If you are struggling with the concept of EUTR and where it fits in to your business, you are not alone!  Understanding the differences between legal  and sustainable timber is the first step to prioritising and then managing your timber supplies for the long term.

What is EUTR?

Placing timber from illegally logged forests, and products derived from such timber, will be prohibited in the European Union from 3 March 2013. The law which has enshrined this is EU995 or, more commonly, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

Companies who place wood based products (in short: solid wood products, flooring, plywood, pulp and paper) for the first time in the EU market, as well as traders to which such products have been supplied within the EU, will need to understand and implement the required measures to comply with this legislation.

EUTR defines Operators as those companies which place timber products in the EU market for the first time. For example, operators are importers, retailers or manufacturers that directly import wood based products, and forest managers that supply timber from an EU based forest.

It is Operators that are responsible under EUTR to ensure that no illegal timber enters the supply chain.

Traders are those that buy and/or sell wood based products that were already placed in the EU market (by an Operator).

Obligations, Enforcement and Penalties

Operators must develop and implement a Due Diligence System including three key elements: Information on product name, species, country of origin and quantity, a Risk Assessment to determine the likelihood that the product comes from an illegal source and  Risk Mitigation to ensure that illegally harvested material is removed from the supply chain, by exclusion or by working with the supplier more closely.

Traders only need to keep records of their direct suppliers and their direct customer for all wood based products traded. Individual final consumers are not covered by the legislation.

Each Member State has appointed one or more Competent Authorities to coordinate the enforcement of the EUTR. In the UK it is the National Measurements Office (NMO). Penalties associated with breaking EUTR rules are supposed to be ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive’ and will include fines, seizure of the timber and timber products concerned and ultimately suspension of authorisation to trade

Where do FSC® and PEFC fit in?

Both FSC and PEFC claim to provide  much more than legality, and therefore more than EUTR requires. Both include wider-reaching definitions of what a good forest product is covering not only legality. Their missions are to bring forest products to market which ensure the long-term viability of the forest whilst at the same time protecting the livelihoods of people who live and work there, conserving the inherent biodiversity of plants and animals that are found there and maintaining other functions attributed to forests like watershed protection and fulfilling human needs for recreation.

However, both FSC and PEFC are having to make changes to their Chain of Custody standards in the light of EUTR and during 2013 will produce updated versions to keep them relevant to the EUTR.

On one level this seems odd;  both schemes talk about much more than simply compliance with the law, whilst recognising that without this, there is no responsible or sustainable forest management.

EUTR on the other hand, only talks about Legality. So why then,  are FSC and PEFC not ‘better’ than EUTR and why don’t they automatically confer EUTR compliance? There are a number of basic answers:

  1. EUTR is a legal instrument with statutory penalties; FSC and PEFC are voluntary
  2. Certain aspects of EUTR are not (yet) to be found in FSC and PEFC e.g. Due Diligence
  3. The EU cannot, in good conscience, take private schemes and make them the basis for legal compliance; it opens up a can of worms that might well result in legal challenges taking years to resolve
  4. EU definitions of legal are not (yet) the same as FSC and PEFC

Proving something is legal is the first step on the road to sustainability. The EU has recognised that defining and implementing forest sustainability is an extremely tough call and  one which, without investing time and money into defining and promoting legality, is doomed to failure. As part of a series of policy objectives (known collectively as FLEGT – Forest Law, Enforcement, Governance and Trade) the EU is working with producer countries and the EU market, to promote sustainable procurement and encourage better forest governance. In some cases, this is about assisting producer countries to define and implement effective forest law.  This is not the approach of FSC or PEFC.

What now for FSC and PEFC?

As stated above, FSC and PEFC are developing their standards in the quest to provide automatic qualification to EUTR compliance. For now though, they represent excellent due diligence. They provide almost all the assurance required under EUTR and, with some additional information collection, are about as good as it gets.

In addition, it seems unlikely that the NMO will focus on FSC and PEFC certified goods when there are plenty of other risky timber-based supplies coming into the country.

Finally, there is a clear distinction between legal and sustainable. A company with an official licence to harvest timber might be able to cut every last tree down, forever destroying the biodiversity of an area and completely preventing any opportunity for regrowth. The raw material originating from this practice will be compliant with EUTR. However, this would not be allowed under FSC and PEFC rules which insist that the forest is managed in such a way as its capacity for regeneration is not compromised and that the biodiversity within the forest is protected as far as possible.

