That’s why 15 tropical timber-exporting countries are working with the EU to halt illegal logging and promote responsible use of the world’s forests. Through partnerships under the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, these countries are transforming their timber sectors — from the forests where loggers harvest timber to the factories where workers turn logs into planks and the workshops where artisans make furniture.
This unique approach is broad in scope and bold in ambition. Together with the EU, these countries are overhauling all aspects of their forest management, timber production and trade. They are implementing new systems and procedures in forests, factories and family businesses. They are working with all sectors of society to solve longstanding challenges, giving a voice to all those connected to the forest. And, where necessary, these countries are revising national laws and their enforcement, to make sure that the forests and people that depend on them are given the protection they need.
Facts and figures
Stronger foundations for responsible forest use
These countries are rooting out illegal activities throughout the supply chain, promoting fair and inclusive development, and laying the foundations for sustainable management of globally-important forest resources.
From supporting small-scale wood suppliers to ensuring large logging companies pay their taxes and share benefits with local communities, this approach is closing markets to illegal timber and creating a brighter future for tropical forests and the people who depend on them.
Timber traders in the EU can support this movement towards responsible forest management by choosing FLEGT-licensed timber.
Going beyond legality
FLEGT-licensed products are not just legally harvested. They comply with a wide variety of laws that apply throughout the supply chain and relate to everything from worker safety to taxation, from sustainability to fair benefits for local communities. The advantages of FLEGT licensing therefore extend far beyond legality to bring social, economic and environmental gains in producer countries.
To achieve this, countries must first undertake a wide-ranging review of their entire forest sector, engaging with diverse groups — from small-scale furniture makers to large logging companies, from nongovernmental organisations representing the interests of forest communities to government agencies responsible for collecting taxes or enforcing laws.
FLEGT-licensed timber products are best known for their verified legality — they automatically comply with the EU Timber Regulation. Less well-known are their considerable social, environmental and economic credentials.
New levels of scrutiny and accountability
Through unprecedented dialogue, these groups reach agreement on what is needed to ensure forests are responsibly managed. Before a country can issue FLEGT licences, it develops robust controls for tracking timber products, checking their legality throughout the supply chain, and stopping illegal products from mixing with legal ones. The EU and its partner country jointly oversee these systems, which are subject to compulsory audits that meet international standards and are independent from government and the companies involved.
A transformation of this scale does not happen overnight. Often this requires the country to overhaul existing laws and adopt new ones. It entails training and investment to modernise and improve both business practices and government agencies responsible for forest management.
This fundamentally new way of managing forests and trade brings unprecedented scrutiny to the country’s timber sector, holding businesses and government agencies to new levels of accountability. With these foundations come better conditions for investments in sustainable forestry.
“Without credible information, it is not possible for local communities or civil society to work to address illegalities in the forest sector. The development of the timber legality transparency portal comes as good news to civil society, and also demonstrates the commitment of the Forestry Commission to be open about forest management.”
A new international approach
The result is FLEGT-licensed timber. This new international approach gives buyers confidence that products comply with laws in the country of export relating to harvesting, labour, taxation and more.
By providing the basis for responsible and sustainable forest management, FLEGT licensing works hand-in-hand with certification— while certification covers areas and focuses on improving forest management and business practices, FLEGT licensing covers entire countries and focuses on improving the entire forest sector.
As FLEGT-licensed timber products are guaranteed to be legal, they level the playing field for law-abiding businesses and eliminate the regulatory and reputational risks of handling illegal products. That’s thanks to the unprecedented level of scrutiny applied to FLEGT-licensed products.
Before FLEGT licensing begins, countries develop robust systems for tracking wood through the entire supply chain and preventing illegal or unverified products from mixing with legal ones. They strengthen procedures for verifying compliance with relevant laws, ensuring that FLEGT licences are only issued to products that comply with those laws.
The EU and its partner country oversee compulsory independent audits of the system that verifies legality and issues licences. And further scrutiny comes from civil society groups that act as independent monitors, reporting any cases of suspected lawbreaking.
