FSC and Timber Legality

Preventing the use of illegally harvested timber 

Timber Legality (© FSC A.C.)© FSC A.C.Principle 1 of the FSC Principles and Criteria requires forest managers to comply with all applicable laws and regulations in the country of harvest, and with international treaties.

FSC regards legality as an essential, but not necessarily sufficient, step towards sustainable forest management worldwide.

All countries with forests have rules to manage ownership and harvesting rights, to contain possible environmental and social impacts, and to govern trade and export.

But the level of enforcement of these rules is very different across the globe. This means that neither foresters who work within the framework of the law, nor those who want to use the responsible management practices required by FSC certification, are competing on a level playing field with those who operate outside the law.

FSC, therefore, applauds legislation adopted in the USA, the EU and Australia, to prevent the use of illegally harvested timber, both imported and domestically produced. Similar legislation in Switzerland demands transparency about the origin and species of imported timber.

In the USA and the EU, governments do not recognize privately certified timber as automatically complying with the law. In the USA, legislation suggests the companies which trade, use and/or market timber apply ‘due care’ to ensure compliance, while in the EU and in Australia there are specific requirements for a ‘due diligence’ system. In the EU, companies can use (FSC) certification as part of their due diligence system.

In Australia, FSC is recognized as a “Timber Legality Framework”, but (as it looks now) this seems to facilitate, but not replace, the requirement of having a due diligence system. More clarity is expected about this soon.

Timber legality legislation in the USA, Europe and Australia is obviously important to FSC certificate holders in those countries, but it also has implications for those who directly or indirectly supply these timber markets from abroad.

These pages inform our stakeholders about what measures FSC has taken to respond to timber legality legislation, in particular how it has complemented its existing requirements for both forest management and chain of custody certification so that they contribute to compliance with the US, EU and Australian timber legality laws. They also provide information on what cooperation between FSC certificate holders is needed in order to ensure compliance with timber legality legislation in different countries and regions. The pages will be updated on an ongoing basis.

FSC seeks to ensure that its certification system is contributing to the elimination of illegal logging, respecting the requirements of those governments that have introduced specific legislation. But it does not lose sight of the fact that legality is just the first step towards sustainability.

What does timber legality legislation mean for FSC certificate holders in other parts of the world?  

While timber legality laws target the companies active in the countries where the legislation is in place, FSC-certified suppliers from other countries are also affected. They may need to assist customers further up the supply chain with information, risk assessment and/or risk mitigation.

For more information on the possible role certificate holders in other parts of the world can or should play, download the Timber Legality Memo.

© Forest Stewardship Council® · FSC® F000100