TTF questions over-reliance on certification as sustainability measure
While most speakers at the annual STTC Conference in Paris on 26 September were cheer leaders for the procurement targets adopted by the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition – STTC (for more information here), a cautionary note was introduced by David Hopkins, Managing Director of the UK TTF.
Mr Hopkins said that while the TTF supported the concept of increased procurement of certified wood, in practice the targets for certified tropical timber are overly-ambitious and should be reconsidered.
Mr Hopkins said that TTF members have been implementing a responsible procurement policy now for many years, which is reflected in an impressive “headline statistic” from the latest annual audit report, that 90% of timber placed on the UK market by TTF members is certified.
However, closer analysis of this data shows that the high proportion of certified is just indicative of the very large proportion of UK timber imports sourced from Scandinavia. Considering tropical wood in isolation, at most 30% of wood traded by TTF members is certified and the actual proportion may be even lower given uncertainties of measurement.
In the tropical segment of the UK market, according to Mr Hopkins, the total quantity of tropical imports continues to fall, and there are even signs that the certified proportion of this shrinking segment is declining.
Hopkins asked the question, “have we reached peak certification?” He wondered whether the existing STTC method of relying only on certification as a metric of sustainable procurement is appropriate in the current market situation.
Europe is declining in importance relative to other global markets for tropical timber and needs to maintain leverage, while there is also intense pressure on demand from other materials, emphasising the need for a focus on wider competitiveness issues.
Mr Hopkins said that “in future plans, we need to redefine goals and set targets based on careful assessment of the market reality, to look and see what is actually out there, rather than what we would like to be out there”.
“We need to be aware of other initiatives, such as FLEGT which is also relevant. There is a huge opportunity for FSC and PEFC within that process, but we should move away from current model of sole reliance on certification and find a new way forward”, concluded Mr Hopkins.