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The GFTN Guide to Legal and Responsible Sourcing

8.0 Environmental Status of Supplies - Reducing the Risk of Trading in Illegal Timber

Risk of Trading in Illegal TimberThe simplest way to reduce the risk of trading illegal timber is to buy and sell certified timber. For the majority of businesses involved in the timber sector, particularly those trading in tropical hardwoods, this is not an option because only modest volumes are currently available from countries or of some species.

Legal timber (that is not certified) is traded internationally every day of the year. For timber originating in countries with well functioning regulatory systems, the risk of trading in illegal timber is relatively low and stringent legal compliance auditing is not warranted. However, if the country of origin of the timber is uncertain, or the timber is known to come from a country with weak regulatory systems, the risk of trading in illegal timber is high. Addressing this risk requires commitment and vision by all those involved in the supply chain. In the US trading environment, this is known as exercising due care (with respect to Lacey Act compliance) and in a European environment this is known as practicing due diligence (with respect to EU Timber Regulation).

Timber legality can be viewed as a product quality issue. When you ask your suppliers to provide legal timber, you are requesting timber with a new quality: legality. If timber lacks proof of legality, it lacks the quality that you require. Timber can be attributed the quality, or status, of legality only in its forest of origin. It can maintain that legal quality only if it remains unmixed and is not diluted by illegal timber as it travels down the supply chain. Its legal quality can also be devalued by other illegal activities connected with its passage down the supply chain.

Two basic questions should always be at the back of your mind:

"Is the source legal?"
Where was the forest of origin? Were the ownership and access rights undisputed and free from the taint of illegality? Was the quality of the forest management and timber trades such that all timber purchased had the right 'legal' quality?

"How did it get here?"
Was the quality and traceability of the supply chain such that no illegal timber was introduced and the legal quality was not subsequently diluted?


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