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3.3 Examples of a Responsible Forest Products Sourcing Policy

Responsible Forest Products Purchasing Policy

Example 1

This organization is committed to the responsible sourcing of forest products. Our long-term intention is that all timber used in products that we purchase or specify is sourced from well-managed forests that have been certified to credible certification standards and/or are from post-consumer recycled materials.

This commitment will be realized through a stepwise approach to responsible sourcing that uses the best available techniques and information.

This organization will not source products containing timber, fibre and other raw materials if the following apply:

To ensure that these goals are achieved, this organization will:

Example 2


As a [public/business/opinion] and global leader, [COMPANY NAME] is committed to leveraging our influence in the marketplace to conserve, protect and restore natural resources. As a cornerstone of that commitment, [NAME] will pursue a Responsible Timber Sourcing Programme to promote the development of markets for environmentally responsible forest products.


[NAME] recognizes that leadership in the global marketplace carries a responsibility to the environment and, in particular, a responsibility to promote the conservation, protection and restoration of the world's forests. [NAME] is a leader in [a market/public/opinion sector that is relevant]. Therefore, [NAME] is positioned to influence [supply and/or demand] in the market and thus contribute to the development of environmental solutions that influence responsible forest management. [NAME] fully supports responsible forest management practices that promote ecosystem sustainability, biodiversity and long-term environmental, social and economic benefits.

Toward these ends, [NAME] hereby establishes the following policy commitments:


  1. [NAME] will work with all vendors and associated suppliers to trace the origin of our current products.
    Traceability in the forest product supply chain is crucial to assessing whether or not the forest products used were derived through environmentally responsible means. [NAME] will attempt to determine not just where current products were purchased, but where the timber in those products was grown, taking into account the possible necessity for third-party verification.
  2. [NAME] will require that all vendors and associated suppliers demonstrate compliance with all legal requirements for forest management, timber harvesting and related trade, with third-party verification in high-risk areas.
    Explanation: [NAME] will work to ensure that no market advantage is realized by entities that circumvent the law and encourage support for forest conservation, protection and environmental law enforcement mechanisms.
  3. [NAME] will reduce and by [DATE] eliminate its purchase of wood, paper and other products containing timber from controversial sources, including conflict timber, entities accused of human, civil and traditional rights violations and genetically modified trees.
    Explanation: [NAME] intends not to give support to regimes and practices that have a detrimental impact on civil society or the environment. [NAME] will remain aware of controversial source areas that may be identified by internal and external stakeholders and will adopt a precautionary approach regarding the use of genetically modified trees, which pose risks to native species and may cause large-scale disruptions in the ecological food web.
  4. [NAME] will reduce and by [DATE] eliminate its purchase of wood, paper and other products containing timber from harvesting operations that threaten high conservation values or involve unjustified conversion of natural forest to other land uses.
    Explanation: [NAME] intends to expedite the transition away from forest harvesting practices that lead to environmental degradation and will embrace a scientifically credible, land-based assessment to identify and appropriately manage forests that contain exceptional environmental and social values. [NAME] will regard high conservation value as safe from threat if the forest is certified or in progress to certification under a credible certification system, or if the forest manager can otherwise demonstrate that the forest and/or surrounding landscape is managed to ensure those values are maintained. Similarly, [NAME] will only accept conversion as justified in the rare circumstances that it can be justified on grounds of net social and environmental gain, including the enhancement of high conservation values in the surrounding landscape.
  5. [NAME] will promote the appropriate and efficient use of wood, paper and other forest products.
    Explanation: [NAME] intends to contribute to efforts that maximize use of the entire fibre resource and assist in the reduction of per capita consumption.
  6. [NAME] will advocate and incorporate the use of sustainability-based criteria in selecting alternative materials.
    Explanation: [NAME] intends to support the expansion of the natural resource base and promote life-cycle assessment as a metric of environmental merit.
  7. [NAME] will give sourcing preference to products from credibly certified, well-managed forests and those from suppliers that have made a commitment to progress toward credible certification.
    Explanation: [NAME] intends to promote the development of markets for environmentally preferable products by supporting certification of best management practices through the purchase of credibly certified forest products, when price and availability allow.
  8. [NAME] will publish and distribute to all interested stakeholders an annual report, which will detail our progress in implementing this policy and commitment to continuous improvement.
    Explanation: [NAME] will seek to maintain open communications and collaborative relationships with all stakeholders interested in our environmental performance by providing standardized information about our environmental performance on an annual basis.

6.3 Identifying Known Sources of Forest Products

Product Traceability

"Known" Source?

Detail and Improvements

Traceable to direct supplier. Supplier is not a forest owner or manager (not an integrated company).


Agree on an action plan with the supplier to deliver more traceability that will identify where the wood was harvested.

Traceable to secondary processor. Processor is not a forest owner or manager (not an integrated company).


Agree on an action plan with the supplier to deliver more traceability that will identify where the wood was harvested. If this processor also supplies material through another direct supplier, consider a direct approach to the processor for more information.

Traceable to primary mill. Mill is not a forest owner or manager (not an integrated company).


If the mill has complete traceability for all sources and can identify the source for given batches of material, this is acceptable. If the mill cannot offer this degree of traceability, agree on an action plan with the supplier to determine (initially) the major suppliers to the primary mill and identify what plans the mill has to improve traceability.

Traceable to an integrated forest products company (a company that is involved in forest management and forest products processing).


If the supplier can demonstrate that it has a good degree of traceability at all levels and that it sources only from its own forestry operations, this is an acceptable level of traceability. If the integrated supplier draws from beyond its own sources, it will need to demonstrate similar traceability. If it can, this is acceptable. If it cannot demonstrate such traceability, agree on an action plan with the supplier to identify (initially) its own suppliers and what plans the mill has to improve traceability.

Traceable to the forest management unit.


Documentation and confidence in systems is high, and all materials can be traced to this forest or forests.

5.3 Questionnaires

Establishing TraceabilitySending out questionnaires can be a laborious and lengthy process. The number of suppliers that an organization uses and the complexity of the data required has a significant bearing on how long it takes to assemble the database. Three primary approaches can be used to gather the required data:

Examples of a questionnaire can be found here.

Conflict Timber

“Conflict timber” is a term used to describe timber that is produced and sold to finance armed conflict. The definition used by the NGO Global Witness is “timber that has been traded at some point in the chain of custody by armed groups, be they rebel factions, regular soldiers, or the civilian administration, either to perpetuate conflict or to take advantage of conflict situations for personal gain”.

Conflict timber is not necessarily illegal, though this will depend on governmental sanctions that may be in place at any given time.

Conflict Timber—Relevance for Responsible Purchasers

Individual organisations need to be aware of the existence of conflict timber and should be prepared to adjust their purchasing policy accordingly. Where research or stakeholder interaction suggests that such timber may be present in the supply chain, it is recommended that the purchasing policy be reviewed and as necessary enforced to remove the source from the chain. NGOs and other stakeholders may be able to assist in identifying sources of conflict timber; the UN also may have information, for example, in the form of embargoes or other dialogue that may assist in identifying such sources.

Countries that have regional variations (i.e., the conflict is regional) need to use an extremely clear and detailed chain of custody to ensure that the supply chain involved is not associated with the region in conflict. The complicated nature of conflicts may undermine this process and not satisfy stakeholders that the issues can be sufficiently separated.

More information on conflict timber can be found here –

Global Witness

14.2 The Common Legality Framework's Principles & Criteria

The Common Legality Framework encompasses the legal requirements covering the entire supply chain including forestry operations and corresponding processing and timber trade relating to timber origin, production, transportation, processing and trade, and legislation safeguarding agreed standards in relation to environmental, conservation and social issues. This includes national laws, rules, regulations and administrative circulars, including contractual obligations that cover these areas. Legislation and regulations outside these areas are not included in the Framework.

The Framework is composed of a set of principles, each supported by one or more criteria. When developed for use within a national context the criteria are further supported by nationally appropriate indicators and guidance notes/verifiers – specific to that country – based on the existing legislative base, that are practical, easily implemented on the ground and readily audited. The format of principles, criteria and (national) indicators is a format widely used within forest certification and already accepted by civil society, industry and government.

The Framework comprises nine broad legal Principles. Africa includes a 10th Principle specific to their needs after multistakeholder consultations there. These Principles are the fundamental aspects to be addressed in all cases. Each Criterion represents an important aspect which allows the assessment of a legal Principle. Local indicators, verifiers and guidance have to be developed to allow use of the Framework within a national context and these will vary between countries relative to the legislation in force.

The Common Legality Framework’s Principles and Criteria

Principle 1

Access, Use Rights and Tenure

Criterion 1.1

The company is legally registered with the relevant administrative authorities

Criterion 1.2

Use, access and tenure rights applications are subject to stated pre-conditions within the laws and regulations

Criterion 1.3

Clear evidence of forest and/or land use, access and tenure rights shall be demonstrated in accordance with laws and regulations

Criterion 1.4

Use, access and tenure rights are subject to stated conditions within the laws and regulations

Principle 2

Harvesting Regulations

Criterion 2.1

Forest Management Plan in accordance with the government policies, guidelines and regulatory requirements, approved by relevant authority

Criterion 2.2

Harvesting/timber licence with stated conditions in accordance with the government policies, guidelines and regulatory requirements, approved by relevant authority

Criterion 2.3

The company implements harvest operations in accordance with the legally prescribed silvicultural system and relevant regulations

Principle 3

Transportation of Logs and Wood Products

Criterion 3.1

Clear evidence of documents and licences for companies and carriers involved in timber products transportation shall be demonstrated in accordance with the laws and regulations.

Criterion 3.2

Clear evidence of documents and corresponding markings of timber products for transport shall be demonstrated by companies and carriers in accordance with the laws and regulations

Principle 4

Processing Regulations

Criterion 4.1

Clear evidence of documents and licences for companies involved in timber processing shall be demonstrated in accordance with the laws and regulations

Criterion 4.2

Timber processing companies are subject to stated conditions within the laws and regulations

Principle 5

 Import and Export Regulations

Criterion 5.1

Clear evidence of licence/permit of company involved in import and export shall be demonstrated in accordance with the laws and regulations

Criterion 5.2

Clear evidence of official documents of timber products for import and export shall be demonstrated by companies and carriers in accordance with the laws and regulations

Criterion 5.3

Timber products import and export companies are subject to stated conditions within the laws and regulations

Principle 6

 Environmental Regulations

Criterion 6.1

State/company conducts environmental impact assessments or other required assessments within the laws and regulations

Criterion 6.2

State/company takes mitigation measures on negative environmental parameters in accordance with the laws and regulations

Principle 7

 Conservation Regulations

Criterion 7.1

State/company conducts conservation assessment/evaluation within the laws and regulations

Criterion 7.2

State/company takes mitigation measures on negative conservation values in accordance with the laws and regulations

Principle 8

 Social Regulations

Criterion 8.1

Company maintains or strengthens socio-economic welfare of local communities/indigenous people in accordance with the laws and regulations

Criterion 8.2

Company recognizes legal or customary rights of indigenous/local people in accordance with the laws and regulations

Criterion 8.3

Company complies with the laws and regulations on its employees’ and workers’ rights

Criterion 8.4

Company complies with the laws and regulations of its employees’ and workers’ welfare

Principle 9

 Taxes, Fees and Royalties

Criterion 9.1

The company fills in its tax returns in accordance with its effective professional activity

Criterion 9.2

Clear evidence of current paid taxes, fees and royalties in a timely manner shall be demonstrated by the company in accordance with the laws and regulations

Principle 10 is specific to Africa where stakeholders considered the issues related to subcontractors and partners to be important and upgraded this to a separate Principle. In Asia it was retained at the criteria level as an integral part of other principles.

Principle 10

 Subcontractors and Partners

Criterion 10.1

The company respects the contracts made with subcontractors and partners

Criterion 10.2

The company ensures that all subcontractors and partners are operating within the law

8.1 Certified Timber

FSC Certified Timber - The Least-Risk Option

The Least-Risk Option

The simplest way to answer the two questions is to buy timber that has been independently certified as coming from well-managed forests. Practically all forest certification standards require independent verifiers to confirm that the forest ownership, access and management is legal. Auditors will normally not carry out a “legality audit” as these are very specific assessments and can be complex and costly. During certification assessments the auditors will be making sure there is no evidence of significant breaches of the law. Chain-of-custody certificates answer the question, “How did it get here?” If purchasers can buy certified timber, the risk of trading in illegal timber will be managed and greatly reduced. The table below summarizes the various schemes’ ability to verify legality.

Certification Schemes as a Form of Verification of Legal Compliance

Certification Scheme

Checks Legal Right to Harvest and Significant Aspects of Legal Compliance

Achieves Traceability Through a Chain-of-Custody System

Requires Exclusion of Uncertified Material (From Potentially Illegal or Unwanted Sources) 

System for Controlling Uncertified Material (When Percentage Based Claims Are Used)

Value as a Form of Evidence of Legal Compliance

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)




Yes—Controlled Wood Standard

High – No Extra Legality Related Checks Required.

Cerflor (Brazil) 





High For 100% Certified—No Extra Legality-Related Checks Required.

