Timber is considered as sustainable and of legal origin when its harvesting or its sourcing and its marketing comply with the obligations put in place by the European Union (EU).
These obligations are contained in two regulatory elements:
- An action plan for the application of forestry regulations, governance and commercial exchanges, FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) implemented by Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) signed between the European Union and a third country
- European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR).
These rules aim to prohibit the marketing of timber originating from illegal logging that is harmful to the local economy, biodiversity and resource management for future generations.
The EU Timber Regulation includes, in its definition of timber:
- rough timber
For example: logs
- timber used for energy
For example: heating timber, chips, pellets
- milled timber
For example: lumber, veneers, plywood, wood fiber or particle board
- timber products
For example: furniture, frames, floor coverings, boxes, beams
- paper pulp and paper.
The European Timber Regulation does not concern:
- recycled products
- publishing products such as books, magazines and newspapers
- packaging materials, used exclusively as packaging materials to support, protect or hold another product placed on the market
- products based on bamboo and rattan
- timber that is sold or purchased by individuals for their personal use.
Each Voluntary Partnership Agreement individually determines which timber and timber derived products fall under its field of application.
Obligations and controls
EU Timber Regulation
The EU timber regulation requires companies to implement a due diligence system or use such a system established by a control agency at the time of their first marketing in order to fully reduce the risk of placing illegally resourced timber on the market. The regulation applies both to imported timber as well as timber produced in the country.
The system of measures and procedures implemented by the operator consist of three essential elements:
- information: the operator must have access to information concerning the timber and the derived products, the country where the timber was harvested, the quantity, the contact information of the supplier as well as information on compliance with national laws
- risk evaluation: the operator must evaluate the risks of introducing the timber from illegal logging in the supply chain, basing itself on the information on the timber and taking into consideration the criteria defined in the regulation
- risk mitigation: when the evaluation indicates that timber originating from illegal logging could be introduced into the supply chain, it is possible to mitigate this risk by requesting the supplier to provide additional information and conducting additional checks.
As the marketing of illegal timber is prohibited and punishable by law, each operator in the sectors of forest operation or timber processing and each merchant selling these products must be able to retrace the origin of the timber provided and its destination. This information must be kept for at least five years.
The authority of the exporting country delivers and approves the FLEGT licenses. Controls are carried out in Luxembourg to verify these licenses.
All timber purchased by the importer must have been produced in compliance with the applicable laws in the country in which it is harvested. The laws of the country of origin may impose prohibitions on the export of the timber of certain species of trees.
The FLEGT licensing scheme is only applicable to imports originating from partner countries.
Timber originating from partner countries must be accompanied by a FLEGT license or in other cases by supporting documentation indicating that the timber originates from legal harvesting and a legal supply chain.
There are other certificates of legality or sustainable management, but it is impossible to affirm that these certifications cover all of the obligations contained in EU Timber Regulation.
For example: FSC, PEFC, Certfor, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, etc.
- application for a phytosanitary certificate for the export or re-export of plants, plant products and wood
- application for a CITES permit for the import or export of protected species of animals and plants
In Luxembourg, the Ministry of the Environment, Climate ans Sustainable Development through the Nature Conservation Agency is the competent authority coordinating the application of European regulations governing timber.