Information for timber buyers
This website provides timber buyers with answers to frequently asked questions about FLEGT licences, guidance on how to communicate about FLEGT licences and information on the Competent Authorities in each EU Member State and their procedures for handling FLEGT licences. The following text explains what FLEGT licences are, how they benefit timber buyers in the EU, and how the advantages of FLEGT licensing extend far beyond legality to encompass social, economic and environmental gains in producer countries.
FLEGT licences are documents issued by timber-producing countries that have implemented a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU. The licences confirm that timber or timber products comply fully with the relevant laws of the country of export. FLEGT licences therefore indicate that products comply with a broad range of laws and regulations in the exporting country, such as those relating to forest management, the environment, labour rights, community benefits, import and export procedures, and payments of fees and taxes. FLEGT-licensed timber and timber products are considered to comply with the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits EU importers and EU timber producers from placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market.
Trade advantages of FLEGT-licensed timber
FLEGT licences discourage illegal trade and level the playing field for law-abiding businesses. The advantage for EU traders is that FLEGT licences eliminate the risk of importing illegal products. The advantage for partner countries is that FLEGT-licensed timber products are considered legal under the EU Timber Regulation, making it easier for EU operators to import their products. Once a country begins issuing FLEGT licences to products listed in its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), EU member states will not allow such products to enter the EU unless they have a valid FLEGT licence. FLEGT licensing strengthens legal trade and excludes illegal trade.
1. FLEGT-licensed timber meets the due diligence requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), saving you time and money.
The EUTR requires that operators exercise due diligence when placing timber or timber products on the market. Exercising due diligence means undertaking a risk management exercise to minimise the risk of placing illegally harvested timber, or timber products containing illegally harvested timber, on the EU market. Authorities responsible for enforcing the EU Timber Regulation in EU Member States recognise FLEGT licences as proof of legality. This means operators trading in FLEGT-licensed products do not need to undertake further due diligence, which can be time-consuming and costly.
2. FLEGT licences guarantee legality – products with a FLEGT licence come from independently verified legal sources.
In order for a country to issue FLEGT licences, it must put in place a timber legality assurance system and other measures outlined in its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU. When fully operational, VPA timber legality assurance systems are robust and credible. They control supply chains and verify legal compliance, and they are independently audited. The systems are built on practical definitions of legality that have been developed by stakeholders from government, the private sector and civil society. Before FLEGT licensing can begin, the EU and the partner country must confirm that the system works as described in the VPA. Thus, products with a FLEGT licence come from independently verified legal sources.
3. FLEGT licences enhance the reputation of the timber product industry and timber products by underlining commitments to legal trade and good forest governance.
The EU FLEGT Action Plan is part of a global movement to combat illegal logging and associated trade, and ensure that forests are sustainably managed. Before 2008, no country subjected wood imports to legality checks. Today, at least 32 countries have legislation in place to control imports of illegal timber, and more countries are developing such laws. FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) lay the foundation of sustainable forest management by improving legal clarity, institutional capacity and company practices. VPA countries 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 (see below). One way that VPAs do this is through their legality definitions, which include laws and regulations relating to sustainability. When you buy FLEGT-licensed timber you support the international movements to combat illegal logging and associated trade, improve forest governance, address climate change and conserve biodiversity.
4. FLEGT licensing and certification can work together. Certification covers areas and products. FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) cover entire countries and supply chains.
FLEGT-licensed timber meets all the requirements of VPAs and the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), and therefore is automatically considered legal. Certification, on the other hand, helps companies to exercise due diligence but is not automatically a proof of legality. It assists with compliance with the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation but does not replace a FLEGT licence. Under the EUTR, certification schemes are not considered as a proof of legally harvested timber, but they can contribute to meeting the due diligence requirement. Forest certification standards targeting at sustainable forest management however can be more far-reaching than legality definitions under VPAs. For more information see the frequently asked questions on certification.
Social, economic and environmental benefits
FLEGT-licensed timber products are best known for their verified legality. Less well-known are the considerable social, economic and environmental credentials of FLEGT-licensed products. The trade in these products, and the reforms and improvements that stand behind the licences, are helping ensure that forests contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction, while promoting responsible forest management.
1. FLEGT licensing supports social, environmental and economic goals
FLEGT licences show that a country manages its forests in line with forest management and environment laws, as well as labour and community welfare legislation. They show that logging rights have been granted according to the law, and that timber is legally harvested. The licences also confirm that products comply with legal requirements for trade and export, and that required taxes and fees are paid. For these reasons, FLEGT licensing brings social, economic and environmental benefits.
2. FLEGT licensing operates at the scale needed for sustainability
FLEGT licensing covers the entire country, rather than just selected forest areas or individual operators. It also covers the entire supply chain, from the point of harvest to the point of export. This means that a country issuing FLEGT licences is ensuring that all of its forests and entire supply chains are managed in line with national laws related to forest management, harvesting, processing, transport and trade. This raises standards across the entire forestry sector.
3. FLEGT licensing follows transformative changes to forest governance
When a country negotiates with the EU to be able to issue FLEGT licences, its government companies and civil society work together to agree steps to improve forest governance and tackle deforestation. They work out what legal and regulatory reforms are needed to ensure forests are responsibly managed. In this process, they help improve business and operational practices, and ensure that information on the forest sector is publically available. With these foundations for better governance, come better conditions for investments in sustainable forests.
4. FLEGT licensing improves compliance with a country’s laws
FLEGT licensing is based on detailed indicators and verification procedures. 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 verified to comply with those laws. These systems help to identify actors not playing by the rules, and support law enforcement action by the authorities.
5. FLEGT licensing brings unprecedented scrutiny to the forest sector
Compulsory independent audits boost the credibility of FLEGT licences. A committee of EU and partner country representatives first approves the audit procedures, which must meet international standards. The auditor then reports each year to the committee and makes public a summary of their findings and action taken to address them. Independent forest monitoring by civil society groups provides further scrutiny. The EU and each FLEGT licensing partner country also commit to monitor the social, economic and environmental impacts of their FLEGT trade agreement, and take steps to tackle any adverse effects of forestry industry operations on local people.
6. FLEGT licensing has broad stakeholder support
A FLEGT licence guarantees that authorities in the country of origin have verified a product’s compliance with all relevant laws and regulations. But the criteria FLEGT-licensed timber must meet are not simply imposed by governments. Rather they have been agreed by stakeholders from government, businesses, civil society groups and in some cases local communities and indigenous peoples — and then agreed jointly with the EU. This builds the nationwide support necessary for compliance and strengthens oversight and control in areas of law stakeholders deem most important. Because FLEGT legality standards are based on national laws and regulations, they reinforce national sovereignty over forest resources.