I am not a wizard with numbers. So when I read the figures that are thrown at me on a daily basis – in 2050 our population will have risen to between 8.3 and 10.9 billion, or, that to meet future demand, in the next 50 years more food needs to be produced than in the past 500 years – I get slightly dazzled and don’t really know what we’re talking about here.

But it’s different in the case of forests: by 2050 we’ll probably need three times more wood than we do today. This image stays with me. However, the fact that we need so much food to feed the increasing number of mouths and that farmers need to provide this food, is one of the major drivers of deforestation. And without trees, we cannot provide all that timber we need.

And now I’ll say something that at first hearing will not make much sense at all: to avoid deforestation to produce palm, soy or beef, we need to use tropical wood. We need to do it in a sustainable way, so that the people living off the forests can continue to do so, without being tempted to switch to agriculture. This is one of the main aims of the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition. This coalition, in which a large number of organisations are united, aims to increase demand for timber from sustainably managed forests to a mainstream level as a key unlocking move for the tropical timber sector.

As an example, at the end of last summer, a two-year initiative was founded between IKEA, Kingfisher and Tetra Pak, supported by the ISEAL Alliance and IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative. This promotes the benefits of legal, responsibly sourced, sustainable timber and clarifies the role of FSC certification in this. The initiative will support the development of a methodology for assessing the impacts of FSC forest management certification and the piloting of this methodology in selected areas.

Another example is that, along with the technical issues working group, the STTC is undertaking action to battle deforestation by focusing on lesser known timber species. This group has been working hard over the past months to get more timber species incorporated into the wood database, created by Dutch Timber Trade Federation, Probe and the Dutch ministry of economic affairs.

Information is disseminated to architects via the Innovative Facades project of the technical issues working group. This links architects to suppliers and supports and advises them in the implementation of building projects using lesser known species.

Looking beyond the STTC, IDH has supported the certification of more than 3 million hectares of tropical forest to date – this is an area almost as big as the Netherlands – and supported 80-100% of the total certification in the tropics over the last four years.

I talked earlier about the world needing three times as much timber in 2050. Above I gave just a few examples of how the companies and organisations forming the STTC are working together to increase the use of tropical timber across Europe so that we can provide all that timber, without losing our forests.