EUTR stands for European Union Timber Regulation. It was brought into full effect from 2013 and it’s primary focus is to halt the trade in illegal timber being imported into the EU. The regulation makes it illegal to deal with illegally harvested timber and related timber products. A EUTR review commissioned in 2015 found that the regulation is ‘on track to achieve it’s objectives’ but ‘challenges remain’. Therefore, it is essential that all organisations working with timber are fully aware of EUTR regulations and do everything they can to help it be a success. EUTR is central to the EU hitting its carbon footprint and sustainability challenges.
In short, no. It depends on what you plan to do with the timber and how you are involved in the supply chain. The regulations are based on your ‘role’ in the process. There are 2 main roles, an Operator, and a Trader.
Operator: An Operator is a legal person or organisation who imports timber into the EU either for their own use or selling on. Operators bear the brunt of EUTR legal requirements, as they are the obvious starting points. Operators must use a framework of procedures and measures as well as recording all timber related details. This framework is known as a ‘due diligence’ system.
Trader: A Trader is a legal person or organisation who buys or sells timber already placed on the internal market by an Operator. It is important to note that Traders do not just have to buy from an Operator – a Trader could buy from another Trader and remain a Trader. An example of a Trader is an Outdoor Seating Manufacturer. Traders must be able to prove their place in the market, but for them EUTR compliance is heavily centred on keeping records. Traders are required to keep 5 years’ worth of records for all their timber related activities. For further peace of mind, it is common practise for Traders to obtain independent certification for sustainable timber procurement such as FSC.
Logging Company – EU Based Timber Importer (Operator) – Sawmill (Trader) – Furniture Manufacturing Company (Trader) – End User
Tip 1 – A lot of tropical hardwood originates from French Speaking West Africa. Therefore, you may find documents noted as RBUE where you would expect to see EUTR. RBUE is simply European Union Timber Regulations in French (Reglement sur le Bois de l’Union Europeenne).
Tip 2 – Be sure to record the name of the timber species as the Botanical name as well as the common recognised name. For example, when importing Iroko, also note the Botanical name ‘Chlorophora Ecxelsa’.
When concerning EUTR in relation to FSC, FSC can be used to help confirm compliance with EUTR but EUTR does not confirm compliance with FSC. Essentially FSC is a more rigorous certification.
The regulations are applicable to all 27 (as of 2020) EU member countries.
FLEGT stands for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade and is an EU action plan first developed in 2003. EUTR is a key component of the FLEGT action plan, along with VPA’s (Voluntary Partnership Agreements) which you may also come across when dealing with timber.
FLEGT was brought into being due to a growing awareness about the extent of the illegal logging problem in the 1990’s. In 2011, the EU estimated 35% of the global primary timber trade involves the EU, so it is clear why the EU has had to address the problem. It is unknown what percentage of this 35% is illegally harvested but the EUTR rules and wider FLEGT regulation ensure that there are no legal loopholes to import illegal or even questionable timber into EU member states.
It is written into EUTR Regulations that EUTR implementation is reviewed biannually, and annually from 2019 by an EU Commission. The most recent report on EUTR implementation covering 2017 – 2019 found good progress has been made. For example, in the first years of implementation the regulations were criticised because not all EU countries had incorporated EUTR into their laws, but as of 2019 all countries comply with the formal EUTR requirements.
Another criticism was that checks on importing operators in the first years of implementation were almost non-existent, and very few fines or penalties were handed out. However, the most recent report found that checks have increased.
Despite the good news, there is still numerous concerns about the effectiveness of EUTR. Even in the EU’s most recent report, they concede ‘continuous efforts are needed to ensure a uniform and effective application of the EUTR’. Many environmental groups recognise that the fundamental pillars of EUTR can make a huge difference to illegal logging but remain concerned about how EUTR is enforced.
For example, if a company is found to be non – compliant, groups such as the WWF have found a ‘Phased’ approach is used to resolve the problem, where sanctions are not immediately applied if at all, due to legal difficulties. Part of the problem is that it requires significant resources to apply sanctions. Despite the EU granting resources to help countries enforce EUTR, the help given is not sufficient.
In conclusion, although EUTR has helped to eliminate illegal logging, significant work (especially around enforcement) remains outstanding to ensure the regulation is more that simply a statement of good will. As recently as 2014, Global Witness indicated that 2 billion euros worth of illegally sourced timber entered the EU. This is evidence for how wide ranging the problem is and how much work remains to be done.
With the United Kingdom leaving the EU on 21 January 2021, there has been considerable confusion about timber certification is now needed, as EUTR is regulated by the EU.
The short answer to this question is that Brexit won’t affect anything.
Please see a direct response from the Office for Product Safety & Standards in December 2020 after they were consulted about this issue:
The European Timber Regulation (EUTR) and FLEGT will become UK domestic legislation as the UK Timber Regulations and FLEGT. The requirements under the UK Regulations remain the same as under EUTR.