Certfor (Chile) 





Verification Needed for Non-Certified Percentage

Lembaga Ecolabel Indonesia (LEI) 





Chain–of-Custody  System Required

PEFC* - Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes






High for 100% Certified—No Extra Legality-Related Checks Required.

Verification Needed for Non-Certified Percentage

Sources: Compiled from UK Central Point of Expertise on Timber Procurement's (CPET) website; Forest Certification Resource Centre—Certification Comparison Matrix (Link no longer available); Reports from the ProForest Field Test of the Questionnaire to Assess the Comprehensiveness of Certification Systems/Schemes.

For other certification information you may go directly to the certification programme’s own websites:

* Note: Countries using this scheme with national endorsement: Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, France, Latvia, Czech, Switzerland, Belgium, UK, Spain, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Chile, Portugal, Canada, Luxemburg, Slovakia, US, Slovenia, Estonia & Poland

Note: Forest certification schemes and associated chain-of-custody systems constantly evolve in terms of their requirements. This table is believed to be correct at the time of publication. Please check with each certification system for new developments to ensure ongoing accuracy.

Note: No system can give 100 per cent guarantee as proof of legality on its own. All certification systems are implemented by people who on occasion make mistakes or who occasionally seek to mislead. Good certification systems find and fix these errors. Always check the certificate for scope and for validity. Do not assume that because a company has a Chain of Custody certificate that material purchased from this company is automatically certified.

Percentage Claims
All forest management certification schemes examined for preparation of this manual require compliance with relevant forest legislation. Some also provide a relatively high degree of assurance that the material covered by their chain-of-custody system is legal. The situation is made more complex, however, by “percentage claims”.

Percentage claims are permitted when it is accepted that it is impractical to demand that 100 per cent of a product be certified. This is commonly the case for products in which raw wood materials from many forest sources are mixed during manufacturing (for example, paper or plywood). In such cases, the authorities responsible for the governance of the various certification standards acknowledge that some mixing with non-certified material is inevitable. Percentages are normally set, with some material coming from certified sources and the remainder coming from non-audited sources. Credit based systems do not use percentages but, when operated correctly, should ensure that the volume claimed as credit is in no way associated with material that is illegal.

Though many of the certification programmes specify that illegal timber must be excluded from the non-certified percentage. This is verified through auditing against their Controlled Wood Standard. The FSC Controlled Wood Standard seeks to provide a framework by which non-FSC-certified timber (which will be mixed with FSC-certified timber when making percentage-based claims) can be assessed for legality (amongst other criteria). Several certifying bodies (organizations that certify forest management against the standards listed in the table above) have created verification programmes to assess legality alone (i.e. excluding the non-legal aspects of the applicable standard).

Illegal Logging

Implications for Those Buying and Supplying Illegal Timber

Companies that buy products containing illegal timber may do so knowingly or because they have failed to exercise due diligence over their supply chains. Either way, the potential negative consequences of trading in such products include the following:

The global trade in illegally extracted timber is a multibillion dollar industry. Illegal logging occurs when timber is harvested, transported, processed, bought, or sold in violation or circumvention of national or sub-national laws. Although generally portrayed as a problem in tropical forests, illegality also occurs in developed countries and economies in transition.

Negative Impact of Illegal Logging

Illegal logging takes place in many countries on a small scale and has limited impact on the environment or society in general. However, in a significant number of countries, illegal logging is a major problem that poses a serious threat to forests, communities, and wildlife.

The negative impacts of illegal logging include:

Further information within the WWF website on the negative impacts of illegal logging can be found here.

Countries Where Illegal Harvesting Takes Place

Although exact figures are difficult to obtain (given the nature of the activity), recent estimates of the scale of illegal logging in some countries are provided below. Every effort is made to keep this table as up to date as possible, but it is suggested that the website is used as a starting point to obtain the latest information.

It is worth noting that all of the sources below have employed a variety of methodologies to derive the estimated figures. The most recent data available suggests that there may be some reduction in some countries though this is difficult to assess given the range of methods employed. What is clear is that nearly all of the countries highlighted have, and continue to experience, serious levels of illegal harvesting and illegal trade in their forest products industries and are therefore considered high-risk from the purchasers perspective.

Country sources of illegally harvested timber


American Forest & Paper Association Estimates of “Suspicious” Timber

Other Estimates of Illegal Logging

Source of Other Estimates

Eastern Europe


15–20% of production
15–30% of exports

25% of exports

25–50% of exports


30% of production


20–60% of production

World Bank 2005 (1)


USDA Foreign Agricultural Service 2005 (2)

House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (UK) 2006 (3)

IUCN 2005 (4)




50% of production


50% of production

Taiga Rescue Network 2005 (5)
Estonian Green Movement 2004 (6).



20% of production


15–20% of production

Taiga Rescue Network 2005 (5)
WWF Latvia 2003 (7).



30% of production

50–65% of production

25% of all production
(less in export oriented production)

World Bank/WWF Alliance 2002 (8)

Chatham House 2009 (19)

Equatorial Guinea

30% of production




30% of production




30% of production

100% of production

National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) 2005 (9)


30% of production

50% of production

The Forestry Commission of Ghana 2003 (10)

Asia Pacific



73% of imports from high-risk countries

Chatham House 2009 (19)


60% of production
55% of plywood exports
100% of log exports

80% of production


83% of production

40% of harvest

House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (UK) 2006 (3)

CIFOR 2004 (11)

Chatham House 2009 (19)


5% of production
70% of log imports



Papua New Guinea

20% of production

65% of log exports

Forest Trends 2006 (12)


30% of production
30-32% of export products

50% of production


USDA Foreign Agricultural Service 2005 (13)

Latin America


15% of production
15% of export products

37% of production

Imazon 2005 (14)



70-90% of production



> 90% of exports (mahogany)

ITTO 2002 (15)
The Peruvian Environmental Law Society, 2003 (16)


ParksWatch 2005 (17)



70% of production

Ecuador's Wood Industry Association 2005 (18)





Note: Note that illegal harvesting does not just occur in developing countries. It occurs to a limited extent across Europe and North America. Good regulatory systems that are enforced, however, ensure that it is kept to a minimum.

For more information on illegal logging go to The site is maintained by the Energy, Environment and Development Programme of Chatham House in London, with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

(1) World Bank, 2005, Forest Law Enforcement Governance (FLEG) in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia (ENA-FLEG). p. 8.
(2) USDA Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN Report, 2005, Russian Federation Solid Wood Products Forestry Sector Continues to Struggle 2005. p. 4.
(3) House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, 2006, Sustainable Timber: Second Report of Session 2004-05. p. 12.
(4) IUCN Global Temperate and Boreal Forest Programme IUCN Office for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, 2005, The Beginning of the ENA FLEG Process in Russia: Civil Society Insights. p. 21.
(5) Taiga Rescue Network, 2005, Sweden: Forest Industry – Giant with Big Timber Footprints in the Baltic Region. p. 2.
(6) Estonian Green Movement, 2004, Illegal forestry and Estonian timber exports. p. 2.
(7) WWF Latvia, 2003, The features of illegal logging and related trade in the Baltic Sea region. p. 5.
(8) World Bank / WWF Alliance, 2002, Forest Law Assessment in Selected African Countries. p. 19.
(9) All logging concessions in Liberia were cancelled in Feb 2006 following a report by the Forest Concession Review Committee - Phase 3, 31 May 2005, which had found that no individual concession holder was able to demonstrate sufficient level of legal compliance. UN Security Council sanctions were re-imposed on Liberian timber exports in December 2005.
(10) The Forestry Commission of Ghana, 2003, Keynote Address by Hon. Prof. Dominic K. Fobi - Minister for Lands & Forestry.
(11) Tacconi L, Obidzinski K, Agung F, 2004. Learning Lessons to Promote Certification and Control Illegal Logging in Indonesia, Report for the WWF/TNC Alliance to Promote Forest Certification and Combat Illegal Logging in Indonesia, Centre for International Forestry Research.
(12) Forest Trends, 2006, Logging, Legality, and Livelihoods in Papua New Guinea: Synthesis of Official Assessments of the Large Scale Logging Industry Volume I.
(13) USDA Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN Report, 2003, People’s Republic of China Solid Wood Products Annual 2003. P. 5.
(14) Figure based on data from IMAZON (Amazon Institute of People and the Environment) and Brazil’s environmental agency Ibama. Imazon, 2005, Human Pressure in the Brazilian Amazon. P. 5.
(15) ITTO, 2002, Achieving the ITTO Objective 2000 and Sustainable Forest Management in Peru – Report of the Diagnostic Mission. P. 4.
(16) The Peruvian Environmental Law Society, 2003, Case Study on the Development and Implementation of Guidelines for the Control of Illegal Logging with a view to Sustainable Forest Management in Peru.
(17) ParksWatch, 2005, An Investigation of Illegal Mahogany Logging in Peru’s Alto Purús National Park and its Surroundings. The report confirmed nearly all of Peru’s exports of Mahogany were illegal.
(18) Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), 2005, Interim Environmental Review of the United States-Andean Free Trade Agreement.
(19) Chatham House, 2009, Illegal Logging and Related Trade: 2008 Assessment of the Global Response (Pilot study), Duncan Brack, Sam Lawson & Larry MacFaul.


Seneca Creek Associates and Wood Resources International, 2004, “Illegal” Logging and Global Wood Markets: The Competitive Impacts on the U.S. Wood Products Industry.” Prepared for American Forest & Paper Association. Available from


Improving the Quality of Data from Suppliers

Below is a list of common issues that arise when suppliers are asked questions regarding their sourcing of forest products. The list is not exhaustive but gives remedies for the major issues.

Information from the supplier is missing
Major gaps in data make it difficult to make any form of assessment. Talk to the supplier and find out why it cannot or did not provide the data requested. If the supplier does not have the technical expertise, ask that it request that its own suppliers furnish the missing data, and ask that it collate these data for you. Agree on a date by which the data will be provided.

The supplier misunderstood the question
Make contact with the supplier and explain why you are asking the question and what sort of answer you require.

Supplier refuses to complete the questionnaire
The supplier may refuse to complete questionnaires or provide data. Lack of resources is a common excuse, as is “company policy.” Explain to the supplier that your requests are valid and that they are routinely made of all your suppliers. Small suppliers may have genuine concerns about committing time and resources to providing data; in such circumstances agree that the data can be provided in small segments over an agreed-to period of time.

Suppliers that continue to avoid supplying data should be given an ultimatum, and after this point they should removed from the chain of supply. However, this is a last resort, and the intervention of senior management on both sides may be useful to maintain a dialogue and avoid this.

Supplier expresses concerns about confidentiality
In some industries and in some countries it is common to encounter concerns over the confidentiality of supply chain data. This can be overcome in a number of ways; for example, suppliers can be given verbal assurance that the data are used for environmental purposes and will not be used in a commercial context, or they could be given a signed confidentiality agreement. The provision of data may have to be made in a manner that furnishes the required information without revealing the names of commercial intermediaries or processors. Full disclosure is preferred, however, and may come in time as part of an action plan.

Supplier “does not feel responsible”
Some suppliers do not feel obliged to respond to requests for supply chain data. Arguments can vary from a position of “being too small to have any effect” to “it is none of your business.”
Suppliers in this situation should be given an opportunity to reflect on their position. Experience has shown that companies with little regard for their customers’ expectations and requirements usually fail. If a supplier cannot change its opinions and recognize your point of view it should have no place in your supply chain.

Supplier cannot prove high-risk sources are licensed
A range of techniques can be used to assess the legality of forest products, and a number of documentary proofs are mentioned within this text. Depending on your supplier’s place within the supply chain, obtaining such proofs may prove difficult. Those supply chain elements farthest removed from the forests or primary processors will experience the greatest difficulty in obtaining the required documentation. Options to address this difficulty include

Supplier cannot prove that sources are not HCVFs
HCVFs often are difficult to assess, but there are organizations that monitor the existence and exploitation of HCVFs and the organizations involved. Both your own purchasing organization and the supplier involved can draw on these sources to rudimentarily assess the sources identified. Information regarding a definition of HCVFs and sources of information on their role in trade can be found in Appendix 1 and elsewhere in this document.

Many areas lack HCVF identification processes, which by definition involve participation of multiple stakeholders. Even if the HCVFs in a particular area have not been identified, the supplier can contribute constructively to an HCVF process; larger suppliers can even initiate and help fund such processes. As part of the action plan, suppliers should state what contribution they are making to further the HCVF identification and management process in the regions where they are sourcing. When neither the supplier nor the purchasing organization can identify a source as HCVF or non-HCVF, you will have to take a judgment based on the best information available. WWF and other stakeholders should be contacted for the latest information available on particular forests.

A third party has indicated that a supplier may be using timber from conversion land
Request information from the supplier, such as a summary of the management plan for the forest, that indicates the land use and prescribed management practices. If the land is designated for conversion to agriculture or faces a similar threat, investigate further to ensure that the clearance is appropriate (see here). If the supplier is unable to provide suitable assurance, agree on an action plan to remedy or change the source.

