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News from Global Partnership Projects

Simply focusing on legality issues will diminish sustainability perspective

The US Lacey Act, the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) and the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill represent major milestones in recent years’ international efforts to curb illegal logging, and the partnership works actively to support implementation and enforcement. At the same time, IKEA and WWF worry that many companies may be tempted to focus single-mindedly on the legality of its timber products, and lose sight of other sustainability aspects.

The EUTR came into force in March this year. It elevates the need for companies to know what’s in their supply chain, where the wood and wood products came from, assess and manage risk, and verify the legality of their product.
“That’s what WWF has asked companies to do for the last 20 years. But I worry that these regulations may overshadow sustainability, and that companies and consumers may think that legality is enough. Legality should feed into sustainability, but the obsession with legality is making it harder to push the sustainability agenda in producer countries,” says George White, Head of the WWF initiative Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN).

He has seen examples of companies that were already half way towards receiving FSC certification – which counts legality as one only out of its 10 key principles and criteria – lose interest in the process:

“The message they get from all markets is ‘legality is all we need’ so why bother with all the rest? This has slowed down the work to get companies to go much, much further and we risk losing sight of the real goal. We will never get diverse, resilient forests if we just stick to basic legal compliance.”

Anders Hildeman, Global Forestry Manager at IKEA, also has concerns over the fact that the EUTR does not recognise the full value of forest certification.

“We see certification as key to improved forest management, and it is since long a way to get access to conscientious markets. There is a however risk that, with the EUTR, the benchmark is lowered to legality alone for market access. But legality in itself is not the same as sustainability or responsible forest management, and not even proof of fairness. Activities can be legal in a country without necessarily meaning that people and the environment have been taken into consideration.”

Yet Anders Hildeman is remains optimistic: ”I’m convinced responsible companies will  continue to rely on certification. The market for certified wood is growing and the certified areas are still increasing. In the past year has seen a net increase of some 19 million hectares of FSC certified forest in world. A lot of this has happened in the countries where we operate our partnership projects”.

GFTN aims to turn the global marketplace into a positive force to save the world’s most valuable and threatened forests. Increasingly, consumers want to know where their wood comes from and to be assured that today’s forests will be here tomorrow for their children and grandchildren. IKEA is an active participant in GFTN.

Read more about GFTN and EUTR here


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