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The GFTN Guide to Legal and Responsible Sourcing

8.3 Uncertified Timber - Reducing the Risk of Buying Illegal Wood

Reduce the Risk of Buying Illegal WoodIn an ideal world, as a sourcing organization, you would state that you did not want any illegal timber or timber products in your business's supply chain; you would then pass this specification to your suppliers and they would follow it. The outcome would be the delivery of legal timber and timber products.

In the absence of credible certification, a chain of custody; FSC Controlled Wood; third-party legal certification; or another form of certification that provides some assurance of basic legal compliance, the onus is on the purchaser to manage the risk of sourcing illegal wood. This process of due care or due diligence can be broken down in to a series of steps:

  • Step 1: Estimate the risk
  • Step 2: Select a verification approach
  • Step 3: Make further enquiries where needed
  • Step 4: Improve traceability and verify legality

Suppliers in countries where significant volumes of illegal timber and timber products are traded often find delivering timber with legal verification very difficult. These suppliers often have little incentive to invest in legal verification systems. Their timber may be legal, but proving it takes significant extra effort and cost and therefore is not done. Suppliers can find it difficult to comply with the most basic requests for proof of legality for a range of reasons, such as the following:

  • The national regulatory authorities lack the capacity to implement the regulatory system or provide proof of implementation.
  • The regulatory system, even when properly implemented, is too loose or confusing to guarantee legality.
  • The supplier is unable to fully comprehend what is required by the timber sourcing policy that you have supplied.
  • The supplier does not have the management systems or ability to supply the appropriate objective evidence or documents that prove legality.
  • Compliance with your sourcing policy requirements may take the supplier considerable time and effort, particularly when noncompliance and illegal practice, rather than good forest management, may be the rule.

In recognition of these realities, this section describes a four-step system to reduce the risk of having non certified timber that has been illegally harvested or traded enter your supply chain. The methodology is based on a range of practical experiences gained by traders, trade associations, and GFTN participants.

The next section outlines a systematic approach to evaluating the suppliers in your supply chains, including an assessment of the level of risk associated with each supplier and then, based on that information, the level or degree of legality verification needed. In addition, the methodology provides guidance on how to ensure that the timber arrives at the location you control without being substituted or diluted with illegal timber.


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