2.1 Setting the Bar

The initial review should identify what the expectations are of the organization from a variety of view points. To establish these expectations, at least five things must be considered:

  1. Regulation in the markets where the company operates
  2. The standards of best practice within the industry or sector;
  3. Stakeholder expectations of the organization, these can be internal as well as external;
  4. Any other relevant requirements or guidelines (e.g., Trade Association Codes of Conduct or the GFTN Participation Rules)
  5. An appreciation of the principles of due diligence and the standards expected in the operating environment

Once this information has been collected, it will be possible to define what needs to be achieved in terms of overall targets, policies and processes.

The review should include analyzing the expectations of the following stakeholder groups:

From this investigation, a set of draft policies that reflect the sourcing organization's values and stakeholder expectations can then be developed. These can be formalized through senior management support.

1.0 Senior Management Support

Senior Management SupportTurning policy and values into a programme that promotes the legal and responsible sourcing of forest products inevitably requires management support. Any activity that is seen as not being central to operations stands little chance of succeeding. Like all environmental and ethical programmes, a programme of responsible sourcing will succeed only when it is supported at the highest levels of management.

For smaller sourcing organizations, a programme of legal and responsible sourcing will require the support of a partner or owner to ensure that the necessary resources are made available and to ensure that conflicts over policy enforcement are resolved.

In larger sourcing organizations, a member of the board of directors or vice president should be made accountable for the programme. In all cases, the support of the head of the buying or trading function should be sought.

Key Points - Senior Management Support

Management Roles

The member of senior management should support the programme and its policies at the highest level of management in the sourcing organisation and resolve any major conflicts that may arise relating to the work. A member of middle management should manage the relationship with stakeholders, set and agree to targets, develop policies and negotiate with key internal stakeholders. A programme manager should manage relationships with buyers and traders, manage relationships with suppliers and develop tools to assess the environmental status of forest products in the supply chain. Organizstions that have successfully embedded such policies have broadened management responsibilities for implementation as widely as possible. Ensuing that all key roles are involved and in turn understand their responsibilities is a key to success. 

Note for GFTN Participants:
GFTN participant companies are required to nominate both senior managers and day-to-day contacts.

High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs)

HCVFs may be defined as one or more of the following:

Although in many cases it is not illegal to source forest products from an HCVF, in the context of responsible purchasing, such sourcing should be discouraged. Exceptions include where:

There is no definitive list of HCVFs, and it is accepted that it is difficult for purchasing organizations to assess whether or not forest products originate in such forests.

The HCV Resource Network has been established by a group of organisations who use the HCV approach, including environmental and social NGOs, international development agencies, timber and forest product certifiers, suppliers and buyers and forest managers. The Network aims to encourage collaboration, provide information and support on the evolving usage of HCV and ensure that a consistent approach to HCV is understood and applied throughout the world.

For practical purposes, purchasing organizations are advised to discuss the latest information regarding HCVFs with WWF and other environmental organizations working in this field. One approach would be to highlight key areas and regions in which it would be inappropriate to harvest forest products. A more positive approach, generally encouraged by WWF, would be to engage with the producer to assess the high conservation values demonstrated within a forest area and to manage the forest appropriately within the context of credible forest certification.

A developing resource for companies is the FSC Global Forestry Risk Registry. The Registry is a free tool providing information about the risk of sourcing controversial wood and other forest products from over 150 countries. The tool is currently under development by NEPCon, in cooperation with the FSC and the Rainforest Alliance. It is targeted towards companies wishing to conduct due diligence on the risks of sourcing raw material from forests and forest products operations in various countries.  

14.3 Developing National Indicators, Verifiers and Guidance for the Common Legality Framework

In order to test the applicability of the Common Legality Framework in different legal settings, TRAFFIC led the development of national indicators, verifiers and guidance for a sample of countries including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Cameroon, Russia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Gabon.

This work was undertaken through a partnership with national government agencies in two countries. In China, TRAFFIC’s partner in conducting this work was the China National Forestry Economics and Development Research Centre (CNFEDRC) of the State Forestry Administration. In Vietnam, TRAFFIC’s partner was the national Forest Protection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). In the other countries, the work was carried out by TRAFFIC staff and consultants.

The National Legality Frameworks were developed through a five-step process:

  1. Compiling the legal base
  2. Initial stakeholder consultation
  3. Drafting the national framework
  4. Subsequent stakeholder consultation and national framework revision
  5. Legal and audit expert review

The initial activity was the compilation of all available documents constituting the legal framework for the forestry sector in each of the countries. This was followed by individual consultations at the national level with relevant individuals in the forestry sector including representatives of the forestry administration, government, research institutes, the private sector—including current GFTN members where appropriate, NGOs and donors. The consultation was aimed at conducting a needs assessment for a legality framework, and once agreed on the need for one, identifying the most important issues requiring attention while developing the Common Legality Framework.

The preliminary draft of the Common Legality Framework for each country was developed taking into account the results of the consultative process. Drafts were presented at a series of national consultative meetings and workshops organised with support from within each of the countries. Participants were tasked with examining the preliminary draft of the Framework and proposing amendments. National workshops were held in:

Each of the workshops was attended by approximately 30 participants from various government agencies (forestry, customs, environment and finance); national and international NGOs (e.g. IUCN, CIFOR, etc.), the private sector (timber concessionaires, processors, etc.) and assessors (independent auditors of forest certification and chain of custody). Stakeholder consultations gave guidance on the adequacy of the indicators and of the level of detail that should be included in the Common Legality Framework. In addition to the national consultation workshops in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo, TRAFFIC and WWF-CARPO also reached out to key stakeholders in order to gather additional views on the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the Common Legality Framework.

In Gabon, the workshop was organised in close collaboration with the Gabonese Ministry of Forestry, the French Cooperation and the Delegation of the European Commission in Gabon. A main constraint of the activity in Africa was the lack of satisfactory stakeholder consultation despite efforts made to consult with all relevant stakeholders in each country. In particular, the industry sector in CAR, NGOs and industry in Gabon, NGOs in DRC and all stakeholders in RC. Therefore, TRAFFIC and WWF-CARPO decided to reinforce consultations with these groups in each country during the period of June to mid-July 2007.  This last consultation phase was through small meetings, bilateral consultations or submission of written comments.

In China, several consultation workshops were held. In May 2006, fourteen representatives from NGO communities, local government, forestry institute, forest industries and GFTN-China participants attended a workshop to discuss the needs assessment activities and the elements of a legal standard in China including possible difficulties of the task. Detailed discussions were subsequently held with the relevant organisations and agencies during field visits in Shanghai in August 2006. Another meeting was specifically held to discuss the Common Legality Framework at the GFTN-China annual meeting held on 9 November 2006. This second consultation included some of the existing and potential GFTN-China participants, forest industry, relevant government departments, academic institutions and national forestry commerce associations. In collaboration with the State Forestry Administration TRAFFIC organized a national workshop in April 2007 in Beijing. The workshop was designed to conclude the first round of peer review for the legality standard in China. Twenty-three participants joined this workshop, including participants from the State Forestry Administration, the China CITES Management Authority, the Beijing Forestry University, the Forestry Academy of China, the China Forestry Commerce Association, and WWF-China. After this workshop, TRAFFIC conducted ‘peer review field trip’ to several provinces in China to discuss the definition with the provincial forestry bureaus and other provincial-level stakeholders.

In Malaysia, national workshops were not held due to the existence of legality standards from the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) which was developed through national and regional stakeholder consultations, and the on-going EU FLEGT VPA discussions which were starting to develop their own legality standard through a multi-stakeholder process as well. TRAFFIC built on the foundation set by MTCC but developed the Common Legality Framework as part of a larger harmonization process that cuts across the project countries. One-on-one consultations were held with relevant organisations and individuals in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, including with forestry departments, MTCC, Malaysian Timber Industry board, Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC), industry representatives and associations, auditors, and NGOs including environmental and social organisations.

In Vietnam, the national workshop in February 2007 was hosted by TRAFFIC and the Forest Protection Department. Further meetings were held with government institutes and organisations from the Vietnam’s forestry sector including Forest Inventory and Planning Institute (FIPI); Forest Science Institute of Vietnam (FSIV); Vietnam Timber and Forest Product Association (VIFORES), Vietnam Forestry Science Technology Association (VIFA); Vietnam Forest Corporation (VINAFOR); and Hanoi Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). Based on feedback from this round of consultative meetings, another draft was formulated. Further consultations on the draft were held with NGO stakeholders and industry (GFTN-Vietnam participants and applicants), with a new revision developed. Due to the difference in each individual’s and organization’s agenda, stakeholder consultation process in Vietnam was undertaken on a one-on-one basis.

Based on the results of the national workshops and various consultations, second and third drafts of the Principles, Criteria and Indicators (PC&I) were prepared. These subsequent drafts were reviewed by key representatives from each country and also by TRAFFIC to ensure the harmonisation of the Framework at the international level, at least to the level of Principles and Criteria.

The next step in the process was to utilize legal experts in each country to review the national PC&I to ensure that regulations referred to were current and relevant. In many of the countries there were few legal experts with the requisite expertise that were sufficiently knowledgeable and multidisciplinary in forestry, trade, conservation, environment and social issues. Therefore, it took some time to find suitable experts and complete the legal review.

A final process of harmonisation and review of the Common Legality Framework was conducted to determine possible applicability in terms of auditing and practicality of use of the verifiers. This was carried out by a consultant with expertise in conducting certification and chain-of-custody audits.

The process of developing and finalising the Common Legality Framework spanned two years, reflecting the time needed to consult widely; to take note of and accommodate the various political and administrative differences in each country; and then to harmonise the various national Criteria. It was completed in early 2009.

Due to differences in laws, procedures and implementation of the regulations, the generic Criteria may not all be applicable in every country. Each country’s Criteria and Indicators, where appropriate, may omit one or more of the Criteria, in which case the numbering sequence is also reordered for that country. For example, in some countries, there is limited legislation covering conservation or environmental issues. It is also important to note that the Criteria and Indicators are dependent on the regulations, and these regulations cover a wide range of conditions, in particular exemptions or stricter measures, usually established through contracts or agreements. The guidance notes attempt to clarify this with some details, but since the range of conditions in some Principles and Criteria is so varied between countries it may be necessary to check with the relevant agencies for greater guidance.

Some of the national verifiers identified through the above process do not refer in this document to specific regulations, but were raised during stakeholder consultations and approved for inclusion to address particular aspects of the trade or social, environmental and conservation issues, for example, contractual obligations. However, these are seldom used as the basis for the setting of indicators of the relevant country.

As legality is based on the laws and regulations of a country, including relevant departmental administrative circulars and contractual obligations, indicators and verifiers should be linked to specific regulations.  This should help to make it easier to update and keep the Framework current. Guidance notes and verifiers to assist auditors and companies in assessing compliance should be provided together with relevant regulations where possible. It is important to note that the Framework is a living document and will be updated on a regular basis to account for changes to the regulatory framework in each country.

CITES-Listed Species

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a global response to concern over the trade of endangered species. CITES was enacted in 1975, and 160 countries have ratified the treaty. CITES regulates the trade in live animals, animal parts, ornamental plants, medicinal plant parts, and timber species. It seeks to identify threatened species and create increasingly strong legal barriers to their harvest and trade, depending on their conservation status (see also

CITES lists threatened or endangered wood species under three classifications, known as the Appendices. The restrictions on trade within these appendices vary depending on the extent to which the species is threatened with extinction. The CITES listing includes species that are traded for timber, traded for medicinal purposes, and rare but not commercially traded.

More Information on CITES Timber Species

The following websites contain valuable and regularly updated information on CITES listed species.
WCMC Web site (
IUCN Web site (
United States department of Agriculture

CITES Listing - Relevance for Responsible Purchasers

CITES Appendix I-listed species should be avoided at all times.

For Appendix II and III species, a high degree of caution must be exercised. First, there is a legal obligation on any importer and trader in these species that ensures that all imports and trades are registered with the relevant authorities. Penalties are often large for failure to register imports of Appendix II and III species.

The second question concerns the endangered nature of these species. Trade in these species may be legal, but it is important to recognise that, in many cases, it is trade that has led to the need and requirement for close monitoring. CITES-listed species are subject to being removed from trade (through removal to Appendix I or through a reduction in quotas), so in many cases there is no guarantee of the long-term availability of species on Appendices II and III.

Best practice with CITES species is to closely monitor the status of the species involved and ensure that all legislative requirements are met. Be 100 per cent certain of which species is being purchased.

8.2 Controlled Wood Standards

Environmental Status of SuppliesThere is a large overlap between the policy elements and the necessary compliance checks as seen under the sections Source Assessed and Source Verified and the Forest Stewardship Council “Standard for Company Evaluation of FSC Controlled Wood - FSC-STD-40-005 (V2-1) EN”. Organizations that want to explore compliance with this standard in order to achieve chain-of-custody certification to FSC standards should consult the FSC Controlled Wood Standard and related standards ( Subject to confirmation from an accredited certifier, Controlled Wood Standard has a strong likelihood of meeting sources verified (as defined by GFTN). The following is adapted from the FSC standard.

What is Controlled Wood?
The primary objective of FSC Controlled Wood is to avoid mixing wood from ”unwanted” sources with FSC-certified material during the production of FSC Mixed products. FSC Controlled Wood is not the same as FSC-certified wood which has met all the requirements of the FSC Principles and Criteria.

