Picture yourself in a former Lutheran church, the 17th century kind, with an organ reaching the full formidable height of the building up to the dome. The Koepelkerk, as it’s called in Dutch, was the Amsterdam venue for the International Forum of the ATIBT and for the event this impressive space was filled with positive tropical timber sounds.

For the occasion the 150-strong audience was surrounded by potted 2m high jatoba and lucena trees. Ayous veneer sculptures and cumaru chairs added to the backdrop, demonstrating the renewability and technical capabilities of tropical species, as speakers developed their viewpoints.

The November event was organized under the aegis of the European Coalition for Sustainable Tropical Timber (STTC) and its theme was "Strengthening Trust in Tropical Wood" – a goal, speakers concluded, that was key for the forest as it was for the trade.

Ted van der Put, director of IDH, the principal organization behind the STTC, put it clearly with one simple observation: driving demand for sustainable tropical wood may well be the single most effective thing we can do if we are to even have a small chance of succeeding in protecting tropical forests.

What does that mean in practice? For one thing, market differentiation. Making the choice to sustain wellproduced tropical forest products. This, said speakers, demands both a top down and bottom-up approach. Public procurement can drive demand for the good timber and help make it the market norm, but we also need to reach out to the consumers – our key allies in this endeavour. We all know the impact of the emotional dimension in the market. Consumers have long been instructed to believe myths about tropical timber. Our challenge is to challenge their misperceptions; to convince the public that buying good tropical timber is doing the right thing by the forests. We need to convince them by doing this they are doing something vital for all of us, on a global scale.

There’s more to a forest than the forest alone. It’s about climate. Water. Green jobs. It’s healthier, better living conditions. And it’s all at a consumer’s fingertips or the swipe of a credit card. What a message. Buy tropical timber, help keep forests alive!

The good in good tropical wood can be proven through certification and this gives us so many good, positive stories to tell. No need to photoshop the image. Also key here will be the 2015 review and revision of the EU Timber Regulation. The big question for us is whether changes in the rules ensure that the EUTR applies equally to tropical wood and finished tropical wood products, which currently it does not.

As a market, and for the reputation and consumer image of tropical timber, we need a level playing field in this respect. And we need the EUTR backed with accurate and verifiable data.

The future of the forests will be determined by people’s choices worldwide. That’s why we need to reach out as a sector to consumers, to buyers, to policy makers.

Bridging the communication gap is in our hands. Will you join in? Visit www.atibt.org.