Timber Legality

Preventing the use of illegally harvested timber

AT FSC, WE REGARD LEGALITY AS ESSENTIAL TO RESPONSIBLE FOREST MANAGEMENT WORLDWIDE.

In fact, it is our first principle of responsible forest management. All countries with forests have rules to manage ownership and harvest rights, but the level of enforcement of these rules varies across the globe.

For this reason, several governments have, in the last decade, adopted ‘legislation for timber legality’: laws that ban the trading of timber that is harvested illegally anywhere on the planet. To prevent purchase and sales of timber products connected to illegal harvesting, these governments require companies to apply ‘due diligence’.

FSC fully supports this legality legislation, which is currently in place in the USA, the EU, and Australia. However, it is worth noting that both USA and EU legislation does not recognize private certification as automatic evidence of compliance. With the failure of the deemed to comply arrangements to come into force, this is also the case in the Australia.

Since 2013, FSC has taken measures to ensure its forest management, chain of custody, and controlled wood standards meet the requirements of these legislations. This way, certification can make compliance a simple process.


The costs of illegal logging

A recognised by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources; Illegal logging is a significant problem in many countries. It degrades forest environments, reduces biodiversity, undermines government regimes and revenues, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and deprives local communities of opportunities to improve their quality of life.

Research shows Illegal logging has significant environmental, economic and social costs.


The Organisation for Economic Co–operation and Development estimated;

  • Estimated 5- 10% of global industrial round wood trade is potentially illegally harvested.
  • In high-risk areas, it is estimated up to 70% of total timber production could be illegally logged.
  • Costs translate to US$23 billion every year for the Global South.

United Nations Environment Program estimates;

  • The value of illegal logging is up to US$100 billion annually, representing up to 30 percent of the total global timber trade1.

For Australia, JP Management Consulting (Asia Pacific) reported to the Government the local impacts;

  • Up to AUD$400 million of Australia’s forest products imports come from sources with some risk of being illegally logged

Australian illegal logging legislation and FSC certificate holders

Due to the rigorousness of FSC's forest management and chain of custody standards Australia’s illegal logging laws already provide a simplified due diligence process for FSC certificate holders.

The the full requirements in the Australian government's step-by-step Due Diligence Guide for timber importers.
The simplified risk assessment process for FSC certificate holders is explained in step 3A of this guide.

FSC certificate holders can carry out their risk assessment using the "Timber Legality Framework" method, which requires that the importer or processor do the following:
1. Confirm that the supplier and product are certified, and
2. Gather the information required in the due diligence process (eg. species, region of harvest, supplier details).

If the timber is FSC certified, and you are not aware of any other information suggesting that the product contains illegal timber, you can assess the risk as low and proceed with importing.

Find out more about Australia's illegal logging laws

Watch the Department of Agriculture's recorded webinars explaining the legislation


Further Information

For more information and updates about FSC and the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act please see our subpage.

For more information about Illegal logging reform in Australia please see the Illegal Logging - Forestry Policy section of Department of Agriculture and Waters website.

For information about what FSC timber legality legislation means for FSC worldwide please see the FSC and Timber Legality section of FSC Internationals website.


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