FSC Chain-of-Custody certified companies who are mixing FSC-certified and non-FSC-certified wood in their FSC product groups must demonstrate that the non-FSC-certified wood has been controlled to avoid sources from the five categories listed below:

FSC Controlled Wood applies to wood based products and also to Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP’s).

The FSC standard for company evaluation of FSC Controlled Wood (FSC-STD-40-005) enables forest product companies to:

Steps for Controlling Wood Sources

The FSC Standard suggests there are three ways an FSC Chain-of-Custody company can control its non-FSC-certified wood sources:

  1. Purchase wood from forest enterprises that have been verified by an FSC accredited Certification Body to meet the requirements of FSC-STD-30-010 FSC Controlled Wood Standard for forest management enterprises;
  2. Purchase FSC Controlled Wood from suppliers holding a valid FSC Chain of Custody certificate which includes an FSC Controlled Wood registration code; and
  3. Internally verify its wood sources according to the requirements of FSC-STD-40-005 Company evaluation of FSC Controlled Wood.

FSC will phase-out the company-developed Risk Assessments to be replaced by FSC-approved National Risk Assessments for making risk designations. The original phase-out date of company-developed Risk Assessments was 31 December 2012. On 24 September 2012, the FSC Board of Directors approved the request of the chamber-balanced Technical Committee to extend the cut-off date for company Risk Assessments until 31 December 2014. In the meantime, where the company continues to internally verify its wood sources, the company needs to do the following:

For all three of these cases, the company needs to have written systems and procedures in place for controlling wood. The certification body and the company will then receive an exclusive FSC Controlled Wood registration code. This is only an option for companies who can trace wood back to its origins.


How the company follows up this evaluation.
The company will need to differentiate between high-risk and low-risk sources, where low-risk sources can be dealt with through a relatively simple approach, while high-risk sources are subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny.

Companies need to do the following:

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?

8.4 Steps to Exercise Due Diligence

Environmental Status of Supplies

Key Points in Excercising Due Diligence

Because simple, objective evidence demonstrating legality is rarely available from countries with the highest levels of illegal harvesting, your organisation will need to identify which suppliers are most likely to be able to comply with your company's aims and which are least likely—that is, which suppliers present the lowest risk of supplying illegal timber and which suppliers present the highest risk.

Your organization will need to develop systems for assessing and rating risk (risk rating). Risk rating allows you to do the following:

Step 1 - Assessing the Level of Risk

Risk rating is used to assess the likelihood that a given non-certified product from a given supplier contains illegally sourced timber. Rating suppliers based on this risk considers a range of information from various sources, some of which is available in the public domain and some that is provided by the suppliers themselves.

Risk rating consists of the following activities:

Requesting Suppliers to Complete and Return Questionnaires

The first step in the risk rating process is to send questionnaires to your suppliers. A model questionnaire and guidance that can be adapted for use in your organization is available here.

Analyzing the returned questionnaires using scenario tables
The returned questionnaires need to be systematically analyzed so that suppliers can be rated between high-risk and low-risk. The risk of illegal timber being traded along a supply chain can be broken down into three broad elements.

  1. Country of origin of the timber. There are risks associated with the geographical source of the supply. If a supplier is based in a country from which high volumes of illegal timber are exported and that supplier is unable to provide objective evidence demonstrating legality, then the risk that the timber is illegal is high. The scenario tables indicate the type of regulatory infrastructure that is most likely to encourage trading in both legal and illegal timber. Ratings for some countries are suggested, based on estimated rates of illegal logging or "suspicious" sources in those countries.
  2. Supplier company's attitude. The way a supplier operates with regard to a range of issues, such as its own general sourcing policies, how it relates to stakeholders and its attitude toward local communities, has been shown to be strongly linked to that company's attitude to buying and supplying illegal timber. The questionnaire asks a number of questions in this respect.
  3. Supply chain complexity. The way a supplier sources timber from its own suppliers is key to the risk of it trading in illegal timber or timber products. The questionnaire requests various types of objective evidence to assess whether sufficient supporting documentation has been gathered. You can analyze these three elements using the scenario tables. The analysis uses three different scenario tables, which relate to different sections of the questionnaire. Although indexes tend to be difficult to justify in purely scientific terms, they provide a systematic means for analyzing questionnaires. For example, the UK Timber Trade Federation, which used scenario tables for field trials (using a very similar approach), showed that the tables were effective and the results were independently repeatable.

In an ideal world it would be possible to calculate a risk rating for each product that you purchase—that is, each product in your inventory that carries a unique product code would have an individual risk rating. In reality this may not prove cost-efficient because of the difficulty of gathering any meaningful information on a product-by-product basis. Experience has shown that a more practical approach may be to group products into product categories, such as redwood mouldings from company X, rather than rate each individual molding (with all their different dimensions) supplied by company X.

Any supplier that has not returned a questionnaire within the specified deadline is automatically classified as a high-risk. The assumption is that the supplier was either unable or unwilling to supply the required information or too badly organized to do it. The importance of receiving the supplier's objective evidence to support the questionnaire answers cannot be overemphasized.

Examples of objective evidence can be found here. A completed questionnaire without objective evidence is just a self-declaration. Experience suggests that self-declarations without supporting evidence cannot be relied on.

Feedback to Suppliers and Monitoring for Continuous Improvement

The analysis of the questionnaire to reach a supplier rating has the added advantage of identifying weaknesses in the supplier's responses. It is then possible to give suppliers feedback, explaining how their score was derived and the types of actions needed to reduce the score. It is therefore possible to provide practical advice (without necessarily being specific or an expert) on how they can reduce their risk rating—an additional benefit to the supplier for completing the questionnaire. The types of actions that will move suppliers from the high-risk to the low-risk category are discussed later in this section.

Some suppliers may rate as high-risk in terms of supplying illegal timber in the initial assessment but they may strive to improve by changing their practices so that on subsequent assessments their risk-rating score improves. Others' ratings may change very little over time. It is important to maintain records that demonstrate how suppliers have improved their performance and processes over time. Experience suggests that suppliers who are unwilling to make adjustments to comply with a buyer's sourcing policy requirements are potentially also those more likely to trade in illegal timber. Over time you may wish to stop trading with these suppliers and replace them with companies that seek to support your commitments.

Data Management

Managing the whole process of supplier assessment involves sending out the questionnaires, following up with suppliers to get them to respond, capturing their responses and the associated objective evidence, analyzing the returns, and then reporting the results to all relevant parties. This process can be demanding in terms of management time. You will need an electronic database system and/or well-organized manual filing system to maintain the process.

Step 2 - Make Further Enquiries Where Needed

Once you have assessed the risk associated with a given product range from a given supplier and decided what kind of verification process is required, the next step involves implementing that process and, over time, progressively eliminating sources that are unable to provide the verification required.

One key strategy will be to make follow-up enquiries with suppliers that have provided weak responses to the questionnaire. Suppliers rated through the questionnaire assessment as being high-risk are likely to have not provided any or enough supporting evidence; thus the questionnaire, if returned, will be largely a self-declaration. You will need to either ask the supplier to provide more evidence or investigate the timber
source directly.

Gathering information from the upstream parts of the supply chain is frequently difficult. Traders are concerned about issues such as confidentiality, particularly if they occupy a "middleman" position in the supply chain. They are concerned that the objective evidence will reveal the identity of their supplier and that you may begin trading directly with the upstream end of the supply chain. Also, suppliers occupying an intermediary role may have great difficulty getting the information from those upstream from them, particularly if they only buy a relatively small percentage of their supplier's total production; that is, they have limited leverage. Sometimes the objective evidence you require just does not exist.

Step 3 - Improve Traceability and Verify Legality

Certified timber is tracked using inspected and verified chain-of custody systems that enable you to easily answer the question, "How did it get here?". Timber and timber products that supposedly originate from a certified forest but are not accompanied by a current and credible chain-of-custody certificate cannot be regarded as certified because the chain-of-custody has been broken and illegal product may have become mixed with the certified product. Chain-of-custody certificates apply only to timber and timber products from a certified forest. If a product comes from a verified legal forest, traceability is just as critical.

A key component of ensuring that timber is kept legal once it leaves the forest and enters the supply chain is to prevent illegal timber mixing with it. If legal timber and illegal timber are mixed, the whole product line can be "tainted". Once timber has left the forest, its legal quality can only be recognized if it can be shown to have come from that forest—in other words, traceability.

Without traceability, verification of the legality of forest management is largely a waste of time. The supply chain, or as some prefer to call it the demand chain, must have a dependable level of integrity. An efficient way of achieving this is to encourage suppliers to develop a system for tracing all timber and timber products from their own suppliers.

If you take the demand chain view, traceability should start at the downstream end of the chain and steadily be applied back upstream toward the forest. Traceability implemented in this manner will have a strong commercial orientation with a greater likelihood for successful implementation, with each business that forms a step along the demand chain benefiting.

Logs, timber and processed timber goods start their journey in the source forest and are then processed by primary and possibly secondary processing industries, exported, possibly transshipped and imported. All this may happen before the goods finally fall under your organization's control. Although it is critical to identify the source forest, it is also critical to make sure that the timber from that source forest is what you receive, rather than illegal timber that has infiltrated into the supply chain en route.

The traceability of the supply chain is vital for ensuring that you receive goods containing legal timber and that there is no "laundering" of illegal timber. In practical terms, it can be expensive and, in some cases, physically impossible to track timber down highly complex or fragmented supply chains. Complex supply chains will always be more likely to support the laundering of illegal timber.

The risk-rating system takes into consideration the potential for dilution of the supply chain by illegal timber. In high-risk situations that have a history of laundering timber, mixing legal and illegal timber to yield "legal" timber, the best option to ensure a clean supply chain is by tracking the timber from the source forest to the physical location where it comes under your organization's control. Without such tracking or traceability in their supply chains, your suppliers will be unable to meet your verification requirements for a verified legal or known licensed source or any other verification approach, such as those described below.

Traceability can be achieved through various combinations of paper- and technology-based tracking systems. In many countries where the trade in illegal timber is a problem, elaborate official paper-based systems have been implemented to theoretically track the movement of timber from the forest to the point of export. This has included the use of unique government certificates or permits covering the transportation and movement of timber in general. These documents are often linked with national forest legislation, and in many cases, it is illegal to transport timber without the necessary specific official permission accompanying the timber or timber products.

However, such systems can easily break down in countries where the regulatory capacity is weak because of a lack of resources or because of corruption, where the forest areas to be regulated are huge, or where the government has no means to manage data centrally. To make matters worse, modern printing technologies have made it relatively simple to corrupt paper-based systems with virtually indistinguishable false or forged paperwork.

Nevertheless, paper-based documentation is still the mainstay of traceability systems and is likely to be so for some time. A good understanding of the system that produces documentation, and familiarity with the "look and feel" of relevant documentation, will provide a measure of confidence and some safeguard.

To assist with this, WWF has produced a series of Keep It Legal Country Guides (in PDF format) for Brasil, China, Indonesia and Russia, for use in conjunction with this guidance, that describe how these paper-based systems operate in reality and their strengths and weaknesses.

The feasibility of tracking timber has increased significantly as Internet-related technologies and services have become more effective, cheaper and more accessible. Unreliable paperwork combined with scribed or painted identifiers on the end of logs are starting to be replaced by bar-coded tags and radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) with the data capture carried out with handheld personal computers (PC). This enables the tree-related information to be scanned electronically and uploaded from the handheld PC directly onto the Internet, and from there it is stored in dedicated database systems. These modern technologies provide the opportunity to link individual standing trees in the forest with the logs produced from them in a much more secure manner than was possible in the past. These approaches rely on the standing trees in the forest being tagged and then the data on its position and main parameters (height, species and diameter) all being captured on a database. The systems are made secure by using uniquely identifiable tags that are linked to the key tree measurements and resultant log metrics through a record on the database. More information on timber tracking systems can be found below.

Any supply (or demand) chain has a number of critical control points along its length. Critical control points are locations at which the timber undergoes basic changes, for example, where the trees are felled, where the logs are loaded onto a log lorry and where the logs enter the sawmill. The Internet enables information from these critical control points along the supply chain to be aggregated in a single online database, no matter how remote the geographic locations of the critical control points are or what companies are involved. To manage all or part of a supply chain efficiently, you need information on how the product is moving along the supply chain. An Internet-driven system of the type described helps those collecting the information to benefit directly from their efforts as they receive reports containing key management metrics that are compiled and made available the instant any new "flow" information arrives at the database.

In an ideal world, in countries where the risk of illegality is high, the timber or timber product would all be tracked from the standing tree in the forest to the point where it enters your warehouse or comes under your organization's control. The reality is that, currently, little tracking of the types described is taking place. It is a new approach and is being adopted only by the more innovative and forward-looking operators.

Tracking, if appropriately implemented, should help a business operate more efficiently. Information from tracking can be useful for forest managers, in terms of monitoring the volumes and species being harvested from each location, mill owners, in terms of knowing what logs, species or timber products are coming out of the forest and when they may arrive at the mill, the regulatory authorities, in terms of being able to verify the legal right of a specific forest operation to transport timber and for estimation of revenues to be collected, independent auditors wishing to audit legality.

