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The GFTN Guide to Legal and Responsible Sourcing

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7.4 Source Assessed in the Context of Exports to the US Market

Exporters can greatly assist their US-based customers in demonstrating that due care has been taken to ensure no illegal timber enters the supply chain.

Showing you have taken due care as an exporter involves a number of activities leading to one result: being certain that the forest products supplied were legal. Activities that can assist an exporter to demonstrate that they have taken due care include the points below. Exporters need to consider which of these activities can be of most assistance and should adapt their management to include some (or even all) of them.

1) Develop a policy that is shared with all suppliers and customers stating that only legal forest products will be purchased.

A sourcing policy is an essential tool in defining what your company will and will not buy. A policy should be publicly available and be signed by the highest level of management within your company. A good policy will define exactly all of the issues it seeks to address and will identify what is and what is not acceptable to your company. A good policy will include a wide range of issues that your company wants to address in addition to simple legal compliance.

As an absolute minimum the policy should include reference to:
1. A statement that your company only wants to buy and sell forest products that have legal ownership and access, legally harvested, transported, traded and exported in compliance with the laws of the country where the wood was harvested, transported, traded or exported.
2. A statement that your company will understand and abide by all relevant laws within your own country that apply to the legal ownership, access and harvest, transport, trade, processing or export of forest products.

2) Train staff so they understand why the management of these issues are important to the business.

It would be a good idea to ensure that all staff that are involved in sourcing, sales or marketing of forest products understand what the legal requirements are within your country and for the countries where you might import timber.

A number of organizations are able to offer training or advice on training and these should be consulted.

3) Develop a traceability system that identifies where forest products where harvested.

All forest products purchased by your company should be traceable to the forest where they were harvested or to a primary saw mill that has a system that monitors the origins of all the logs that it purchases.

To achieve this, at the most basic level, a questionnaire or other form of tracking technology may be required. A database indicating what was purchased and which products is recorded will be useful to monitor the effectiveness of your policy and allow your company to answer enquiries from customers as to the origin of your raw materials.

A number of organizations are available to offer direct assistance or guidance in establishing a traceability system.

4) Check each order of materials (before it is delivered) to ensure it meets the minimum requirements to show legal compliance in the country where the wood was harvested.

Prior to making any purchase it is wise to check the legality of the materials. Understanding what documents should be available and obtaining these before purchase can reduce uncertainty and save time. Your company might consider changing purchase orders or purchase contracts to stress the need for legal timber products.

The tables within this document will be able to help your company for some countries. For other countries where guidance is not available as yet similar sets of documentation should be requested and verified where possible as forestry legislations of many countries usually have similar provisions. A number of organizations are available to offer direct assistance or guidance in this respect.

5) Use third parties to verify that forest products are legal (or sustainable as this usually covers legality as well).

Around 10 per cent of the forest products traded around the world are certified under a variety of certification schemes. These schemes, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Certification Schemes (PEFC) have developed systems that certify the management of forests and certify that the wood from these forests is contained within a product - Chain of Custody (CoC) certification. All forest certification schemes when applied at the forest cover aspects of legality (such as the legal right to harvest and the legality of harvesting) and when used in conjunction with a CoC certificate can provide a high level of assurance that the product was harvested, transported, processed and exported legally.

A number of organizations are available to offer direct assistance or guidance with respect to certification of forests and CoC.

Specially designed legal verification systems exists to verify that forest products have been legally harvested, transported, processed and exported. These systems work in a similar way to forest certification and CoC but have a much narrower focus.

A number of organizations are available to offer direct assistance or guidance with respect to legal verification.

A key aspect of forest certification, CoC and legal verification is that the assessment for compliance is conducted by a third party. Third party assessments have high credibility within civil society.

6) Keep up to date with advice or initiatives that can help improve processes that are developed, such as new technology, interpretation and changes to laws and training opportunities.

Check with any trade associations or government departments that your company interacts with to ensure that your understanding of the laws and best practices is correct and up to date. Attend any training opportunities that arise and make sure that your company's understanding of legal issues both in your country and the US is current. Participate in programmes or initiatives that can assist with responsible sourcing of forest products.

A number of non-governmental organizations and trade associations have developed programmes that are designed to assist companies through a step-wise programme of improvements to their supply chain.

7) Understand what constitutes legal timber in your country and any country you import timber from.

What are the minimum legal requirements for exports?
The tables within this guide identify the key documents that should be obtained and checked to ensure a basic level of legal compliance within the country that would meet the minimum criteria to meet the expectations of an export customer needing to comply with the Lacey Act. Only what is legal within the country where the forest product is exported will meet the needs of the US-based importer.

More information can be found at these external websites:

US Customs and Border Protection

Environmental Investigation Agency

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