Is EUTR ‘better’ than FSC or PEFC? No

Are FSC and PEFC useful for EUTR? Yes

Should we forget FSC and PEFC and only focus on EUTR? No.

We all need to comply with the law. However, if we do not set up and manage sustainable structures and supply chains, there is no future for forest resources and, in the longer term, no timber industry in the UK.  For a country that imports the vast majority of its timber products, and a good amount from outside the EU, supporting and encouraging responsible, sustainable forest practice is vital. Legal compliance is just the first step

The rooftop of the London 2102 Olympic Park Operations Centre was the venue for the ultimate achievement in sustainable sourcing of timber: the award of FSC and PEFC certificates.  The final figures of 67% FSC and 33% PEFC timber (including less than 1% to cover FSC Controlled Wood and PEFC non-controversial sources) demonstrated the commitment of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to ‘get it right’ for London 2012, the  quality of the Timber Supply Panel and strength of the system that was put in place to verify it. And, of course, it proves that it is now possible to source almost every kind of timber product from a certified source.  Over 12,500m3 was used, ranging from red louro cladding at the Aquatics centre, the Siberian pine velodrome track, enormous laminated beams at Eton Manor, cumaru benches in the landscaped areas and countless metres of decking, panels and carcassing timber.

In a ground breaking, collaborative project, Soil Association Woodmark worked with the ODA’s construction delivery partner CLM, with guidance from FSC and PEFC, to adapt existing chain of custody standards to the needs of a ‘super project’. The audit was as rigorous as ever with a decision made on a sampling strategy based on accepted norms and an approach which meant the outcome could be stated as a percentage of timber that could be attributed to both FSC and PEFC’s  underlying forestry standards.  In total,  8 operations within the Olympic Park  were sampled for closer checking against the centralised record keeping and monitoring procedures, identifying those using most timber; the sample covered more than 7,500m3 or 61% of all timber used on the project.

There were a number of key factors which helped the ODA achieve its aim. To begin with CLM had a comprehensive Timber Management Plan from the outset and the Park’s ‘ring of steel’ ensured excellent organisation of all incoming materials. The Timber Supply Panel, comprised of 16 UK based merchants all with chain of custody, ensured good control of certified products to all the contractors and subcontractors, and auditing of the overall project was managed by Mike Greenland of Ligna Ltd and experienced staff from Woodmark.

So, a great outcome and also a really useful learning curve. Project Certification was first developed by FSC in 2006; with a majority of timber suppliers now certified, there was a need to close the final gap and enable timber to be tracked to sites so that verified claims could be made. Certification had been slow to take off in the construction sector, and it was recognised that a standard which included several contractors and levels of subcontractors in one certification audit schedule would be more user-friendly.  A revision of the FSC project standard will take place next year.  The PEFC COC standard (as the certification process commenced in 2010, the now-superseded Annex 4 was used) had accompanying guidelines for construction projects which can now be developed further.

With the experience gained from London 2012, we can now offer a piloted, proven Project Certification standard adapted to the needs of large and complex construction projects.  In the case of London, work had been under way for some time before we came on board, but thanks to CLM’s excellent systems this proved not to be a barrier. Ideally though, early pre-assessment would help to identify areas where procedures need to match more closely the requirements of the Chain of Custody standards. Certification can be FSC or PEFC only, or dual and based on percentages, as for the Olympic Park, or even focus on a single claim for an iconic timber feature. An experienced eye at the outset will help to identify the best option and the readiness of likely suppliers.

However, Project Certification is not only for Olympian scale projects and the newly revised approach can be adapted to even the smallest developments. We welcome all enquiries and look forward to applying the experience gained from the Olympic Park to future construction projects.

 

Having just read through the PEFC’s recent publication “Passing it Along: Communicating Chain of Custody to Suppliers and Customers” we think it is worth noting.  The guide is a useful resource to new and existing PEFC Chain of Custody Certificate holders, describing the key benefits of certification, which, include: Helping to protect the world’s forests; access to markets; and Alignment with legality legislation.

The document offers guidance on how a company might communicate its PEFC certified status, including taking full advantage of marketing opportunities.  Information is included regarding the use of the PEFC logo, on-product and off-product.  Promoting certified status to downstream customers and consumers is a useful way to advertise a company’s environmental credentials and can bring in new business.