Many of the business benefits have yet to be fully realized. Currently, log and timber tracking is principally seen as a system of control that is used by government and verification organizations rather than as a business tool. Once these systems are more widely implemented and understood, it is likely their full value will be better appreciated. (For a more detailed review of timber tracking and chain of custody systems, see Dykstra et al., 2003, Technologies for Wood Tracking Verifying and Monitoring the Chain of Custody and Legal Compliance in the Timber Industry.) 

A promising recent technological advance is the use of DNA fingerprinting to prove the source and traceability of timber. Each individual tree has a unique genetic code (DNA) and code variations between individuals can be modeled to predict codes across a given geographical area. The primary use is to verify source by matching the DNA from samples taken from individual stumps in a source concession with the DNA from associated logs at a processing mill. The second, and possibly more powerful, method amalgamates the DNA data gathered from individual testing into a genetic database covering a geographical area.

The database allows samples taken from anywhere to be compared with known spatial DNA variations in order to pinpoint actual source to a geographical range. Certisource Timber has tested this technology in Southeast Asia and is currently able to undertake DNA matching for Merbau, Teak, Nyato, Mersawa and Matoa species.

Some companies that provide log and timber tracking services include:
Certisource Timber -
TracElite -
Track Record -
Other organizations offer similar services.

7.0 Environmental Status of Supplies - Source Assessed

Known Licensed SourceThe classification "Source Assessed" involves that the forest source has been evaluated for basic legality and traceability criteria-



Other inclusions

The sourcing organization should assess the issues and risks associated with the illegal harvesting and trade in forest products and develop policies and definitions that are a balance between stakeholder expectations, the level of risk and the practicality of enforcement.

6.1 Dealing with Unknown and Unwanted Sources

Unwanted Sources

Unwanted Source

Unwanted sources may have a high degree of traceability or be simply unknown. Where the source is identified, the key information is that the source clearly does not comply with the requirements of the organization's policies, and there is no remedy for this situation. Where remedies can be identified, these should be included in action plans developed with the supplier. The progress of these action plans should then be reviewed periodically, and, if improvements are made, the source may be categorized as a limited knowledge of forest source or higher. If improvements are not made, the source remains unwanted.

Unwanted sources can be identified virtually at any stage in the assessment process and a source that was previously regarded as acceptable may on further investigation be regarded as unwanted. This may be through obtaining further information direct from the supplier or through other parties.

Limited knowledge of forest source may not be regarded as unwanted initially, but if the source remains of limited knowledge after SMART targets have been set, it must inevitably become regarded as unwanted and be dealt with accordingly.

7.6 Source Assessed in the Context of Exports to Australia

Aligned with international efforts, including measures developed by the United States and EU, Australia further strengthens its leadership position in the Asia-Pacific region in promoting trade in legally harvested timber and timber products by enacting the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act (AILPA) and enhancing international cooperation to combat illegal logging.

AILPA was passed in 2012, a draft Amendment was issued in May 2013 and is expected to enter into law November 2014. The aims of AILPA are to reduce the harmful environmental, social and economic impacts of illegal logging and affects to Australian timber importers and domestic processors of Australian raw logs.

The regulation does not require a due diligence system to be created for each transaction.  Rather, the regulation requires the establishment of a single due diligence system that can be applied to each import. For example, an importer may establish a due diligence system and apply it to a particular product from a particular source.  The outcome of this process will be an understanding of the information and documentation required to be obtained when importing that product from that particular source.

However the regulation that outlines the operational framework for importers and processors will come into effect after 30 November 2014.

In addition, the regulation also provides:

  1. civil offence and penalties.
  2. Infringement notice provisions.
  3. Administrative sanction provisions.
  4. Identity card requirements.

The law does not impose any Australian legislation on the source country, but uses the laws that are in placed in the country of origin to determine illegality of harvest and trade.


The list of regulated timber products is prescribed in a Schedule of the Regulation ( This list is closely aligned with the list of EU products, with some exceptions where the imports of those products to Australia are of low trade value and/or volume. It has fewer products than either the EU or US legislations and has an additional category relating to wooden framed seats.

Some products are exempted from the due diligence requirements of the Regulation. These include: timber products that are recycled material and any content of a timber products that are recycled material. Timber in a regulated timber product is recycled material if:

However, material in a regulated timber product is not recycled material if the material is the by-product of a manufacturing process. Examples: Sawdust or off cuts from sawn timber used to make particle board or plywood


Information the importer needs:

-          Evidence that the product has not been illegally logged

-          Information on whether the harvesting of that tree species from which the timber was derived is prohibited in the place of harvest or not

-          If the harvest of the timber in that place is authorised by legislation and regulation – proof that the requirements of the legislation been met for the harvest of that timber

-          If payment is required for the right to harvest the timber – proof that payment has been made

-          Information on whether the harvest of the timber was consistent with the law establishing or protecting the legal rights of use and tenure in the place of harvest or not 


Before importing a regulated timber product into Australia, an importer must have a due diligence system and retain a written record of that due diligence system. The requirements for a due diligence system may be summarised as a four step process to be put in place by an importer as set out below.

Step 1: Information gathering (section 10 of the AILPA)

  1. An importer must obtain as much of the prescribed information as is reasonably practicable. The Regulation includes a list of types of information to be obtained by an importer.

Step 2: Optional process - assessing and identifying risk against a timber legality framework (section 11) or a country specific guideline (once they are prescribed) (section 12)

  1.      ii.        Under the Regulation, in certain circumstances, an importer may elect to assess the risk that the timber in the product they are importing has been illegally harvested using either:

-          a timber legality framework that is prescribed in Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Regulation; or

-          a country specific guideline (once they are prescribed in Part 2 of Schedule 2 to the Regulation). The Regulation requires that, should an importer elect to use this optional process, they must:

  1. Should an importer elect to use this optional process and, in doing so, assess that there is a low risk that the timber product is illegally logged, then the requirements under section 13 do not apply. In circumstances where section 13 does not apply, risk mitigation (section 14) also does not apply.
  2. However, risk mitigation does apply in circumstances where the importer is required to use section 13 and the risk that the timber product was illegally logged, as assessed under section 13, is not a low risk.

Step 3: Risk assessment (section 13)

  1.       i.        Where an importer has not used the optional process set out in Step 2, or where they have used the Step 2 process but they have identified a risk that the timber is illegally logged and the risk is other than a low risk, an importer must undertake a risk assessment in accordance with section 13.
  1. The Regulation requires the importer, as part of this process, to identify and assess any risks by taking into consideration the risk factors that are referred to in subsections 13(2) and (3).

Step 4: Risk mitigation (section 14)

  1. Where an importer has, during Step 3, identified a risk that the timber was illegally logged and the risk was not a low risk, an importer must undertake a risk mitigation process in accordance with       the Regulation.  The Regulation requires the risk mitigation process to be adequate and proportionate to the identified risk.


Timber sourced from certified forests (*FSC or **PEFC) will automatically be determined to be “low risk by the AILPA.

The act requires a declaration about the timber legality at the point of import of each shipment. Importers of regulated timber products must have declarations, at the time of import, to the Customs Minister about the due diligence that they have undertaken.

Detailed information on the AILPA can be found here:

7.2 Assessing a Source Assessed

Document Review to Assess Known Licensed SourceTo assess the credibility of the information from the supplier, the sourcing organization should consider the following:

Documents That Can Demonstrate a Source Assessed

A third-party verification aiming to demonstrate that a product contains "verified legal" timber must first check the source forest forest has the license of ownership adn access, and then the operation to confirm the timber was harvested legally. It must then also check that the timber was legally traded and not mixed with timber from illegal sources. This would require a review of at least the following documents:

A fuller guide to the required documents for a number of countries can be found here.

Proof that wood has been harvested and sold by a forest company from a known licensed source should include the demonstration of the legal right to harvest. Suppliers should provide the following:

A fuller guide to the required documents and processes that a third-party verifier would need to consider for a number of countries can be found here.

A number of organizations are able to offer third-party verification of legal compliance and traceability, the precise scope of which differs from case to case. Verification may be restricted to compliance with harvesting regulations, for example, or may be much broader, including other legal requirements such as those pertaining to health and safety laws.

3.0 Policy Development

Policy Development This section deals with the critical issue of how to develop a policy to promote responsible sourcing. This policy will dictate the activities that must be undertaken to deliver the objectives of the programme as a whole.

8.6 Choosing the Appropriate Status for a Source

Choosing the Appropriate Status for Your Source

The more an organization digs into the issues, the more information will come to light that may have a bearing on the status of the source. Sufficient information may be available at the initial baseline investigation to determine if a source is to be given the status “Unwanted”. Further rounds of information gathering may affect the status of a source previously categorized as “Limited knowledge” or “source assessed,” which will force a re-evaluation and perhaps a downgrading to “Unwanted”. In most cases, the process of gathering information, analyzing it and seeking clarification will take some time. However, it is important to make sure that this process does not become a method to delay making a decision on the future of the supplier and continue business as usual. It is therefore essential to set appropriate deadlines, agree on these with the supplier and clearly identify what will happen at that point.

The table below can be used as a checklist to identify whether a source is assessed, verified, unwanted or there is limited knowledge. It is also a useful checklist for compliance against the FSC Controlled Wood Standard.

Using information on an individual source plus information on the supplier of the material, work through the table to identify the most appropriate status. The table refers in some cases to “an agreed upon period” which is the period of time defined by the buyer and accepted by the supplier to meet this condition.


Policy Criteria

Limited knowledge of forest


Source Assessed

Source Verified

The supplier knows where the timber was grown and can identify the harvesting entity.
The timber originates from an entity that has a legal right to harvest timber in the forest management unit where the timber was grown, and has been legally traded.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed upon period:
The supplier cannot identify that the harvesting entity has a legal right to harvest (has a harvesting permit and authorization from the resource owner).

The supplier identifies the harvesting entity and that the harvesting entity has a legal right to harvest and timber has been legally traded.

Same as source assessed

High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF):
Regarding whether the timber is harvested from forest areas where forest management activities maintain or enhance high conservation values.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed-to period:

If HCVs are only suspected or are not evaluated—
No special management to maintain or enhance is adopted for high conservation values.

If HCVs are identified—
(a) lack of willingness to recognize values, assess values, or engage in any form of HCV forest management; and/or (b) lack of willingness to adopt a precautionary principle for HCVs.

If HCVs are only suspected or are not evaluated—the precautionary approach shall be adopted and no timber shall be supplied until the presence of high conservation values (HCVs) has been credibly assessed and appropriate management (to maintain or enhance) can be planned accordingly.

 If HCVs are identified, evidence is provided that
(a) the forest is certified, or in progress to certification (and a comprehensive HCV forest assessment has been done and an action plan developed to ensure the maintenance and enhancement of the identified HCVs,
(b) the forest manager can otherwise demonstrate that the forest and/or surrounding landscape is managed to ensure those values are maintained (usually this will involve a comprehensive HCV forest assessment in the site/landscape and a commitment to management actions and monitoring to ensure the HCVs are maintained and enhanced).

More information on HCVF here.

Unjustified Forest Conversion:
Regarding whether the known source is a forest that is being inappropriately cleared or converted, and/or timber that has been harvested from areas that have been converted from natural forest to plantations or nonforest uses.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed-to period:

No evidence is provided that

  • a transparent multi-stakeholder planning process has been conducted;
  • there are no outstanding conflicts with local and indigenous peoples regarding the clearance;
  • where the forest is classified or suspected as being of high conservation value these values are being maintained or enhanced;
  • an environmental impact study has been conducted and its recommendations implemented.

 Evidence is provided that

  • a transparent multi-stakeholder planning process has been conducted;
  • there are no outstanding conflicts with local and indigenous peoples regarding the clearance;
  • the forest is classified or suspected of being of high conservation value and these values are maintained or enhanced;
  • an environmental impact study has been conducted and its recommendations implemented.

More information on forest conversion: wwf_position_paper_on_forest_conversion.pdf

Conflict Timber:
Regarding whether the timber was traded in a way that drives violent armed conflict or threatens national or regional stability.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed-to period:

The source is clearly or strongly suspected of, originating from a country or operation that is not acceptable according to the sourcing policy.


Clear evidence is provided that the source is not listed as unwanted according to the sourcing policy.

More information on conflict timber here

Human Rights Issues: Regarding whether the harvesting or processing entity, is violating human rights.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

Internal and external stakeholder concerns
identify specific issues, countries,
or companies that are extremely controversial
or out of step with generally
accepted practices.


Internal and external stakeholder concerns
identify specific issues, countries, or companies that are extremely controversial or out of step with generally accepted practices.

More information on human rights issues here.

Endangered Species:
Regarding whether the tree species involved is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (or other schedules, as defined by the responsible purchaser’s policy) where trade is prohibited, or is listed in CITES Appendices II or III but the supporting certificates from the CITES management and scientific authorities in the country of origin are valid.

The supplier cannot identify the species of timber supplied or where it was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed-to period:

Species is identified as CITES Appendix I.

CITES Appendix II or III trade (where permitted under the sourcing policy) is not backed by all relevant export and import documentation as required by relevant CITES management authorities.

CITES species that lack required documents can be consider “illegally traded” and thus should be regarded as unwanted under the “Legality” criterion.

CITES Appendix II or III trade (where permitted under the sourcing policy) is backed by all relevant export and import documentation as required by relevant CITES management authorities covering both export and import.

