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Last edited 31 Dec 2020
Sustainably procuring tropical hardwood
Tropical hardwood comes from continents surrounding the Equator; mainly Central and West Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. Collectively, these forests contain 47% of the total global growing stock.
Popular tropical hardwood sourced from these areas include; Iroko, African Mahogany, Sipo and Sapele (Africa); Dark Red Meranti, Bangkirai and Teak (Southeast Asia); Ipe and Massaranduba (Latin America).
Sustainable management protects tropical forests from the risks of illegal logging or being used for other purposes such as soy, palm oil and beef production which can lead to rapid deforestation. It is estimated that using tropical forests for these purposes causes half of all global deforestation. This is why the effort that goes into sustainable forest management is important, protecting the future of tropical forests. The timber and forestry industries go to great lengths to put sustainable forest management in place and this movement is steadily increasing.
In addition to ensuring the forest is sustainably managed, local communities can benefit from employment; across Central and West Africa, Southeast Asia and South America more than two million people are employed.
- Approval of a forest management plan.
- Certified VLC (Verification of Legal Compliance) status.
- Full FSC/PEFC (Forest Stewardship Council/Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certification status.
 How is this being addressed globally?
The United Nations programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) offers incentives to developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and for improving conservation, sustainable management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Worldwide there are forest certification systems such as the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which aim to protect biodiversity, ecosystem services, local employment, and indigenous peoples’ rights within the forest.
Countries around the world that are importing tropical hardwood are working more closely with export countries. This collaborative working is imperative for strengthening the traceability of timber and progressing sustainable forest management.
In Europe, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) prohibits the placing of illegally-harvested timber on the European market. This means there must be a record of the supplier, the product’s timber species, where it comes from, the amount bought, and a risk assessment on the product. The Forest Law Enforcement, Government and Trade (FLEGT) action plan aims to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.
There are also Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA), which are legally binding trade agreements between the European Union and timber-producing countries outside the EU to ensure timber products come from a legal source.
 What certification and verification schemes are available?
Verified Legal Compliance schemes (VLCs) work in partnership with timber regulations that require companies sourcing timber to have a due diligence system in place. They ensure all the administrative requirements have been completed, that applicable laws related to forestry have been met, and checks forest management processes. The main VLCs are run by the Rainforest Alliance (SmartWood) and Bureau Veritas (OLB) and are particularly important in West and Central Africa.
TRADA (Timber Research and Development Association) operates its own chain of custody scheme for forest products that aren’t FSC or PEFC certified. It recognises other certification schemes such as MTCC and verification schemes such as Bureau Veritas’ OLB, FLEGT, and the Rainforest Alliance VLC.
 What can procurers do?
Check to make sure the timber or timber products sourced are legal by putting in place a procurement policy enforcing certified timber and timber products. This makes sure it is responsibly, lawfully and sustainably sourced and contributes to the good work being done to ensure both the forest and local area are safe from environmental, economic or social damage.
Have enhanced due diligence systems in place when timber and timber products cannot be certified. The supplier used should still be able to verify the source. Be vigilant about the risks of illegal timber in the supply chain.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Ancient woodland.
- Chain of custody.
- Confederation of Timber Industries.
- European Union Timber Regulation.
- Forest ownership.
- Forest Stewardship Council.
- Legal and sustainable timber.
- Legally harvested and traded timber.
- Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.
- Sustainable timber.
- Whole life carbon assessment of timber
- Wood and affordable housing.
- Wood and hybrid structures.
- Wood, health and wellbeing.
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