Timber regulation confusion from housebuilders and contractors risks burdening joinery manufacturers

Joinery manufacturers supplying to housebuilders and construction companies could encounter an unexpected burden as their clients confuse their requirements under the EU timber regulation.

With the regulation coming in on March 3rd, there are growing concerns that major contractors are misinterpreting the regulation, asking for more information than is necessary, and sending the wrong message to suppliers, all in a panicked attempt to avoid any liability.

The BWF has seen a number of examples of such businesses making over-zealous demands on joinery manufacturers in instances where compliance with the EUTR should be straightforward. This includes sending such demands to their entire supplier list, and asking for companies to put in place Chain of Custody certification and a due diligence system in instances where this is unnecessary for compliance.

Most transactions that BWF members will make won’t require a due diligence system to be in place and the only obligations will be basic traceability requirements. Chain of Custody certification is also not a requirement of the legislation, although it may help if your business comply if bringing in timber products directly from outside the EU.

The legislation may be referred to in a number of ways, for example as ‘EU 995/2010’, ‘The EU timber Regulation’, the ‘EUTR’ or the ‘Timber and Timber Products (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2013’, which is the regulation putting in place the measures necessary to enforce the EUTR in the UK.

BWF Policy Executive Matt Mahony commented,

“Housebuilders and major construction groups just don’t want to risk the reputational downside of having been found to use illegally harvested timber. But even though seizure of goods and suspension of authorisation to trade are amongst the penalties that a lawbreaking company could face, it is unlikely that the harshest penalties will hit this end of the supply chain unless a business has been heavily complicit in a serious breach of the regulation.”

“BWF members are urged to familiarise themselves with the regulation in order that they themselves don’t misinterpret what their clients are asking for. A simple declaration should really be enough for most clients. We’ve drawn up a declaration that our members can use and this should satisfy the demands of a reasonable customer.”

Many joinery businesses will find that the transactions they make are already compliant with the EUTR. This is because companies trading in timber and timber products within the EU (known as ‘traders’) must simply keep records of sale and purchase. Their obligations under Article 5 of the Regulation concern traceability and are as follows:

1. To identify the operators or the traders who have supplied the timber and timber products.
2. To identify, where applicable, the traders to whom you have supplied timber and timber products.
3. To keep this information for at least five years and provide it to competent authorities if they so request.

If selling on to a final consumer, the requirement to identify to whom you have supplied timber and timber products is deemed not applicable.

BWF members that bring timber products in directly from outside the EU will find compliance more complex. They will need to have a due diligence system in place and this requirements will apply even if the transaction is on a one-off basis. Relying on their suppliers to carry out due diligence on their behalf will not be enough for compliance. The due diligence system must include:

1. Information about the supply of timber products, including description, species, country of harvest, quantity, name and address of supplier and trader and documents indicating compliance with the applicable legislation
2. An evaluation the risk of placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the market.
3. Unless the risk of illegality is negligible, takes steps to mitigate this risk; for example, additional information, third party verification

Although getting FSC or PEFC Chain of Custody certification is not necessary to comply with the regulations as a ‘trader’, adopting such a system will give clients and potential customers proof that the timber you use is not only legal but sustainably sourced. 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. We can also provide consultancy assistance for larger businesses who are interested in getting certificated.

We have also written an easy guide to the EUTR which gives further information on the legislation and will shortly be launching a template due diligence guidance document which BWF members bringing in timber products from outside the EU will be able to adapt to help comply with the legislation.