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EUTR perspectives - The trade federation view

Rachel Butler, Sustainability Advisor, European Timber Trade Federation: "Due diligence is nothing new: The trade federation view"

Around 10% of the timber we use in Europe is imported from outside the EU and a large proportion of that is independently certified as sourced from legal and well-managed forests. Often the focus on legality detracts from considering all the advantages of using timber as the most sustainable construction material. However, as the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF) representing the majority of the EU importing trade, the legality issue has been of concern for many years.

As a supporter of the EU Timber Regulation, the ETTF is keen to establish a level playing field. It has long been acknowledged that illegal logging depresses prices therefore undercutting what should be the real market value for those timber products. Our trade research shows that demand for timber from legal and well-managed products has increased over recent times, as signified by the growth of certification.

Whilst this regulation is causing some panic and awareness is still low, due diligence really is a common practice in other areas such as health and safety, so it's nothing new. We are still awaiting the secondary legislation to be published. However, the ETTF does not expect this to be very detailed particularly in view of what is considered low or high risk. The liability solely sits with the operator to make that decision. Representing many small and medium sized enterprises, ETTF is developing a due diligence tool and guidance that is straightforward for all members to use.

Given that several national Timber Trade Federations's (TTF) have been undertaking due diligence for some time now, we can build on that experience. Our proposed system is now drafted and is under consultation with our member organisations with some new proposals based on what we know about the regulation. The aim is clear: simple forms, clear objective categories of risk identifying what evidence is likely to be needed. Experience in the past has shown that information overload is a problem; we don't need complicated data systems or websites that require an operator to sift through many documents to make an assessment.

The regulation also makes provisions for Monitoring Organisations (MOs), as the EU realised that many operators are in the small/medium classification and based this idea on the TTF model. We see this function largely as added value to membership and acting in the capacity as a facilitator as the regulation defines. At present ETTF and its member national federations will decide upon whether they will formally apply to be MOs; depending on the text of the Delegated Act. Whatever that outcome, we still intend to support our members to undertake due diligence.

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This article can be found in the latest issue of EFI News, which concentrates on the countdown to the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). The issue offers points of view from industry, an NGO, the European Commission, a producing country and a trade federation. 

Download EFI News as a pdf or contact publications @ efi.int to be added to the mailing list.