Comment from guest bloggers
January 31 2012
Know your roots
Illegal timber poses a real threat to the UK timber industry. Malcolm Ellis explains the importance for all levels of the supply chain of taking responsibility to ensure products are from a legitimate source.
In 2010 a report stated that 25% of the total imported volume of timber was illegal. This is a huge problem, especially if you consider that every two seconds an area of forest the size of a football pitch is lost — and half of that is due to illegal logging. We as an industry have a duty to make sure that illegal timber is not available on the UK marketplace and whilst additional due diligence is required, I think it can be achieved if we all work together.
But, how do you stop the influx of illegal timber and how do you know that the timber you are handling is legal?
The new European Timber Regulation will help make this easier as all parts of the supply chain will have to take responsibility for their own records and ensure the timber they supply is legal. Anyone caught importing illegal timber could be fined, have the timber seized or even be suspended from trading, so it’s definitely worth being aware of what you need to do to make sure you are operating within these regulations.
I know some of you will be thinking you won’t be affected if illegal timber slips through the net, because you get your products through the EU market, imported by a supplier. However you would be mistaken.
Operators will be penalised if they haven’t shown due diligence. An operator is any person or business that places timber or timber products onto the market place — including merchants who import timber. If you source your timber from products already in the EU, you are classed as a trader and will need to keep records of your supplier and customer to ensure traceability of product.
The largest percentage of illegal timber comes from tropical sources so the new legislation will have the biggest impact on tropical timber species and the organisations that import hardwood, tropical hardwood plywood and manufactured products. But it’s not exclusive to tropical timber, so it’s still worth understanding how to ensure your timber is legal.
The best way to do this is by showing due diligence. All operators will be expected to create a system that shows detailed records about the product and its sourcing, along with a risk assessment around its compliance with legislation and related issues. The first step towards making compliance a reality is asking your supplier what due diligence system they have in place and asking for evidence. Check the system they use is independently accredited and regularly audited to ensure standards are maintained. It also must be internationally recognised as well as recognisable to the general public.
The most common third party accreditation schemes are FSC and PEFC. These schemes are most commonly referred to as chain of custody. If your supplier has one of these in place then it means the timber you purchase has come from a proven unbroken path. The timber can be traced from source to end user via all stages of processing, confirming to the end user that the timber has been harvested from a certified forest.
Further details of the requirements of the new legislation are yet to be clarified, but it is likely that if your supplier has third party accreditation then you can be confident that they are abiding by the new legislation. And if you have any doubt, you can still undergo a risk assessment to determine whether any further certification is required.
If all parts of the supply chain take responsibility for the timber they source and sell we can not only abide by the new legislation, but also remove a supply line to the illegal loggers who are systematically destroying eco-systems, putting local plant and animal species at risk and potentially impacting the indigenous people.
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