26.05.2021. In December 2020, INTERHOLCO passed the FSC® audit, which took place in the field. 'At INTERHOLCO, we strive for honesty, integrity,' says Tom van Loon, Head of Sustainability, INTERHOLCO. 'We place utmost importance on successful long-term partnerships with our suppliers and customers.'
In a changing world, the demands of international B2B customers and consumers must be listened to. Especially if they are present in more than 50 countries, all very different from each other.
The 'Think Tank' of the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT), held last November by video conference, identified the trends to be retained in Europe and Asia.
Our selection of the highlights:
- China, the largest importer and consumer of timber from Africa, is making a shift towards legality-conscious practices through the new Forestry Code in force since June 2020.
- The US and EU countries continue to demand guarantees of timber origin and legality.
- European consumers increasingly prefer wood from responsibly managed forests, i.e. those that are climate-friendly, respect the rights of local populations and exclude any possible degradation or deforestation.
How can we meet the demands of both sides?
In 2020, 92% of the wood purchased by INTERHOLCO was verified as legal by a third party. In terms of responsible management, 88% of the wood sold by IHC was FSC certified.
The remaining 7% of non-certified wood was subject to field verification by internal auditors.
The last 1% came from low-risk countries and/or EU countries (Germany, Austria, Belgium and France) already subject to due diligence.
In 2020, INTERHOLCO traded approximately 74,000 m3 of wood from its main supplier, IFO, in the Republic of Congo, where the wood is certified to meet EU legality criteria and FSC® principles of responsible management, which are considered the highest in the world.
INTERHOLCO also purchased approximately 14,000 m3 of wood from its third-party suppliers in 2020, 80% of which came from direct suppliers (i.e. from forests under their control).
In high-risk areas, INTERHOLCO only buys wood produced directly by the supplier or that can be traced back to the forest of origin, through traceability certification or field audits.
'Commitment is good, putting it into practice is better.' Tom van Loon explains. 'That's why, even before signing a contract, INTERHOLCO checks in the field that each supplier already fulfils the legal and socio-environmental guarantees, commitments and principles set out in our forestry and responsible purchasing policy. Otherwise, there will be no purchase.'
Field audits targeting non-certified suppliers take place once a year. For this purpose, INTERHOLCO has developed a control grid based on Control Union's due diligence criteria, as required by the European Union. 'The control model we have developed is a real diagnostic tool that includes key performance indicators (KPIs),' Tom van Loon goes on to explain. 'This fairly detailed framework alerts us, during an audit, to the kind of follow-up the supplier gives to each socio-environmental indicator.'
INTERHOLCO's diagnostic also defines the breaches that may occur. 'In the event of a major non-conformity that cannot realistically be corrected within three months, INTERHOLCO terminates the business relationship,' says Tom van Loon. 'Minor non-conformities can be resolved in a longer period of time, until the next audit.' With 50 years of experience in Africa, INTERHOLCO is keen to act as a reliable partner. INTERHOLCO's socio-environmental requirements push the company to screen out any questionable suppliers. This strict pre-selection has ensured that INTERHOLCO has not parted with any of its suppliers during the 2019-2020 period, and has also ensured that some non-compliant producers have been excluded in advance.
In order to minimise any risk related to deforestation, degradation of watercourses or peatlands, the data available on the Global Forest Watch (GFW) and Open Timber Portal, based on satellite images of the forests of origin, complements the findings recorded during the audits. This monitoring is done on an annual basis for third-party suppliers; for the Ngombé forest, managed by INTERHOLCO's subsidiary IFO, a permanent subscription to the GFW alert tool allows for continuous monitoring. In 2020, INTERHOLCO verified deforestation on about 4 million ha of forest in four countries (more than 90% of its supply, including IFO). One of the suppliers detected an area of its production forest in Central Africa that was deforested without its knowledge, due to the creation of a plantation by an external entity in an area bordering the supplier's forest; the supplier transferred the finding to the relevant authorities.
Fulfilling all of INTERHOLCO's criteria has its benefits. Among other things, INTERHOLCO provides its suppliers with self-assessment grids for climate change risks (a prohibitively expensive expert task), in order to plan how best to modulate their impacts. Through INTERHOLCO, committed suppliers on the path to legality and sustainability have access to more competitive markets. 'Currently, one of our most important suppliers in Central Africa is NEPCon certified,' underlines Tom van Loon. 'They have even started a collaborative project with WWF, focusing on biodiversity protection and anti-poaching.'
Three new suppliers have been aiming for certification since 2019, with the support of the Programme for the Promotion of Certified Forest Harvesting (PPECF, Programme de promotion de l'exploitation certifiée des forêts in French) as part of a project run by the international NGO ATIBT, of which INTERHOLCO is a member.
INTERHOLCO offers Sustainable Hardwood 'Made in Africa' as a responsible solution to promote better living conditions (construction with wood), reduce climate change, and increase social justice. As FSC-certified producer specialized in producing and trading logs, sawn timber, glued laminated scantlings and other products, INTERHOLCO manages the entire chain, from forest to customers since 1962. Harvesting wood selectively, INTERHOLCO protects 1.1 million hectares of natural forest from permanent conversion to agricultural land, giving 16’000 local inhabitants access to quality basic services and keeping the habitat of thousands of gorillas and elephants.
Communications contact INTERHOLCO
Tullia Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal
INTERHOLCO AG, Schutzengelstr. 36, 6340 Baar, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)41 767 03 82
 License FSC®-C1223250