forest in landscapes

We have come to realize that forests and forest management do not exist in isolation from other land uses. The main driver of deforestation is actually not timber felling at all; it is rather agricultural expansion into the forest. And that has a lot to do with that the financial value of one hectare of forest can never supersede the financial value of one hectare of palm oil, soy plantation, or cattle breeding. However, harvesting trees in a sustainable way in well managed forests directly reduces the opportunity costs of not converting forests to plantations. Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) safeguards the preservation of forests better than any other mechanism we have at our disposal.

Since 2008, IDH has invested in promoting sustainable forest management, by supporting producers and mobilizing markets. It started with certification programs in the Amazon (Amazon Alternative program) and Indonesia (Borneo Initiative), and later the Congo Basin region, making the IDH Tropical Timber program the biggest forest certification program worldwide. By early 2016, over 8 million hectares of tropical forests in the three regions have been certified with the support of IDH, amounting to 50% of all current FSC certifications of forests in the tropics.

Sustainable Forest Management Toolkit

A business case toolkit was created for concession holders and forest owners managing forests throughout the tropics. The toolkit aims to motivate concession holders and forest owners to (further) engage with SFM and certification by providing best practice information and tools which show possibilities to run sustainable businesses in managed tropical forests.

Download the toolkit here.

Facts and Figures

  • Private-sector (sustainability) investments in the program (in million euro)

    Target 2018 0
    Results 2018 0.187
    Cumulative target 2020 0
    Cumulative result 2016-2018 3.6
  • Uptake rate of sustainable production in EU (percentage)

    Target 2018 22
    Result 2018 30
    Cumulative target 2020 40
    Cumulative result 2016-2018 30
  • Number of hectares where sustainable production/ farm rehabilitation/sustainable intensification are implemented (million hectares)

    Target 2018 0.0004
    Result 2018 0.596
    Cumulative target 2020 2
    Cumulative result 2016-2018 1.7

Relevant SDGs

  • Decent jobs and economic growth
  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Life on land


Title Type Year
SDM Case Report: Miro Forestry, Ghana Case Study 2020
Carbon footprint of tropical timber Report 2020
Webinar Slides: COVID19 On-Site Measures for Agriculture and Forestry companies Presentation 2020
SDM Case Study: New Forests Company (NFC), Uganda Case Study 2020
The urgency of action to tackle tropical deforestation Report 2020

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