The study, commissioned by IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative) and conducted by GTF and Probos, analyzes European imports of secondary tropical wood products for the year 2019. The study was published in English in late 2020 and its French translation has just been completed by the ATIBT.
This report explores the impact of the EU 27 + UK’s imports of certified tropical wood products on forests in producing countries. Certified tropical wood imports guarantee Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) practices, preserving the world’s tropical forests, mitigating climate change, and ensuring sustainable livelihoods for communities near forest areas. Tropical wood enters the EU27 + UK as primary products like roundwood and sawnwood and secondary products like windows and doors. This report builds upon the 2019 IDH publication Unlocking sustainable tropical timber market growth through data (which focused only on primary tropical wood products), breaking a new ground to examine the impacts of EU27 + UK imports of four secondary tropical wood products (doors, mouldings, other joinery, and windows).
COVID-19 looms over the publication of this report, impacting data collection, and creating uncertainty for the future. The true effects of COVID-19 on the tropical timber industry remain unknown, but projections show euro-area GDP plunging by over 9%. A recent FAO study indicates that 68% of 150 global companies, government agencies, associations, and NGOs that responded were “extremely or very concerned” about the impacts of COVID-19 on their business or operations. Almost a million forest and timber processing sector workers have been directly affected in eight of the main tropical wood producing/processing countries, and construction and processing in other large countries will surely be affected. Future studies will reveal the true effects of COVID-19 on tropical timber.
Much like the 2019 report on primary tropical timber products, this report uses exposure to certification to reveal the source of EU27 + UK secondary tropical timber imports. Importantly it only calculates direct imports from producing countries and does not account for EU27 + UK intra-trade – consumption data may vary greatly from the import data. The exposure to certification method considers the share of FSC and PEFC certified forests as a percent of total productive forest area in producing countries, and projects this onto the export data of the ITTO producer countries. Exposure to FSC and PEFC certification is the primary focus, but where possible analysis of FLEGT Licensed materials (from Indonesia) and verified legality schemes are included. As with the 2019 report a process of validation was applied to provide a reality check based on input from across a range of key markets.
The data shows that just five countries – France, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom (in order of scale of imports) – are responsible for 90% of EU27 + UK imports of secondary tropical wood products. The Netherlands is the largest importer of secondary tropical wood products exposed to certification in the EU27 + UK, followed by France, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain. Indonesia (79,400 tonnes) and Brazil (65,300 tonnes) are responsible for over three-quarters (77%) of the total EU27 + UK imports of selected secondary tropical wood products.
The analysis concludes that in 2019, 29%–37% of EU27 + UK direct imports of the selected secondary tropical wood products were exposed to certification. Secondary tropical wood products largely parallel the 2018 data on primary tropical wood products — 25–32% of primary tropical wood products were certified in 2018. Volumes of secondary tropical wood product imports (187,500 tonnes in 2019) are far less than primary tropical wood (1,473,000 tonnes in 2018), but the potential impacts are still significant. Current EU27 + UK demand for certified secondary tropical wood products positively impacts at least 763,000–925,000 hectares of tropical forests. Ramping up demand for SFM-certified products to 100% of imports would impact an additional 1,160,000–1,322,000 hectares of tropical forests. The total potential impact of the combined primary and secondary tropical wood product markets is enormous – positively impacting over 18 million hectares if 100% sustainable.
The new data show that the current demand of the EU27+UK for certified tropical timber primary and secondary products reduces CO2 emissions per year by between 18.9 and 29.2 million metric tons. A EU27+UK market using only sustainable tropical timber products might reduce emissions by almost 100 million metric tons.
Creating this impact will require growing demand for sustainable tropical products in the EU27 + UK, and expanding use-cases for and interest in tropical timber generally. EU27 + UK governments have an important role to play growing and enforcing EUTR, altering procurement policies, working with governments in producing countries and emerging markets, and collaborating with non-profits to explore synergies. All market actors must work to grow the market, expand applications for tropical timber, and improve transparency to aid reports like this one in order to realize a world in which the world’s life-giving forests are maintained in perpetuity.