Consumer demand for high-value tropical hardwood products in Viet Nam has driven the illegal harvesting and import of endangered timber species from high-risk sources, presenting a challenge for Viet Nam’s national agenda on legal and sustainable timber trade.
To address this, the Centre for Education and Development (CED), supported by the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme, has stepped up domestic communication efforts to promote responsible domestic timber production, trade and consumption amongst consumers in Viet Nam, and curb the use of illegal timber.
To better understand trends and preferences for timber products amongst Vietnamese users, CED conducted a nation-wide survey of 300 consumers, particularly targeting those aged 18-44 – a critical demographic due to their higher consumption of timber products. Despite buyers being aware of the overall impacts of illegal logging and associated trade, a mere 3.5 percent considered legality aspects when purchasing timber products, reporting quality and price as key deciding factors. In contrast to existing perceptions surrounding consumer attitudes towards plantation timber, the survey revealed that 97 percent of respondents were unconcerned by the timber species. Crucially, 96 percent of respondents reported being willing to pay a premium to ensure that timber is legally sourced.
Effective communication to orient buyers towards legal and low risk timber
In recent years, Viet Nam has made significant strides in good forest governance, most notably the signature of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU). The VPA defines the legality framework to produce, process and trade legal timber in Viet Nam.
Using the survey results, CED is developing a digital handbook to guide consumers towards purchasing and using legal and sustainable timber, as well as guidance on how local plantation species may be used in design and construction projects. CED believes that guiding consumers towards legal and alternative timber products can make a valuable contribution to reducing the local demand for illegally sourced tropical hardwoods.
The online guide could serve as a reference document for developing future government and/or private sector procurement guidelines or policies.
‘When consumers have a clear guide and more options for legal products with reasonable prices, good quality, good design, and which are good for the environment and society, they can make more responsible decisions regarding timber and timber products. Young people, especially young designers, will play a key role in this process,’ said Nguyen Dien, the Former Deputy Director of the Da Nang branch of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Showcasing the potential of plantation timber
In parallel, to further encourage the use of legal domestic timber by young adults, CED has established youth leadership networks in five universities across the country. These youth leaders will run roadshows and launch a design contest showcasing how domestic plantation timber can be used in furniture and housing to promote legal timber use and increase demand for low-risk domestic timber.
The CED initiative complements existing FAO funded media campaigns designed by the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST), targeting the private sector, media, and government stakeholders. Communicating the benefits of legal and sustainable timber is vital to protecting and sustainably managing the world’s remaining natural forests.
Since 2016 the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme has supported 22 projects in Viet Nam, amounting to over USD 2.3 million, primarily focusing on supporting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to produce, process and trade legal timber, institutional strengthening and capacity building, and communications.
The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.
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