Breakthrough timber legality move promoted

19 September 2016

First FLEGT-licensed timber and wood products are set to be delivered by Indonesia to the EU this year in what is regarded as a key development in Europe’s efforts against illegal timber. 

FLEGT – the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade programme – has so far signed up 15 supplier countries to its Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). This commits them to implementing legality assurance systems from forest to export. In exchange they get preferential EU market access, with their FLEGT-licensed timber and wood products exempt from further due diligence legality risk assessment by European importers under the anti-illegal wood EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). Indonesia would be the first country to complete its VPA process and may encourage other signatory suppliers to step up efforts to follow suit. Ghana is expected to be next to issue licences.

The FLEGT VPA initiative has come in for criticism over the time it has taken signatory countries to start licensing. European Timber Trade Federation Secretary General André de Boer acknowledged FLEGT licensed timber was slow arriving, but said it was a huge undertaking for producer countries, not least Indonesia, where under 20 years ago 80% of logging was reported as illegal. He said the timber trade should now get behind FLEGT and promote licensed products’ benefits to customers.

“And it is a breakthrough, already resulting in huge advances in Indonesian forest governance,” he said. “For the EU trade, FLEGT-licensed timber’s EUTR exemption will have major administrative and logistical benefits and also further underline our commitment to eradicate illegal wood. “

A September 15 statement from the EU-Indonesian VPA Joint Implementation Committee said Indonesia would start issuing FLEGT licences mid-November, with first licensed cargoes arriving in the EU before the year end.  The ETTF has produced a special newsletter on FLEGT licensing’s background and trade implications, downloadable at www.ettf.info.

The EU Timber Regulation puts obligations on those who trade in timber and some timber products to help ensure that the wood has been legally sourced. For more information, the BWF has written 'an easy guide to the EUTR', which members can download for free from the BWF website. The guide gives answers to many of the frequently asked questions on the Regulation, including:

‘What products does the regulation cover?’
‘What do I have to do to comply with the regulation?’
‘What are the penalties?’
‘Will achieving Chain of Custody certification help me comply with the regulation?’


We have launched a template due diligence system that BWF members who will be first to place wood based products on the EU market can use before buying their products, in order to help them comply with the regulation.

The documentation comes in 6 parts and can be downloaded here: www.bwf.org.uk/publications/environmental-and-waste-management

For companies needing to set up a due diligence system, FSC and PEFC certification should help businesses to comply by enabling them to carry out their due diligence within the scope of their certification. The BWF manages a Chain of Custody Group Scheme for companies with 15 or fewer employees who wish to gain FSC or certification, or companies of 50 or fewer that want PEFC certification.

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