Next to the legally binding requirements, you may also have to comply with the following non-legal requirements in order to be able to find a buyer:
Sustainably produced timber goes much further than focusing on the legality of timber and encompasses many more elements relating to environmental, economic and social facts and impact of your forest or company management.
Sustainable forest management has become commonplace in the market for non-tropical timber. Although the share of certified timber is growing, this is less the case in the market for tropical timber. Sustainable forest management is, however, especially relevant for tropical timber, due to concerns about deforestation and global warming.
A particularly high proportion of timber and timber products from sustainable sources is marketed in Northern and Western European countries. This proportion is still growing, but is generally lower in the market for tropical timber and tropical timber products. Some importers foresee a reduction of sales for sustainably produced timber because buyers will judge that legal is good enough, but others state that the demand for sustainable timber remains unchanged.
There are two main certifications: the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). At the moment, FSC is the most widely used scheme for certification of tropical timber forests.
Importing companies often also need to address other issues than the origin of wood. European buyers (especially those in western and northern European countries) pay more and more attention to their corporate responsibilities regarding the social and environmental impact of their business. This also affects traders and processors. Important issues are:
Respect for indigenous rights, land owner’s rights, environmental performance in general (pollution, waste etc), respecting labour laws and healthy and safe working conditions.
Many European companies in the timber and timber sector have policies addressing these issues. Part of these polices can be to ask their suppliers to address these issues. They can ask their suppliers to abide to a code of conduct, or sign suppliers declarations to ensure compliance with applicable local laws and regulations, industry minimum standards, International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UN Conventions.
Next to the requirements you have to comply with to be allowed on the European market and / or to find a buyer, complying with the following additional requirements could offer you a competitive advantage and makes finding a buyer easier:
Eco-labels do not only focus on sustainable sourcing, but also on other aspects of the products: processing (for instance, energy consumption, waste management), packaging and the use of chemicals. There are several eco-labels but the most widely recognized is the European “Eco-Label” which is available for floor coverings and furniture. The number of certified products has grown in recent years but the market is still small.
Smallholders and communities often face tough competition in the global timber market. FSC is looking to differentiate products from communities and smallholders in the marketplace. Dual certification of FSC and Fair Trade has been tested and is available.
In addition to sustainable forest managements practices (FSC), extra attention is paid to the social conditions in the producing areas (the Fair Trade part). FSC/Fairtrade timber is sold with a Fairtrade premium which allows an extra 10% of the total value of the wood to be paid to the certified smallholder communities concerned. The market for dual certification seems to be small.
The ISO 14001 standard considers multiple aspects of your business procurement, storage, distribution, product development, manufacturing, et cetera.- so that it reduces its impact on the environment. It also drives you to evaluate how you manage emergency response, customer expectations, stakeholders and your relationships with your local community.
Such certification can result in a more efficient business with less cost and with substantial waste reductions. It can also convince your buyers of your professionalism, because ISO is worldwide recognizes as a respectable certification organisation.
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