More information on CITES here.

Same as source assessed.

Genetic Modification (GM):
Regarding whether the known source is from a forest that does not use GM trees.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed-to period:

Evidence or a statement that the forest management enterprise does supply timber from GM trees.


Evidence or a statement is provided that the forest management enterprise does not supply timber from GM trees.

Local Conflicts:
Regarding whether the known source is a forest where there is no unresolved conflict concerning local or indigenous people or civil society groups.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed to period:

Absence of a process for conflict resolution
and absence of clear evidence that
demonstrates that a process has been developed.


 Clear evidence is provided that demonstrates
that a process for the resolution of the conflict
has been, or is being developed:
(a) identification of all local communities or traditional
and indigenous peoples in the forest management unit and adjacent area;
(b) documentation showing the forest management unit’s ownership or legal right to harvest;
(c) documentation recording traditional rights as identified by the communities and peoples
groups identified in (a);
(d) documented evidence of consultation with local communities or traditional and indigenous
peoples groups identified in (a);
(e) documented evidence of the process by which any disputes are being resolved, which has the broad support of the parties to the dispute, and which outlines an agreed-to interim process for addressing the dispute and for the management of the forest area concerned.

Documented evidence of any payments to local communities or traditional and indigenous peoples groups are fair, and obtained a Free, Prior and informed (FPIC) consent.

Traceability Issues:
Regarding the data supplied and its completeness.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed-to period:

The supplier has not returned the questionnaire or has failed to complete it sufficiently within the specified time.

Product is traceable to the forest management unit to a degree of precision that is commensurate with the risk that the source may be unwanted. More information on data issues and suppliers here.

A 3rd party has verified that the material does not contain unwanted sources.

Information Disclosure Issues:
Regarding confidentiality or willingness to disclose the source.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed-to period:

The supplier will not disclose the source (forest) of the forest product within the specified time.

Product is traceable to the forest management unit to a degree of precision that is commensurate with the risk that the source may be unwanted sourcing

More information on data issues and suppliers here.

 A 3rd party has verified that the material does not contain unwanted sources.

Integrity issues:
Regarding the integrity of the supplier and supplier data.

The supplier cannot identify where the timber was grown and cannot identify the harvesting entity.

After an agreed-to period:

Other sources of information continue to dispute the information provided by the supplier, and the supplier is unable to sufficiently refute these allegations to the sourcing organization’s satisfaction.

Product is traceable to the forest management unit to a degree of precision that is commensurate with the risk that the source may be unwanted sourcing

More information on data issues and suppliers here.

A 3rd party has verified that the material does not contain unwanted sources.”

Questionnaires - Things to Consider

General guidance
Suppliers need encouragement in order to complete questionnaires. Below are some strategies, based on practical experience that can help get the questionnaires completed and returned.

Contact suppliers well in advance of them receiving the questionnaires to explain the commercial reasons for asking them to complete a questionnaire. This can be done by e-mail and should be backed up by a phone call.

Mail out the questionnaire with an accompanying letter explaining why you need this information and what the information will be used for. Emphasize that all commercial information they provide will remain completely confidential and will not be shared with anyone else, whether buyer or supplier.

Allow 2 to 3 months for a supplier to complete the questionnaire from the time that they receive it. It tends not to be a priority; also, the supplier may need time to gather the appropriate documentation. You will need to be prepared to answer questions and concerns that suppliers raise regarding the questionnaire.

Provide a deadline date for completion, stating clearly that if they fail to return a completed questionnaire, they will be rated automatically as a high-risk supplier. You may need to contact some suppliers just before the deadline to remind them what they need to do; you also may need to extend the deadline by a few days for some.

Emphasize that the supplier needs to provide appropriate objective evidence to support all self-declarations. This is still an inexact science. What constitutes objective evidence to support the answers to the range of questions will vary significantly from one country to another.

Make sure that the mill or manufacturer is answering the questions or supplying the appropriate information when the organization you have sent the questionnaire to is merely acting as an intermediary for a mill or manufacturer. Some intermediaries get concerned about confidentiality. If you deal with this type of organization, you may need to reassure them that you are not excluding them from the supply chain but merely want answers to questions: Where did it come from? How did it get here?

Ensure that all forest sources for each product are identified, if known. Although you may be asking a single supplier about a single product, if you purchase significant quantities, or different components of composite products, these may come from more than one source forest, and even more than one country. One of the sources may be legal and the other not, making an entire product line effectively illegal. Traceability is critical in such cases.

Below are some common issues that arise when suppliers are asked questions regarding their sourcing of forest products, along with suggestions on how to deal with them.

Supplier didn’t provide enough information—Major gaps in data make it difficult to make any form of assessment. Talk to the supplier and find out why it cannot or did not provide the data requested. If the supplier does not have the technical expertise, ask that it request its own suppliers to furnish the missing data and to collate these data for you. Agree on a date by which the data will be provided.

Supplier misunderstood a question—Make contact with the supplier and explain why you are asking the question and what sort of answer you require.

Supplier refuses to complete the questionnaire—The supplier may refuse to complete questionnaires or provide data. Lack of resources is a common excuse, as is “company policy.” Explain to the supplier that your requests are valid and that you routinely make this request of all your suppliers. Small suppliers may have genuine concerns about committing time and resources to providing data; in such circumstances agree that the data can be provided in small segments over an agreed-upon period of time. Suppliers that continue to avoid supplying data should be given an ultimatum, after which they should be removed from the supply chain. This is a last resort, however, and the intervention of senior management on both sides may be useful to maintain a dialogue and to avoid this.

Concerns over confidentiality—In some industries and in some countries it is common to experience concerns over the confidentiality of supply chain data. This can be overcome in a number of ways, ranging from giving the supplier verbal assurance that the data are used for environmental and quality control purposes and will not be used in a commercial context, through to giving the supplier a signed confidentiality agreement. The provision of data may have to be made in a manner that furnishes the required information without revealing the names of commercial intermediaries or processors. However, full disclosure is preferred and may come in time as part of an action plan.

Supplier “does not feel responsible”—Some suppliers do not feel obliged to respond to requests for supply chain data. Arguments can vary, from a position of “being too small to have any effect” to “it is none of your business.” Suppliers in this situation should be given an opportunity to reflect on their position. Experience has shown that companies with little regard for their customers’ expectations and requirements usually fail. If a supplier cannot change its opinions and recognize your point of view, it should have no place in your supply chain.

Supplier cannot provide evidence of legality—Depending on your supplier’s place within the supply chain, obtaining such proofs may prove difficult. Those supply chain elements furthest removed from the forests or primary processors will experience the greatest difficulty in obtaining the required documentation. You have several options to address this difficulty: Give the supplier more time to obtain the documents required.

Encourage the supplier to source forest products in less controversial areas.
Encourage the supplier to seek independent certification for its forest products.
Encourage the supplier to obtain a third-party legal verification audit.

2.3 Identifying Key Players That Need to Be Involved

Supply Chain Review It is essential to identify key roles within the sourcing organization that are critical to the success of complying with policy through delivering the programme. The roles will include senior management across a range of functions, including sourcing, environmental management, legal advisor, technical support and communications.

Without buy-in from across all levels in the organization, a successful responsible sourcing programme will be difficult to achieve. Therefore, it is essential to identify all key players early on in the process.

14.0 Common Framework for Assessing Legality for Forestry Operations, Timber Processing and Trade

The unsustainable and often illegal logging of timber represents a major threat to tropical forest ecosystems and associated biodiversity. Illegal logging also threatens the livelihoods of local communities and undermines the efforts of both private and public sector organisations to develop sustainable approaches to forest management. At the same time, there is increasing demand among buyers of timber and other forest products that are verified as having been procured legally and certified as sustainably produced.

An important element of this work is helping governments and businesses to be clear on legality and associated sustainability requirements in line with meeting these objectives. Among the activities being undertaken in association with the GFTN, therefore, is the elaboration of a common framework for addressing legality in key trading countries, particularly in developing countries with high biodiversity forests where illegal logging and trade are known to be a significant concern. GFTN/TRAFFIC's Common Legality Framework is comprised of several broad principles of legality, each supported by several criteria and indicators linking the principle to existing legislation.

Development of the Framework was started in June 2006. The preceding Indonesian legality standard, developed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2004 with funding from DFID UK, the result of two years of extensive and wide-ranging stakeholder consultation, was considered a solid starting point from which to tailor appropriate frameworks in other countries.

The following sections outline the process used in the development of the Framework and provides a set of national indicators, verifiers and guidance for a number countries. The Framework is a helpful tool for companies who wish to perform their own checks of suppliers, brief a third-party verifier or to meet customer requirements as well as for stakeholders involved in national legality definition processes. The Common Framework will also allow companies to understand and view at a glance the relevant legislations as captured in each of the Principles across all their country sources and buyers where national legality compilations has been completed for the Common Framework. Where no national legislative compilation using the Common Framework has been completed, the Framework should still allow companies to ask similar questions of their supply chain to help in legal compliance.

Funding for the elaboration of the Common Legality Framework for timber trading countries in Asia and Africa was provided to WWF by the European Commission Programme on Environment in Developing Countries and Programme on Tropical Forests and other Forests in Developing Countries, as part of a wider programme of work on certification and verification of forest products. TRAFFIC, a strategic alliance of WWF and IUCN, led the development of the Common Framework, working in collaboration with local stakeholders in each country.

0.0 Introduction

IntroductionSince the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) first published its Guide to Responsible Sourcing of Forest Products and the closely associated Keep It Legal manual as paper documents, there have been numerous developments that resulted in this revision. The main change is the development of these web pages, which are searchable and easier to maintain—allowing the GFTN to continue to offer the best advice available.

These pages contain numerous links to other websites, many of which are external. As such, we are not responsible for the content, but believe these sites to offer greater depth to the understanding of aspects of responsible sourcing of forest products.

There have also been numerous developments within the sphere of legality of forest products. Legislative processes in the US, Europe and Australia and developments within certification and chain of custody have all prompted us to enhance the advice available regarding legality.

The ability to print most sections of these pages and to search a number of key terms is intended to allow you as the user to both take in the overall concepts and easily find what you need on specific topics.

Who Should Use These Pages

These pages are designed for use by a sourcing organization that wishes to develop a due diligence system for the legal and responsible sourcing of forest products. The guide lays out a generic approach for the development and implementation of a responsible sourcing policy, hereafter referred to as a responsible sourcing programme.

The guide is aimed at any medium-size or large enterprise, including primary mills, secondary processors, importers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, which purchase or procure forest products. In appropriate circumstances, it may also serve to guide smaller enterprises.

The guide outlines the various ways in which sourcing organizations can exercise due diligence and demonstrate compliance with best practice based on compliance with their own sourcing policies. It is based on both tried and tested mechanisms and extensive experience in the development of responsible sourcing programmes.

The principles outlined within this guide are in line with the GFTN Participation Rules; and as such, the guide should help GFTN Trade Participants meet their participation requirements. All GFTN Trade Participants are advised to refer also to the specific guidance issued by their local GFTN manager. Where advice is specific to GFTN participants, there are links to relevant documents or additional guidance.

The original paper versions of these two guides are still available as downloads (PDF) and the following pages are printable. Every effort has been made to retain the core information of the previous published documents and changes have only been made where circumstances, processes or legislation has changed.

The implementation of a responsible sourcing programme to demonstrate due diligence is a major undertaking for any organization and requires a high degree of commitment to achieve results. This guide outlines a set of processes and procedures by which a sourcing organization can begin to address the problems that are common to many supply chains.

The first two paper-based versions of this guidance have been widely distributed in a number of languages and are currently used by several hundred companies representing the whole supply chain from the forest floor to the retail store. The guidance has been adopted by companies sourcing products as varied as paper and plywood to sawn timber and furniture. Although designed primarily for companies that are participants in the Global Forest & Trade Network, it has also been welcomed by companies choosing to work outside this network.

Purchasers of pulp and paper based products are advised to also consult WWF’s guidance with respect to these products where further aspects of production, beyond fibre sourcing are addressed. Further information can be found here.

3.4 Focusing Policy on Legal Compliance

Policy Development In defining the scope of its sourcing policy, your organization will need to understand the regulation affecting forestry and trade of forest products in the markets where you operate and source from. Your organization should also identify other legal issues of concern for your key stakeholders. Then your organizations will need to balance the range of legal compliance issues with teh need to contain auditing costs. Note legislation affecting the legal trade of forest products is increasing globally with examples such as the amendment of the Lacey Act in the US, the European Union Timber regulation and the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill. You can find more information on legality in other sections in this guid that address this issue. 

A comprehensive approach to determining the legality of forest products could cover many issues beyond forestry. For example, the policy could explore adherence to laws relating to taxes, labour, health, corporations, transport, customs, pollution or money laundering;  ingredients besides wood (finishes, other materials, packaging) and phases of production (harvesting, hauling, milling, shipping, manufacturing, trading and end use). In addition, a full approach could address the procedures leading up to the grant of a timber permit, including adherence to planning laws, impact assessment requirements, tendering procedures, contractual "fairness" provisions and absence of any suspicion of corruption or collusion.

