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  • Writer's pictureNavodi Kuruppu

Sustainable Timber: Interview with ATIBT

Updated: Feb 16


Timber is wood that has been prepared for specialist use and construction, and since

ancient times it has played a central role in people's daily lives. The Egyptians used this

vital resource for the construction of many items such as furniture and coffins. Later, the

Britons would use it for objects such as canoes and more complex tools. Throughout

history, timber has been used for the construction of the most basic necessities.


While in the modern era, lightweight metals and plastics have taken over, timber is still

employed on a large scale worldwide within the construction industry. When sustainably

sourced, timber presents various benefits. For example, it is a natural and renewable

resource and it can be useful in combating climate change due to its wide storage of

carbon. It is also essential for the socio-economic development of producing countries.


10 Largest Producers of Timber


To better understand how the industry of sustainable timber works, we have talked with

development of a sustainable, ethical and legal industry of timber sources from tropical

areas.


Created in 1951 and based in France, Assocaiation Technique International de bois

Tropicaux primarily operates in Central Africa, particularly the Congo Basin. It is also

composed of producers from the Amazon, importers and traders in the consuming

countries and NGOs based in Europe, and America. The ATIBT has a series of functions

including representing and connecting members, and disseminating technical knowledge

and training.


We had the opportunity to talk with Josépha Coache, the marketing programme assistant

for ATIBT and asked some questions regarding the industry of sustainable timber:


What are the main challenges faced in the sustainable timber industry?

One major challenge is the illegal trade of timber, which puts sustainable timber at risk.

Certifications are regulations that help us do things right, labels like FSC and PEFCPAFC make sure timber is produced responsibly. For example, a certification can say that

you can only cut one tree per hectare every 25 to 30 years. However, illegal traders do not

follow these rules. They sell timber that's not certified because it’s cheaper to trade.



Is there a lack of policy?

There isn’t a lack of policy. For example, in Europe there is a policy, the EU Timber

enters into application in December 2024), explaining the obligations of operators who

place timber and timber products on the market. However, the illegal timber trade doesn't

follow these rules, making it difficult to stop. It's a challenge to combat this kind of

unlawful trade due to evasive practices. It is our mission and organisations like ours to

tackle the illegal trade of tropical timber.



What is your approach to solving the issue?

Our approach involves a series of efforts. We recognise both the economic and social

value of sustainable tropical timber, so we conduct technical research and disseminate

knowledge on tropical wood to all of our stakeholders. These include companies

operating in our areas of focus, government officials, policymakers and the general

public. We also function as a board to represent our members and to create a strong

network of partners.


We have also opened the Fair&Precious Programme; an international brand influencing

buyers towards companies in the tropical timber sector that are committed to a

sustainable development approach to forest ecosystems. We do so through our

communication expertise and by providing European consumers with a good image of

tropical timber.


Part of both the ATIBT and the Fair&Precious Programme are eight forest

operators across regions such as Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Brazil, and Peru, creating a

powerful force for sustainable practices and the well-being of both forests and

communities. These eight operators represent around 6.8 million hectares of certified

forests.


What can we do to support this cause?

There are simple actions we can take and the most important one is choosing to buy legal

and certified timber or timber products. Tropical timber is often associated with

deforestation so choosing certified tropical timber is an impactful way of contributing to

the protection and conservation of our forest ecosystems. It is also essential to spread

information and awareness on this cause.



Article written by Navodi Kuruppu

Article Edited by Tomos Morris

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