Through our experience of supporting companies through PEFC and FSC® certification, we are often surprised to learn how many do not take up the marketing opportunities that are associated with the two schemes.  Often a company will gain certification with a view to securing work with a particular customer who is insisting on certified suppliers.  However, it is often overlooked that advertising your certified status, through use of FSC and PEFC logos on company letterheads, websites and other products can attract new clients.

The PEFC and FSC logos can be used at no additional cost to Chain of Custody certification.  However, they must be used in compliance with the rules of applicable standards (FSC STD 50 001 v1-2, PEFC ST 2001-2008 2nd edition) and require approval for use from the certification body.

Don’t just hang your PEFC and FSC Certificates on the wall, shout about it!

The Rio Forest Certification Declaration, launched in 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, is based on the idea that a common set of principles is needed, a set of principles that provides guidance to all of us about what is needed to better promote and expand forest certification.

It recognizes in its preamble that “The challenge of safeguarding the environmental, social and economic benefits that the world’s forests provide is critical for life on Earth. It requires a world in which people manage forests sustainably, a world that recognizes the integral and interdependent nature of our planet, a world that acknowledges and values the significance of rural communities, indigenous peoples, and families that depend on forests for their livelihoods” and states ten principles as a common framework to maximize the benefits that forest certification can offer to society:

  • Human beings are at the centre of sustainable forest management
  • Recognize and respect national sovereignty in the design and implementation of sustainable forest management policies and standards
  • Protect the complexity of forest ecosystems, forest-dependent economies, and rural culture by adopting integrated forest management plans and policies
  • Contribute to poverty reduction through empowerment of the poor
  • Open and accessible stakeholder processes are essential
  • Transparency, inclusiveness, and collaboration are fundamental prerequisites for global sustainability
  • Utilize the benefits of renewable and climate-smart forestbased products
  • Rely on science, local experience, and traditional forest-related knowledge to advance sustainable forest management
  • Use a precautionary approach to prevent irreversible damage
  • Promoting global acceptance of sustainable forest management through voluntary programmes and education is the fastest path to healthy forests and vibrant rural communities.

The content above was taken from PEFC International’s website; further information at http://www.pefc.org/news-a-media/general-sfm-news

Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) are becoming synonymous with the timber trade. Most people handling timber on a daily basis will have heard of them and yet SME builders and developers, the general public, architects and even local authority specifiers still seem to be largely ignorant of the facts.

 

FSC developed in the early 1990s, galvanised from concerns over tropical deforestation and the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. PEFC followed a few years later, evolving from a pan European rival to FSC to become a global competitor. Whilst FSC still has the march on PEFC in terms of appeal and market presence, PEFC extends to more of the world’s forests. And this competition IS a good thing, despite what many merchants and manufacturers might tell you! Whilst the differences between FSC and PEFC can be a bit academic, I believe that ultimately they are striving towards the same end. With little more than 5% of global forests certified, pressure and competition needs to keep growing, to secure and develop renewable, sustainable forest resources into the future.

 

FSC and PEFC can be expensive – and why not? Illegal clearfelling of virgin forest and selling the timber on the black market where none of the value ends up in the hands of the local people is far cheaper than having a management plan which considers the forest as a whole – the timber, the wildlife, the landscape, the water, the future –  trained and equipped workers who earn a decent wage and selective felling of tree species for maximum yield whilst conserving long term productivity!

 

At Ligna we are foresters by training and businessmen at heart. We want us all to use only certified timber but also understand that sometimes the price is more important than the cost. Striking the balance, especially in today’s economic climate, is a tricky path to walk. We need to secure the deal but also to explain to our customers that certified timber from a properly regulated and independently verified forest and supply chain is not a luxury, but a necessity.

 

Early in 2013 new European legislation comes in to force which will make it illegal for European companies to import timber that is illegally harvested in the country of origin. You may need to read that twice…! Notwithstanding how that is going to be enforced, here and across Europe, the general trend is towards strengthening forest management to ensure long-term supplies. And we can all play our part.

 

Implementing supply chain control through adopting Chain of Custody is actually pretty straightforward. Both PEFC and FSC offer different systems within their overall approaches and they can always be adapted to fit the needs of businesses along the supply chain. In nearly 10 years, working with forest owners, importers, merchants, manufacturers and retailers, from blue chips to one man bands, in timber and fibre, I have yet to come across a company that couldn’t get sorted. Simple and effective systems, married with existing management tasks (or in some cases starting from scratch) are all that is required. If it takes more than a couple of hours a week, something is going wrong!