Your policies need to prioritize the legal compliance problems to be addressed; for example, is the focus on illegal logging or does it also include labour and pollution laws in factories further along the supply chain? The following approaches can be used to find this balance.

A key role of your policy on illegal logging is to establish the framework upon which a culture of legal sourcing can be built. A good policy will precisely define the issues that it seeks to address and will identify what is and what is not acceptable to your organization. The policy should clearly convey the values of your organization and show how these values will be upheld.

Although pervasive corruption is a major cause of poor forest governance, this manual focuses on illegal logging and related trade. Experience has shown that both illegal harvesting and related trade can be addressed directly through responsible sourcing, whereas pervasive corruption is a broader problem that generally requires a different set of responses. (For mechanisms to address corruption, go to Transparency International Web site at

More information on the negative impacts of supporting the illegal trade in forest products can be found here.

Note for GFTN Participants: GFTN participant companies are required to agree a scope of their participation that at least covers their main impacts regarding sourcing of wood or fibre.

13.2 Setting Targets

The purchasing organization should set two types of targets: one for their supplier and the other for themselves.

Action Plans and Targets for Suppliers

Reviewing and Improving the  Programme

The action plan for an individual supplier should be based on the responses given to the questionnaire. To fully understand the issues raised by the questionnaire, the suppliers should discuss them with the purchasing organization and develop a mutually agreed-upon action plan.

There is no need for a complete overhaul of the relationship if the problems highlighted by the questionnaire relate only to a narrow area of the business. The action plan should define exactly what is required for the supplier's business to meet the needs of the purchasing organization.

A good action plan should be SMART:


Internal Action Plans and Targets

It is important that progress be demonstrated to internal and external audiences. Progress in two areas in particular is measurable and demonstrable, namely increases in the proportion of credibly certified forest products in the purchasing organization's portfolio of sources and decreases in the proportion of unwanted or illegally sourced forest products.

The purchasing organization's performance against its policies and programs should be reviewed periodically, and new targets should be set for the next period of activity.

A purchasing organization that is a participant in the GFTN will have an opportunity to agree on an action plan with the local GFTN manager.

In all cases, the purchasing organization should look for ways to eliminate unwanted sources and increase all other source categories. Pursuit of this policy should, step by step, enable all sources other than those that are credibly certified to be eliminated from the supply chain.

When agreeing on an action plan with the supplier, the purchasing organization should be realistic in setting targets. An action plan can be determined and agreed to only when the first period of data collection and assessment of sources is complete. This may be as late as the end of the first year of operating a responsible purchasing policy. Ultimately, a realistic plan is one that is based firmly on the aspirations of the organization's own policies and on the informed assessment of the status of the supply chain.

The overall intentions of the internal targets can perhaps be visualized as in the diagram. This example is for a period of seven years and is for illustrative purposes only.

7.1 Defining Legal Timber

Environmental Status of SuppliesTo direct your organization's sourcing away from the products of illegal logging and toward those in favour of legal operators, you will need to define what you mean by "legal" or acceptable sources. That definition should exclude products or activities that fall within the scope of the problem defined in your policy. The scope of concern may be broad, and thus be difficult to comply with, or narrow, which would run the risk of not addressing key issues. A balance between these extremes needs to be struck.

Verifying that the timber in a product is from a source assessed requires the purchaser to obtain proof that, in addition to having the ownership and access rights, and a legal right to harvest, the harvesting entity complied with the law when harvesting the timber and that the timber was legally traded and exported or imported. The category also requires a higher degree of scrutiny over the chain of custody. Forest management certification systems that require independent chain-of-custody audits can also provide this level of assurance on legal compliance.

You should also be guided by any market based legislation (Lacey etc) – as these laws and regulations will provide more detail as to the scope of legislation they require must be considered. 

Which Laws Apply?

There can be challenges in determining what constitutes an illegal act and interpreting global definitions within the context of the legal system of a given producer country. These challenges include the following:

In many producer countries efforts are underway to better understand and then to define the laws that are relevant to forestry and associated trade. These processes are seeking to also address the apparent contradictions and to provide workable solutions using multi-stakeholder processes, often within international frameworks supported by the relevant Government agencies. A good example of this international process is the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process. 

In many jurisdictions, rationalization and clarification of such issues are clearly needed to enable effective law enforcement. However, where laws are unclear, best practice for sourcing organizations, suppliers and auditors is to note the flaws in the relevant laws and state clearly the basis on which verification has been assessed, including, where possible, the rationale for the interpretation by the verifier.

In other countries, standards, criteria and checklists relating to legal compliance may have been developed for forest certification purposes. These can serve as useful reference points to interpret the forestry law of a given country.

Addressing "Bad" or "Unfair" Laws

Illegality in the timber extraction business is often a symptom of deeper underlying problems. A narrow focus on illegal activities may perpetuate inequities and corrupt resource allocation processes. Forest laws, or decisions made in purported application of the law, often reinforce unfair relationships or disregard customary forest rights. Arguably, such laws need to be reformed before their enforcement can properly serve the public interest.

The following are some examples of laws that may have undesirable results:

The key safeguard against associating with unjust but legal outcomes in a supplying country is to position your company's policy within the broader context of corporate social responsibility. Similarly, efforts to avoid the products of illegal logging should be embedded within a broader goal of promoting sustainable forestry.

Legal compliance is best seen as a factor that contributes to responsible forest management rather than as the end game. The GFTN Responsible Sourcing Guide deals with this by positioning legality as one step along the way toward achieving environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically viable production and sourcing of forest products.

Another safeguard is to have an explicit policy on disputed or controversial decisions by officials—for example, alleged corrupt or improper allocation of forestry concessions. This would allow for the reality that many developing countries lack effective administrative law mechanisms such as complaints procedures; tribunals to review official decisions; and the allocation of permits, freedom-of-information provisions and independent watchdog institutions such as an ombudsman. Where such systems are weak or absent, aggrieved parties cannot easily challenge official decisions made improperly or at odds with legal requirements. Your sourcing policy could include a proviso, for example, that if your organization is made aware of a significant dispute over the process by which the forest manager secured the permit, it will inquire into the status of the dispute and not regard the forest as a legal source until the dispute is resolved.

Another issue to consider when formulating a policy is that illegal logging problems are greatest in countries where forest governance is poor. In such countries the task of strengthening governance and building local regulatory capacity will take time, even where there is the political will to improve.

In the transition phase, purchasers can contribute significantly to improved governance by awarding contracts to legitimate enterprises that are attempting to do a good job under difficult conditions. This helps keep the 'good' operators engaged. It is a more positive way forward than boycotting all business in the country. Such contracts, however, must encourage constant improvement, and contracts with organizations that fail to take positive steps should not be renewed. The stepwise approach to responsible sourcing advocated by WWF's GFTN allows flexibility for your company, encouraging your business to stay engaged and to drive reform in the places where the problems are greatest.

7.7 Source Assessed and Forest Law in Producer Countries

The types of information and documentation available will vary by country, as will their reliability. Specific guidance for several major exporting countries is given below.

Please Note: These documents are for educational and informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice on compliance with any law, regulation or requirement should consult with a qualified legal professional.


For company use

For verifier's use

General guidance for this country








Central African Republic








Democratic Republic of Congo




















Republic of Congo













General - Countries not listed




If the material is sourced from other countries, the sourcing organization should establish, through discussion with the supplier, WWF or other NGOs, or the relevant forestry department, which documents are required. Guidance on assessing the credibility of the documents and information supplied is covered in the next section.

0.1 What Is a Responsible Sourcing Programme?

A responsible sourcing programme for forest products should aim to improve the environmental and social performance of the supply base by ending the purchase of products that contain timber or fibre from sources that do not comply with stated company policy. The programme should also continuously increase the proportion of forest products purchased that contain timber from credibly certified forests.

To achieve this transition, from whatever starting point, purchasers can use the GFTN's stepwise approach, which advances companies through a series of manageable actions. Assessment of the progress made from one step to the next requires that there be a high degree of traceability to the forest source, which will be discussed later in this guide.

A stepwise approach requires progression (from limited knowledge of source forest) through the following five suggested categories:

5.1 Traceability

Establishing TraceabilityThis section provides practical guidance on ways of gathering and assessing data on suppliers, species and timber origin. The purpose of gathering data on species and timber origin is to enable a detailed assessment of the sourcing situation.



The data gathered is more comprehensive than the initial review, permitting the sourcing organization to demonstrate how policy is being realized through the supply chain and how, over time, the sourcing organization is improving its profile and promoting responsible forest management.



Timber Origin (Traceability)

Achieving Traceability Defining the Environmental Status of the Material

From the time the policy is implemented and, specifically, to set a baseline from which progress and compliance might be demonstrated, a tracking system must be developed that identifies:


  • Forest(s) of origin of the timber or fibre (where the wood was harvested)
  • Species of timber or fibre
  • Volume and value of that timber or fibre
  • Description of the product


Each forest source should fall into one of the following categories:


  • Limited knowledge of forest source
  • Source assessed
  • Source verified
  • Credibly certified or recycled source


9.0 Environmental Status of Supplies - Source Verified

Source in Progress to Certification

Sources could be legal but still involved in unwanted activities which are in conflict with the corporate responsible sourcing policy. Source verified means that the forest source has been 3rd party verified for basic social and environmental criteria-



13.0 Reviewing and Improving the Programme

Reviewing and Improving the Programme

The sourcing organization should develop a series of annual targets to serve as steps toward achieving its stated policy goals. The use of annual or shorter term targets can ensure that activities and progress can be defined, measured and reported as required.

The preceding sections have elaborated on a process that helps define where a sourcing organization is with respect to the policy commitments and targets that have been set. The picture will not be perfect:—not all sources will be categorized at the highest level, nor will all be certified. Stakeholders and management will be looking for the sourcing organization to show annual incremental improvements, with fewer unwanted or merely known forest products in the sourcing mix. Ultimately the goal should be to achieve full sourcing of certified forest products. It is important to prioritize planned improvements, addressing the whole spectrum of issues that are identified. Focusing solely on increasing the volume of certified material could undermine the overall effort, should the question of the legality of other sources be overlooked.

13.3 Example of an Action Plan and Targets for a Responsible Purchaser

The initial assessment of the supply chain indicates the baseline from which annual targets have been set, as shown below:

Overall Performance Targets

Category  Proportion of Forest Products in Supply Chain Year 1 Target Year 2 Target Year 3 Target
Unknown/Unwanted 45% 0% 0% 0%
Step 1: Known Sources 25% 20% 5% 0%
Step 2: Known Licensed Sources 25% 50% 35% 10%
Step 3: Sources in Progress to Certification 5% 15% 30% 40%
Step 4: Credibly Certified Sources / Recycled 0% 15% 30% 50%

Based on this annual assessment and subsequent discussions with stakeholders, the following targets and actions are agreed to.

Year One Action Plan

Action No.



Target Date


Reduce unwanted sources to zero from 45%

  • Resend questionnaires to suppliers that have not responded.
  • Ensure that all suppliers that have responded have fully completed the questionnaire.
  • Re-source to known and managed operations any forest products that come from (1) HCVFs that are neither certified nor scheduled for certification or (2) inappropriate land clearance projects.
  • De-list suppliers that do not conform to this policy.

End of Year 1


Reduce the known sources category to 20%

  • Require all suppliers with unknown sources to provide documents and assurances to confirm that their timber is from known sources.
  • Within six months, hold a seminar for suppliers (with the help of third parties such as WWF) to discuss methods of improving traceability to established a minimum of known sources.

End of Year 1


Increase the "known licensed source" category to 50%

  • Require all current suppliers with known sources to provide documents and assurances to confirm that their timber is from known licensed sources.
  • Within six months, hold a seminar for suppliers (with the help of third parties such as WWF) to discuss methods of ascertaining the legality of forest products.
  • Fund research to identify legal compliance best practice for suppliers in key countries where issues have been raised.

End of Year 1


Increase the "sources in progress to certification" category to 15%

  • Require major suppliers to bring pressure on their affiliates to join a stepwise certification programme such as GFTN.
  • Require medium-size suppliers to ensure that their sources proceed with certification. This will require that the secondary source first undergo successful preassessment from an independent certifier. All parties will enter into a contractual agreement on this basis.

End of Year 1


Increase the "certified" category to 15% or more

  • Identify potential new suppliers of certified forest products and requesting that they tender for existing business.
  • Undertake new product development that permits the early consideration of the use of certified forest products.
  • Attend at least two major trade shows at which certified forest product suppliers are present.
  • Contact certified suppliers to identify potential opportunities for doing business with them.

End of Year 1


Increase transparency and capacity

  • Publicly report data and performance year on year (in annual report/Web site)
  • Publicly report targets (in annual report/Web site)
  • Publicly report policies (in annual report /Web site)
  • Verify all externally presented data (using a third party)
  • Hold supplier and staff training and conferences (all trading and technical staff, 50% of suppliers, and two conferences)

End of Year 1 and on-going.

5.0 Establishing Traceability

Establishing TraceabilityWhen implementing a responsible sourcing programme, an organization should draw up an action plan and define SMART targets to serve as steps toward achieving the stated policy goals. The use of annual targets will ensure that activities and progress can be defined, measured and reported as required.

