Foundation Ecohout is a non-profit organization promoting the production and distribution of timber from well-managed forests.
Since its establishment in 1993, ECOHOUT has been engaged in promoting and supporting forest certification as a tool for achieving this goal. Independent forest-certification uses a market incentive for controlled forest management, balancing the ecological sustainability, social-cultural benefits and economic viability of the forests. ECOHOUT is a member of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), widely regarded as the most advanced organization in the field of forest and timber certification.
6702 AA Wageningen
Tel/Fax: +31 (0)317 425828
Mob. : +31 (0)6 49908955
Director: Chris van der Goot
Sustainability refers to the results of human action. For people to make use of their natural environment in a way that can be sustained over longer periods, they must have the opportunity to do so. In other words, it must be possible for them to sustain themselves, their families and their society in a way that does not destroy their natural environment.
If we look at the issue of sustainability from this perspective, it appears that sustainibility is not at all about trees or butterflies; it is about people trying to make a living and it is about the social,
economic and political conditions under which they have to do this.
Devastation of tropical forests has become a worldwide concern. Although forest certification was born out of this concern, it is clear that the largest proportion of the certified forest area currently is situated in non-tropical countries. There is still a big challenge to achieve forest certification in the tropics and to increase the benefits from certification. ECOHOUT is focussed on tropical timbers and producers in tropical countries.
Development of Certified Timber
The availability of certified timber gives to the consumers a choice. It provides them with a possibility to influence production chains. However, developing demand for and supply of certified timber is a delicately balanced process. Raising awareness, trademark promotion, marketing new timber species, sourcing certified wood, researching the properties of lesser known (lesser used) timbers, and financing mechanisms all are aspects that are involved in a gradual growth of market share of certified timber. Every link in the trade chain must be involved and motivated in order to make certified timber available for the end-user/specifier. ECOHOUT applies an integrated approach, based on a holistic view, and has activities throughout the whole trade chain.
Sustainable forest management and certification of forests and forest products are still surrounded by many questions. The search is for market-based instruments to strengthen the viability of projects that are initiated from environmental or social-economic concerns. The increasing area of forested lands with ownership by indigenous or rural communities requires solutions and models for community forestry. Analysis of the production and trade chain is an important factor for determining the opportunities for such projects. The link to the markets requires in many cases development of technical skills and commercial opportunities. ECOHOUT can contribute to the analyses and bridge the gap to the commercial world. The aim is to bring conservation into line with commercial development, with special attention for financing mechanisms.
But also large companies, governments and non-governmental organizations are struggling with problems that are linked with aspects like sustainable development, corporate responsibility, and responsible timber trade. Based on experience in forestry, timber trade, and FSC-certification, ECOHOUT can advise in finding solutions for this kind of problems, on operational as well as on strategic level.
Market access is one of the clearest benefits for producers of certified forest products. The FSC-certification and the use of the FSC-logo is essentially a marketing tool. Specific marketing activities are necessary to use this tool effectively and to enter new markets. ECOHOUT can bridge supply and demand, making use of its network of contacts, promotional activities, knowledge of wood and trade information. Wood samples and references play an important role in the start of the marketing process. The follow-up is testing and trial deliveries. The marketing can be directed at niche-markets or specific projects as well as at regular distributors or large scale manufacturers. The aim of ECOHOUT is to establish market-links in certified timber.
Lesser Known Timber Species
Sustainable forest management in natural forests requires a well-balanced harvesting regime. The composition of tree species in the forest should be maintained as much as possible and every species should have left enough potential for natural regeneration. This way, harvesting should not be restricted to a few high valued timber species only. Spreading the harvest over more species makes it possible to work more cost-effective without exceeding the total allowable cutting volume for the area and for the separate species. As a consequence, producers try to market as much different species as possible.
In combination with the fact that forest certification provides opportunities to new suppliers and new regions of origin, the market for certified timber finds itself confronted with many previously lesser used or even unknown timber species, and potentially there are many more timber species available.
ECOHOUT has trade experience with a number of these lesser used species. Furthermore, ECOHOUT gathers information on names and properties of these timbers from international literature and experiences. Trade and industry are very reluctant to extend the number of species in use. For introduction of these species, it is necessary to make additional promotion and marketing efforts, and to spread knowledge about uses and properties. ECOHOUT is supporting manufacturers and traders who are willing to try out new certified timber species.