Learn about sustainable tropical timber

Learn about sustainable tropical timber with online modules

BLOG · BY LUCY BEDRY – Communications Executive · 14 February 

Whether you are an architect, specifier, merchant, or designer, you can now learn the essentials of sustainable tropical timber with a new series of online modules.


Specifying sustainably sourced tropical timber can help combat climate change. Yet as it stands, many designers are unaware of the benefits their materials choices can bring to the tropical world. Timber Development UK is seeking to change this.

“Design choices have a clear, visible impact on the way we live. This is most apparent in our cities, where urban architecture can work to create a sense of community, inclusion, and shape the way we move through our environment. Less obvious, but just as important, are how our material choices will affect the planet,” says David Hopkins, chief executive of Timber Development UK.

“Wood is the only sustainable structural material that can enable substantial decarbonisation of the built environment, providing vast carbon sinks in our rural areas and carbon stores in our cities. With the built environment contributing nearly 40% of global carbon emissions, it is essential we take on these emissions now – and take up the existing solution to this problem, which is timber.”

While the benefits of using sustainable timber from the temperate belt are well recognised, where such material choices have allowed for the continued expansion of forest cover for the past four decades across North America and Europe, designers and specifiers need to realise that choosing sustainable tropical timber can help extend this trend in the tropical belt.

“Tropical timber is strong, durable, and beautiful. Yet right now it is an underdeveloped resource, which leaves many forests open to being exploited in non-sustainable ways,” says Lucy Bedry, a communications executive at Timber Development UK.

“Sustainably sourced timber from tropical countries is extracted very carefully so as to minimise any potential damage to the forest and to biodiversity, and it has proven to be a successful approach. This is because the communities and forest owners have a clear commercial incentive to keep the forest standing, rather than convert it to agriculture – when this forest will be lost forever.

Using more sustainable tropical timber specifiers can support the success of this business model and help support forests to grow, she explains.

“Among the issues we’ve identified for specifiers is a lack of education around the sourcing of tropical timber, as well as around the properties of these materials. With the ‘Making use of Tropical Timber’ online modules, we are hoping to tackle the former of these problems – and give specifiers the confidence to understand and work with these supply chains.”

The modules go through the essentials of the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, the initiative which aims to eradicate illegal logging and associated illegal timber trade, including forest legality, sustainability, and certification.

“By supporting initiatives like FLEGT we help encourage the reforms that countries are making to enhance how their forests are governed. This initiative also reduces the demand for land from other commodities as taxes can be collected and legal income can be generated,” says Lucy.

FLEGT allows countries within the tropical belt to enter a bilateral trade agreement called a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), provided they improve forest governance and regulation, develop internal monitoring and manufacturing systems and guarantee that wood exports come from legal sources.

“By ensuring a sustainable and managed supply, tropical timber can be appreciated and enjoyed in a wide range of timber products, including furniture, flooring, doors, joinery and decorative features. And ultimately, we keep more tropical forest standing.”

You can try the online modules for free now on Wood Campus. If you would like to learn more about our FLEGT project on the Timber Trade Federation website.

Contact the TTF’s FLEGT Communications Executive, Lucy Bedry for more information.