The action plan and targets may be a combination of actions to gather more information about suppliers, species and timber origin as well as to improve the traceability and environmental status of supplies. Stakeholders and management will be expecting the sourcing organization to annually show incremental improvements in the sourcing of forest products. Ultimately, the goal should be to achieve full sourcing of credibly certified forest products. It is important to prioritize planned improvements that address all of the issues identified by the programme. Focusing solely on increasing the volume of certified material could undermine the overall effort, for example, if the question of the legality of other sources is overlooked.

Note for GFTN Participants: GFTN participant companies are required to develop traceability systems to allow assessment of the supply chain.

Key Points - Establishing Traceability

Key considerations when deciding how to collect data from suppliers include:

11.0 Environmental Status of Supplies - Recycled Sources

Credibly Certified Source

The raw material used should be designated recycled if it is either a forest product made from post-consumer recycled fibre (for paper) or wood-based material that is sourced from a recovery process. The definition of recycled varies in different countries and markets. To ensure that the policy and definition used are robust, a sourcing organization should check with its stakeholder groups. In most countries the term recycled infers that the wood or fibre has been used previously by an end consumer (this is also termed "post-consumer" recycling).

It should be noted that not every sourcing organization will want to include recycled wood and fibre within its sourcing policy. For many sourcing organizations, however, and particularly those that have identified recycling as a key issue among their stakeholders, there is much value to be gained through the use of recycled materials. A number of organizations have developed systems to certify recycled materials and have developed certification standards, including the FSC. More information on standards and definitions of recycled materials is available at

More information regarding recycled paper and WWF’s support can be found here.

What Does Recycled Source Mean?




6.2 Limited Knowledge of Forest Source

Known Sources

For the purpose of exercising due diligence, having knowledge of forest source is an important first objective. If the source is considered to be known, the purchaser knows where the timber was grown, and, as far as the purchaser is aware, the source is not unwanted (that is, at this stage there is no indication that the source does not comply with policy).

Table 1 outlines a hierarchy of steps that may be followed to establish whether a source can be described as known. 

A company has limited knowledge of forest source when:


No 2nd or 3rd party verification of information about source.

7.3 Source Assessed in the Context of the US Market

Environmental Status of SuppliesMajor marketplaces in Europe and the United States have seen major changes with respect to market access requirements for producers and the role expected of those who import or trade forest products.

United States

In the U.S., the Lacey Act was amended in 2008 and seeks to eradicate trade in illegally sourced forest products—including timber and wood fibre based products (such as paper). The Lacey Act is only enforced within the boundaries of the United States. While the Lacey Act does not apply to other countries, it is of great importance to exporters of forest products who want to trade with US companies—as US-based customers are relying on their trading partners to help them demonstrate compliance with this law.

The Lacey Act has stiff penalties for US companies that commit offences. Penalties for US companies range from: a criminal felony fine (up to $500,000 for a corporation, $250,000 for individual, or twice maximum gain/loss from transaction); to a possible prison sentence of up to five years; forfeiture of goods, a criminal misdemeanor penalty (up to $200,000 for corporation, $100,000 for individual, or twice maximum gain/loss from transaction); to a possible prison sentence of up to one year, or a civil penalty fine from $250 to $10,000. The penalties applicable are linked to the degree of care taken (or not) and the nature of the crime, ranging from direct knowledge of illegal trade and falsified import declarations down to more inadvertent mistakes. What should be clear to all exporters is that US importers are almost entirely reliant upon their suppliers to help them demonstrate due care and are more likely to trade in the future with those who can assist them in this process. Increasingly, legal compliance will feature in contracts between companies and civil penalties may be sought where there are breaches.

U.S.-based forest products importers will be seeking assurances that the products they source from both the domestic market and from overseas have been harvested, possessed, transported, sold or exported without breaking any relevant underlying laws in the country where the tree was grown, even if it was processed in another country.

The laws which are regarded as relevant and which need to be complied with include those that relate but not limited to:

  1. Theft of plants;
  2. Taking plants from an officially protected area, such as a park or reserve;
  3. Taking plants from other types of "officially designated areas" that are recognized by a country's laws and regulations;
  4. Taking plants without, or contrary to, the required authorization;
  5. Failure to pay appropriate royalties, taxes or fees associated with the plant's harvest, transport or commerce; or
  6. Laws governing export or trans-shipment, such as a log-export ban.

Note: The reference to “plants” includes logs, timber, fibre, veneer and all other forms of product later derived from the harvested plant (i.e. a tree).

U.S.-Based Importer Requirements

The Lacey Act requires importers to provide a basic declaration to accompany every shipment of plants or plant products. The purpose of these declarations is to increase transparency about the timber and plant trade and enable the US government to better monitor the trade and assist in enforcing the law.

The declaration must contain:

  1. Scientific name of any species used
  2. Country of harvest
  3. Quantity and measure
  4. Value

Exporters can assist US importers in providing this basic information. This in itself is not enough. Exporters should also ensure that all forest products that are to be exported are compliant with the relevant laws of the countries where the wood was harvested and also with any laws regarding processing, export or taxes within the processing country.

Exercising "Due Care"

U.S. importers need to exercise "due care" when sourcing forest products to ensure that they comply with the Lacey Act. Due care is a flexible concept that has been developed over time by the US legal system. Due care means "that degree of care at which a reasonably prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. As a result, it is applied differently to different categories of persons with varying degrees of knowledge and responsibility" (Senate Report 97-123). Given the lack of certainty around how the court might view due care with respect to the Lacey Act provisions, for timber harvesting and trade, it would be prudent for companies dealing in forest and paper products to avail themselves of the wide array of tools, technologies and resources available for assessing and eliminating illegal wood from often long and complicated supply chains. Internal company policies and tracking procedures are a critical element.

Understanding and implementing a responsible sourcing programme for forest products is an example of a best practice that can contribute to exercising due care. The key with lacey Act compliance though is that the system should help to increase the confidence of the company in ensuring legal timber throughout its supply chain as prosecutions can brought even if a company felt it had done everything that is reasonable. The nature of the legislation allows penalties for selling illegally harvested or traded timber regardless of how hard a company tried not to do this.

Steps may also include bar-code or other tracing systems; legality verification; certification under third-party schemes; stepwise programs offered by various organizations and other innovative public-private partnership models.

3.2 Main Policy Elements

Unacceptable SourcesResponsible purchasers should develop an environmental policy or set of policies that exclude unwanted forest sources. The list of unwanted sources, and the precise terminology used to describe them, will vary according to the social and environmental issues of concern to the organization and its stakeholders.

Unwanted Sources

WWF recommends that, at a minimum, sourcing organizations regard timber or fibre as unwanted if the following conditions exist:

  1. The source forest is known to or suspected of containing high conservation values, except where the forest is certified or in progress to certification under a credible certification system, or the forest manager can otherwise demonstrate that the forest and surrounding landscape is managed to ensure that those values are maintained.
  2. The source forest is being converted from natural forest to a plantation or other land use, unless the conversion is justified on grounds of net social and environmental gain, including the enhancement of high conservation values in the surrounding landscape. More information on WWF's work concerning forest conversion can be found here.
  3. The timber was illegally harvested or traded.
  4. The timber was traded in a way that drives violent armed conflict or threatens national or regional stability (i.e. what is commonly called conflict timber).
  5. The harvesting or processing entity or entities, or a related political or military regime, are violating human, civil and traditional rights.
  6. The timber is from genetically modified trees.
  7. The source forest is unknown.

Note: The seven categories of unwanted sources eliminate most activities from the supply chain that preclude credible certification. These items also are closely linked to the requirements for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Controlled Wood Standard.

This list is a minimum, and other elements should be introduced to reflect stakeholder concerns that are identified. More information on these categories is available here.

Acceptable Sources

The organization will also want to consider what is the minimum acceptable in terms of policy. Acceptable sources of wood or fibre, in descending preference might include:

  1. Material from credibly certified forests / recycled material
  2. Material from verified sources forests which has been 3rd party verified for basic social and environmental criteria.
  3. Material from assessed sources which have been evaluated for basic legality and traceability. 

In all cases compliance with all aspects of the purchaser's policy should be the desired state.

Examples of forest products sourcing policies can be found here.

Note for GFTN Participants: GFTN participant companies are required to agree policies that, as a minimum, cover these key elements.

Scope - What to Include

The scope of the policy may vary from one sourcing organization to the next—such as, the inclusion or exclusion of forest products intended for resale only, forest products sold under "own brand" or "store brand" only, forest products procured for service use and not for resale (for example, copier paper) and forest products used within the fabric of buildings (for example, wooden doors or floors in new offices or factories).

Therefore, the scope of the policy is flexible and can expand overtime. Best practice dictates that the scope of the policy be set to apply to the largest impact area of the business; for example, a retailer should consider its largest selling range of forest products before its office copier paper.

It would also be prudent to consider market based legislation, existingand evolving, to ensure that the policy at the very least covers material affected or potentially affected.

The policy should also include:

The policy and any associated documents should be the responsibility of senior management within the sourcing organization and should have the same level of endorsement as any other of the sourcing organization's policies (such as those on health and safety or discrimination).

13.1 Improving Supply Chains and Supplier Performance

There are numerous ways by which to improve the supply chain. This section highlights some of the more common methods and their benefits.

The Same, But Better

Reviewing and Improving the  Programme

Working with an existing supply chain has the major benefit of keeping out new and unknown suppliers or materials, with all the risks that these can entail. If the chain has developed successfully, a degree of understanding and trust already exists among the organizations that make up the chain. Therefore, working with existing supply chains to achieve more responsible sourcing is a desirable option when heavy investment has been made in establishing the chain or in the timber it supplies; the suppliers involved have unique skills, technology, or sources of raw material; or a change in suppliers may have an adverse impact on business.

If working with existing supply chains is to be a viable option, they need to be able to demonstrate a commitment to, and acceptance of, the purchasing organization’s policy and targets; a willingness to improve transparency in sourcing; a commitment from the forest sources involved to achieve certification within an agreed-upon period; a commitment from the intermediaries in the supply chain to achieve chain-of-custody certification within an agreed-to period; and the commitment of forest owners to seek participation in a stepwise approach program (such as the GFTN) to otherwise attain credible certification.

New Source, Same Suppliers

Manufacturers or processors supplying directly to the purchasing organization may have difficulty tracing the sources of their forest products, or it may become evident that these sources are illegal or include unmanaged high conservation values. Where the direct supplier demonstrates sufficient commitment and it is evident that the forest sources involved are unwilling to improve their practices, re-sourcing is the only option.

Re-sourcing while using existing suppliers offers the following benefits

All-New Supply Chains

Radically altering supply chains to improve the responsible sourcing of forest products can be the quickest way to ensure such improvements, but it is also the riskiest.

The following are potential risks:

The potential benefits include:

Other Ways of Improving

The ability to challenge, innovate and ultimately change can be extremely useful when pursuing the goal of responsible purchasing. Not every purchasing organization can change its sourcing or its products easily or quickly, but some purchasing organizations have this ability and can benefit from such changes.

The exploitation of alternative species of timber provides opportunities to source more responsibly, although if the purchasing organization lacks experience or familiarity with the timber some risks may be involved. As with all timber species, secondary (or nontraditional) species have inherent characteristics that can make them excellent substitutes for primary (traditional) species for some uses but unsuited for others. In fact, up to 70 per cent of output in some major producing countries consists of nontraditional species, and these species command considerably lower prices than the primary species. This potential provides a financial incentive to organizations able to develop markets for such timber species.

Initiating funding or research into the process of certification and the requirements of supply chains is an option for responsible purchasers. Not all purchasing organizations have the resources necessary for such work, but some major corporations have provided funding in the past. This type of initiative has direct benefits, not just to the donor organization but to all aspiring purchasers in a position to gain by using the findings of the research.

0.2 Responsible Sourcing Programme Elements

Seven Essential Elements of a Responsible Purchasing ProgrammeThe stepwise approach cannot operate in isolation and needs a supporting process that seeks continuous improvement, similar to that used by environmental management systems. The supporting process requires that a number of key elements be in place. The remainder of this guide discusses these elements in detail.

Implementation of a responsible sourcing programme requires several key elements, which form the essential building blocks:

  1. Obtaining support from key members of senior management
  2. Reviewing the organization's present situation (whether at the starting point or a stage in an existing process) and establishing a baseline
  3. Setting policies that describe the boundaries within which the organization will operate (that is, its values and aspirations)
  4. Communicating its values and objectives to key audiences
  5. Establishing traceability
  6. Assessing the environmental status of supplies - due diligence 
  7. Reviewing and improving - due diligence

These seven elements form the basis for the remainder of this document. Appendices and links provide more detail where needed. The stepwise approach is mainly contained in elements six and seven, though all elements need to be in place for the system to operate correctly.Program Elements

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

14.5 Guides to Legal Documentation

The following documents provide an overview to the typical areas that need to be covered when assessing the legality of forest products in a given country. In the absence of guidance for a specific country, the general guidance should be observed.

Please Note: These documents are for educational and informational purposes only and
are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice
on compliance with any law, regulation or requirement should consult with a qualified
legal professional.

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:

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:

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.

This is an excerpt from WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) Guide to Responsible Purchasing. All rights reserved. © WWF. The full text can be accessed online at
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