EU Timber Regulations

On 3rd March 2013, The Timber and Timber Products (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/0233) came into effect, implementing EU 995/2010, commonly known as the ” EU Timber Regulations” (EUTR). Under these regulations, anyone placing a wide range of wood-based products on the market for the first time anywhere in the European Union is required to ensure that they are from legal sources and do not contain materials from illegal harvesting activities. Some of the offences under the legislation are:

  • Reg.4(a) to place illegally harvested timber and timber products derived from such timber for sale within the EU
  • Reg.4(b) to fail to exercise a “due diligence system” to prevent the use of illegally harvested timber in the EU
  • Reg.4(c) to fail to maintain and evaluate the due diligence system used
  • Reg.4(d) to fail to be able to identify suppliers and purchasers throughout the supply chain
  • Reg.4(e) to fail to maintain records for at least 5 years, or to supply them to a competent authority on request.

The first hurdle to overcome is when is timber “illegal”? The European legislation clarifies this in preamble clause (14) as:

In the absence of an internationally agreed definition, the legislation of the country where the timber was harvested, including regulations as well as the implementation in that country of relevant international conventions to which that country is party, should be the basis for defining what constitutes illegal logging.”

So, who has to do “due diligence” to prevent the use of illegal timber? At first glance the obvious target of this legislation are the producers & merchants of EU and imported timber & products, but the Regulations apply to a wide range of products, not only solid timber, but processed wood such as furniture, wood pellets (for fuel), and pulp products such as notebooks, serviettes and paper cups. (A comprehensive guide to the products that the Regulations apply to can be found on the NEPCon website.) Preamble clause (15) clarifies due diligence obligations as:

Many timber products undergo numerous processes before and after they are placed on the internal market for the first time. In order to avoid imposing any unnecessary administrative burden, only operators that place timber and timber products on the internal market for the first time should be subject to the due diligence system, while a trader in the supply chain should be required to provide basic information on its supplier and its buyer to enable the traceability of timber and timber products.”

So, if you are an EU manufacturer sourcing your materials from EU vendors (ie products that have already been placed on the market in the EU), other than maintaining proper records of purchases and sales to comply with 4(d)&(e) above, it’s unlikely to have much impact on your business. If however, you source wood-based products from outside the EU, either as raw materials for products you manufacture or import wood-based goods for sale, you have an obligation to exercise due diligence. The Regulations permit you to establish your own DD system, or to make the use of one established by a monitoring organisation such as the one available to Timber Trade Federation members. Preamble clause (17) defines a due diligence system as follows:

The due diligence system includes three elements inherent to risk management: access to information, risk assessment and mitigation of the risk identified. The due diligence system should provide access to information about the sources and suppliers of the timber and timber products being placed on the internal market for the first time, including relevant information such as compliance with the applicable legislation, the country of harvest, species, quantity, and where applicable sub-national region and concession of harvest. On the basis of this information, operators should carry out a risk assessment. Where a risk is identified, operators should mitigate such risk in a manner proportionate to the risk identified, with a view to preventing illegally harvested timber and timber products derived from such timber from being placed on the internal market.”

The Regulations do however recognise that many organisations already have in place measures to prevent the use of illegal timber, and providing they meet the requirements of the Regulations, do not require the implementation of new due diligence systems. The Regulations also recognise the role of good practice in the forestry sector, certification, and other third party verification schemes that ensure compliance with legislation as part of a due diligence system. It is worth noting that widely-recognised sustainable timber certification schemes such as FSC, PEFC etc. have “legality” as a prerequisite for certification, and so company procedures that require that only sustainable timber certified under these schemes is used should automatically comply with due diligence requirements provided that such procedures are rigorously implemented.

There are a number of timber products that are exempt from legislation, but these tend to be very specific applications except for two; waste wood that has completed its life-cycle is exempt, and so are printed goods where the print medium is the essential product – so books, magazines, photographs etc. are exempt, but toilet paper – even if it contains print – is not.

Despite the very specific requirements set down in the legislation, the prospects for this to be become “light touch” legislation are very good as the legislation also recognises Voluntary Partnership Agreements between the EU and timber-producing countries. Where the timber from that country is produced in accordance with the VPA it is automatically considered to be legal, simplifying the due diligence process, and creating commercial pressure for more countries to enter into VPAs. And clearly, the more VPAs there are in place, the less the need for the legislation … But in the meantime, compliance with the Regulations is a legal requirement, and we all need to get to grips with it.

Why? Dip into these articles about illegal logging

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One Response to EU Timber Regulations

  1. Pingback: Importing illegal timber | bps eco ltd

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