Coming from independently verified sources, FLEGT-licensed products can be trusted and reinforce commitments to legal and responsible trade that benefits people and planet.
Are you bringing FLEGT-licensed timber into the EU?
On the FLEGT licence information point you can find practical information about FLEGT licences, import procedures, trade scenarios and answers to frequently asked questions.
What’s in it for tropical countries
Countries exporting FLEGT-licensed timber products gain because these products are considered legal under the EU Timber Regulation, making business easier for companies in the EU that import them.
Once a country is issuing FLEGT licences, EU Member States will not allow its products to enter their markets unless they have a valid FLEGT licence. This approach helps the country crack down on illegality and manage its forest resources for future generations.
FLEGT licensing systems in tropical countries also close down opportunities for corruption. And by ensuring that companies are paying all relevant taxes and fees, they boost state revenues and scope for investment in the timber sector and wider development goals. They also level the playing field for legitimate businesses, by identify those that are not playing by the rules and supporting law enforcement action by the authorities.
It’s not only the big companies that benefit. FLEGT-licensing countries ensure that small and medium enterprises are not left behind, helping them adapt procedures and capacities so they can comply with the law and participate in markets that are increasingly demanding responsible trade.
And the country also gains through its development of more competent, coordinated and accountable institutions. Government agencies with responsibilities for forestry, customs, labour, finance and law enforcement all have roles to play in the delivery of FLEGT-licensed products. As countries pursue the goal of exporting these products, they strengthen these institutions, ensuring they can work more effectively to achieve sustainable development.
Perhaps one of the most profound changes in FLEGT-licensing countries is the way government, society and the private sector interact. The journey towards FLEGT licensing brings these groups together like never before, to discuss problems and make shared decisions about how to tackle them.
It builds trust where relations were poor. It creates consensus and partnership in a shared future. And it ensures that, for the first time, everyone who is connected to the country’s forests can have a say in how they are managed.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) often found SVLK certification a challenge, given their limited capacities and resources. The Indonesian Government has responded to this by providing financial and technical assistance to smaller companies.”
The criteria FLEGT-licensed timber must meet to be considered legal are chosen to reflect the interests not only of governments and big business, but also of people working in forests and factories, and of communities that live in and near logging concessions.
This means they promote health and safety in the workplace, and other rights for workers, while protecting the welfare of forest communities and enabling them to share in benefits from nearby logging activities.
The drive towards FLEGT licensing helps to build fairer societies, by exposing corruption in the forest sector, strengthening the rule of law, decreasing conflict between companies and communities and creating means for holding government and companies to account.
Benefitting the environment
When you buy FLEGT-licensed timber products, you support the international movements to end illegal logging, protect forests, address climate change and conserve biodiversity.
That’s because FLEGT-licensed products are guaranteed to comply with laws covering aspects of sustainability such as harvesting quotas, forest management plans and environmental impact assessments. They show that logging rights have been granted according to the law, and that timber is legally harvested, ensuring that no illegal logging is taking place.
Tropical forests have important roles to play both in supporting sustainable livelihoods, limiting climate change and protecting wildlife. But forests can only play those roles if countries manage them well and fairly.
By tackling legality head-on, countries that export FLEGT-licensed timber lay the foundations of sustainable forest management. This approach alone operates at the scale needed for sustainability in the forest sector.
It covers the whole country and entire supply chains, rather than just selected forest areas or individual operators. This raises standards all across the forestry sector, creating the economic space companies need to improve sustainability.
About the FLEGT licence information point
The FLEGT licence information point explains what FLEGT licences are and how they can benefit businesses in the EU as well as timber producers in countries outside the EU. For inquiries and assistance, contact the EU FLEGT Facility at email@example.com.
This resource is hosted by the EU FLEGT Facility and funded by the European Union and the Governments of Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The contents of this resource are the sole responsibility of its authors and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of funding organisations.
All the content on this page is protected by a Creative Commons license: CC BY-NC-ND. Credit information: EU FLEGT Facility, linking back to the original source of the work, https://timberbuyers.flegtlicence.org