 

We can, and do, make a difference. As demand increases, so suppliers in to our markets need to up their game. Look around at the shelves of Travis Perkins, B&Q and the supermarkets and increasingly you’ll see the FSC and PEFC logos. But it doesn’t have to be just the biggest players – everyone involved in the trade can and should get Chain of Custody certified.

Laying the Foundations: A Housing Strategy for England’ – the beginning of the road to recovery?  The Government’s strategy for housing was published today, outlining plans to invest £400million in a Get Britain Building investment fund and the release of public sector land with the capacity for up to 100,000 new homes.   At Ligna we have been discussing whether or not this will be part of the much needed stimulus to get the UK construction sector up and running again – and indeed the economy at large! 

 

The Strategy describes the finance the Government is committing: £400m to build affordable homes; hundreds of millions of pounds to help first-time buyers purchase, underwriting mortgages and reducing deposit requirements; and an extra £50m on top of the £100m from this year’s budget towards an initiative to refurbish empty homes.   There are plans to accelerate the strategy by freeing up public sector land with “build now, pay later” deals for developers.  It is hoped that the initiative will support up to 32,000 jobs.

And interesting element is the direction of funds to building sites that are already established but where work has seized.  These ‘ready-to-go’ sites could be where the action kicks-off.  The strategy also states that finance will be ring-fenced for small and medium-sized house builders.

The Government does not appear to be shirking its environmental responsibilities when it comes to construction.  All new homes will meet the Zero Carbon Homes standard from 2016; Building Regulations (Part L) are being reviewed and expected to be further updated to improve energy efficiency and the carbon emissions associated with new housing; the National Adaptation Programme, due to be published in 2013, will outline how the Government is planning to include climate change adaptation design into the built environment.

We hope that the Government’s action successfully unblocks the market and returns confidence to a frustrated industry. More house building will be good news for the timber trade at large and to joiners, timber framers and staircase manufacturers, and more specifically those companies that have FSC and PEFC certification.  With funds coming from the public purse, in keeping with the UK Government’s Timber Procurement Policy, there is an obligation to source responsibly.  We hope this Government spending will not only boost construction but will also see a rise in third party verified, legal and sustainable timber use and implementation of Chain of Custody certification schemes such as FSC and PEFC.

At Ligna we were really interested to hear earlier this month that China’s state forestry certification scheme – China Forest Certification Council (CFCC) – has made a successful application to join PEFC.  What does this mean?  Well, it doesn’t mean that CFCC is endorsed by PEFC.  It is more an indication that Chinese forests are aiming for PEFC endorsement.  Ahead of endorsement the CFCC must demonstrate that it meets all of PEFC’s principles of Sustainable Forest Management (more than 200!) and go through a lengthy assessment task involving extensive stakeholder consultation. But it is a positive step.  China is one of the biggest players in the global forest products industry – if not the biggest;  witnessing CFCC taking progressive steps to PEFC endorsement makes a bold statement of support for wood products originating from legal, sustainable, certified forests.

Watch this space

Welcome to our new website; we hope you like it, along with the new logo.  The re-launch of our website marks a new period for Ligna; business is strong, our customers are happy and the company has grown.  This means we are meeting our principle aim: to equip the forest and forest products supply chain with the means to source responsibly, improve business capacity and reduce adverse social and environmental impacts

 

 Time is moving fast!  We are already in the second half of 2011 and some of the biggest events to affect our industry in a long time are only around the corner.  Who managed to get Olympic tickets?  We have been providing support to the ODA and it’s been great watching one of Europe’s largest responsible-procurement projects to take shape.  And there’s still plenty to do before the opening ceremony!  Enforcement of the EU’s Timber Regulation in March 2013 looms.  For companies buying their products seasons in advance, that doesn’t leave much time.  We were at Chatham House in late June to hear the latest developments from DEFRA and the concerns coming from industry.  There’s a lot to do and we are making it Ligna’s job to keep abreast of updates to legislation, standards and other issues facing the industry. 

 

We’re proud of what Ligna has achieved to date and look forward to tackling the challenges to come in the next few years, continuing to support responsible business, certification, due diligence and improving environmental management.

 

Have a look around the website and get in touch if you need more info.  And be sure to check back in regularly for helpful news, insider knowledge and industry updates.

 

Thanks