The IDH Tropical Timber program promotes the use of sustainable tropical timber. For IDH it is evident that sustainable forest management ensures the forest is there for the future.

IDH’s objective for the 2016-2020 period is to support certification of  2 million hectares of tropical forest – with FSC, PEFC or other credible standards – spread over strategic locations around the world. These locations will in some cases overlap with landscapes in which IDH works on preventing deforestation. In these landscapes, the timber program also aims to work on broader issues to support sustainable forest management and prevent deforestation, for example by working with national timber federations, large companies using local timber or alternative livelihood strategies.

On the demand side, activities of the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition, an entity founded by IDH, will be scaled up to include sector wide action plans with timber trade federations, individual companies and municipalities in five focus countries: Germany, Denmark, France, Italy and Spain.

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.

Relevant SDGs

  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Life on land
  • Partnerships for the goals

European Demand

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 the undeniable fact that in the short term 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  safeguards the preservation of forests better than any other mechanism we have at our disposal.

Flagship certification

In strategic locations we will support companies to adopt sustainable forest management practices in combination with mechanisms to increase yields, improve management practices and strengthen marketing of the product. The objective is to certify 2 million ha of tropical forest (with FSC, PEFC or other credible standards). The certifications will serve as an example to other companies in the region and/or give a positive push to broader landscape or governance processes targeted in the Tropical Timber Program or other IDH programs.

For regional/country based support, a scoping process was formalized due to a steering committee visit to the Republic of Congo and the start of a project with PEFC in Gabon. Certification efforts have started in the Amazon region of Brazil, and another certification project in Ivory Coast is in the pipeline. 

Sustainable Forest Management Toolkit

The 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. 


Related projects

Facts & Figures

  • Private-sector (sustainability) investments in the program (in millions)

    Target 2020 6.2
    Target 2017 0.6
    Results 2017 0.490451
  • Uptake rate of sustainable production by program partners (in percentage %)

    Target 2020 40
    Target 2017 22
    Results 2017 (estimate) 22



  • Value and Impact Analysis Initiative

    The VIA Initiative is a congenial assembly working together on how best to measure the impacts and better communicate the value of FSC certification and eventually also other systems

    Read more
    Value and Impact Analysis Initiative
  • Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition

    The European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition is an alliance dedicated to increasing European demand for sustainably sourced tropical timber.

    Read more
    Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition

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