EUTR (European Union Timber Regulation) Overview
The European Union Timber Regulation, was fully implemented in 2013. Its primary objective is to combat the trade in illegal timber being imported into the European Union. This regulation makes it illegal to deal with illegally harvested timber and related timber products. It plays a crucial role in addressing the EU’s carbon footprint and sustainability challenges.
Variations in Regulations
Regulations are not the same for everyone; they depend on your role in the timber supply chain. There are two main roles: Operator and Trader.
Operator: Operators are legal persons or organizations that import timber into the EU for their use or for resale. They must adhere to EUTR legal requirements, including implementing a “due diligence” system, which involves maintaining records and gathering information on timber details, such as origin and species.
Trader: Traders are legal persons or organizations that buy or sell timber already placed on the EU market by an Operator. Traders are required to maintain a complete “chain of custody” for the timber, which includes documentation proving the supply chain’s integrity.
EUTR Compliance for Operators
For Operators, compliance involves ensuring that they do not place illegally harvested timber on the EU market. Legal timber is defined as timber that complies with the laws of the country where it is harvested. Operators are required to exercise “due diligence” and gather information on the timber’s origin, species, quantity, supplier information, and legal entity of the product seller.
EUTR Compliance for Traders
Traders must maintain records for five years for all their timber-related activities. These records should provide a complete chain of custody for the timber, tracing it back to the logging company. Traders can purchase timber from Operators or other Traders and must maintain rigorous documentation.
For tropical hardwood originating from French-speaking West Africa, documents may use “RBUE,” which stands for “Reglement sur le Bois de l’Union Europeenne,” or European Union Timber Regulations in French.
Record both the common recognized name and the botanical name of the timber species for thorough documentation.
Relationship Between EUTR and FSC®
FSC® certification can help confirm compliance with EUTR, but it does not confirm compliance with FSC®. FSC® is considered a more rigorous certification.
EUTR regulations apply to all 27 EU member countries.
EUTR and EU’s FLEGT
EUTR is a significant component of the EU’s FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade) action plan, which aims to address illegal logging and promote responsible forest management. FLEGT includes Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) and other measures to ensure that no illegal or questionable timber is imported into EU member states.
Effectiveness of EUTR
EUTR implementation is reviewed regularly by the EU Commission. Progress has been made, such as the incorporation of EUTR into the laws of all EU countries by 2019. However, concerns remain regarding enforcement and effectiveness.
Environmental groups recognize the potential impact on combating illegal logging but remain concerned about enforcement issues. Some companies found non-compliant may face a “phased” approach to sanctions due to legal complexities and resource limitations.
In conclusion, while EUTR has made progress in addressing illegal logging, significant work remains, particularly in improving enforcement. Recent estimates suggest that a considerable amount of illegally sourced timber still enters the EU, highlighting the ongoing challenge of combating this issue effectively.
Brexit and EUTR Regulations for the UK
Brexit has not affected the applicability of the regulations in the UK. The European Timber Regulation and FLEGT have become UK domestic legislation as the UK Timber Regulations and FLEGT. The requirements under the UK Regulations remain the same as under EUTR.
Operators and Traders in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) must still exercise due diligence and maintain records. In Northern Ireland, Operators must always exercise due diligence when placing timber on the market, and Traders must identify the supply chain.
Brexit has not altered the core regulations, ensuring that the UK continues to address illegal timber trade effectively.