FLEGT licences

What is a FLEGT licence?

A FLEGT licence is a document that confirms that a shipment of timber or timber products has been legally produced, in accordance with the relevant laws of the country of harvest. FLEGT-licensed timber and timber products are considered to comply with the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

The EUTR requires that operators (defined as any natural or legal person that places timber or timber products on the EU market) exercise due diligence when placing timber or timber products on the market. Exercising due diligence means undertaking a risk management exercise so as to minimise the risk of placing illegally harvested timber, or timber products containing illegally harvested timber, on the EU market.

Operators in the EU do not need to exercise due diligence on imports of FLEGT-licensed timber.

FLEGT licences can only be issued by countries that have ratified a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU. To issue FLEGT licences, a VPA partner country must implement a timber legality assurance system and other measures specified in the VPA. When fully operational a timber legality assurance system is both robust and credible, as it includes effective supply chain controls, mechanisms for verifying compliance and is subject to independent audits. A VPA timber legality assurance system is built around a practical definition of legality that has been agreed through participatory processes involving stakeholders from government, the private sector and civil society.

Once a VPA country begins FLEGT licensing, all shipments of timber products listed in the amended annex I of the VPA’s product scope, and exported from the VPA country to the EU, must be FLEGT-licensed in order to be released for free circulation in the EU.

I am an EU timber importer. What are the benefits of importing timber and timber products covered by a FLEGT licence?

FLEGT licensed timber meets the due diligence requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). The EUTR requires that operators, defined as any natural or legal person that places timber or timber products on the EU market, exercise due diligence when placing timber or timber products on the market.

FLEGT-licensed timber and timber products are considered to comply with the requirements of the EUTR. Therefore, if you are an operator you can place FLEGT licensed products on the market without the obligation of exercising due diligence, thus saving relevant time and work, and making your business more efficient.

What are the wider benefits of FLEGT licences?

In order to issue FLEGT licences a country will have made significant improvements to forest governance. These improvements are made through a comprehensive multistakeholder process and are described in the Voluntary Partner Agreement between the partner country and the EU. Countries that issue FLEGT licences have a robust, audited system for tracking timber and verifying its legality throughout the supply chain — a ‘timber legality assurance system’. They have committed to making information about their forest sector publicly available, introducing an unprecedented level of transparency. As well as promoting legal trade, the multistakeholder processes involved in improving forest governance and developing FLEGT licensing schemes contribute to social and environmental goals.

Who issues FLEGT licences?

FLEGT licensing authorities in VPA partner countries issue FLEGT licences. The licensing authorities issue FLEGT licences for shipments of timber or timber products that are listed in the VPA annex on product scope and are destined for the EU, providing the VPA country’s timber legality assurance system has confirmed the products are legally harvested. For more information, see the section on FLEGT Licensing Authorities.

How credible is a FLEGT licence?

A FLEGT licence is underpinned by a timber legality assurance system that the EU and the VPA partner country have agreed upon in consultation with stakeholders from government, private sector and civil society. A VPA country’s timber legality assurance system includes a definition of legality, supply chain controls that track wood and prevent legal products from mixing with illegal or unverified products, and describes procedures for verifying compliance with both the legality definition and supply chain controls.

Timber legality assurance systems incorporate powerful safeguards, such as independent audits that work to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards to detect system failures. Independent auditors report to VPA joint implementation committees. In many VPA countries, civil society also plays a crucial role in carrying out independent observation in the field and informing decision makers on potential fraud and system loopholes.

FLEGT licensing cannot begin until the EU and the VPA partner country have confirmed, through a joint independent assessment, that the country’s timber legality assurance system functions as described in the VPA.