FLEGT IMM: Governance essential for FLEGT & sustainable forestry

FLEGT IMM: ‘Governance essential for FLEGT & sustainable forestry’

ARTICLE · By Lucy Bedy FLEGT Communications Executive · 01 July 2021

The recent FLEGT IMM webinar explored market conditions, tropical timber perceptions and attitudes towards FLEGT licensing from an expert panel.

The recent FLEGT IMM webinar ‘Tropical trade trends and FLEGT profile’ explored market conditions, tropical timber perceptions and attitudes towards FLEGT licensing from an expert panel. This included David Hopkins, CEO of the Timber Trade Federation; Steven Johnson, Officer-in-Charge of the ITTO; Sarah Storck, Lead Consultant FLEGT Independent Market Monitor (IMM) and Rupert Oliver, FLEGT IMM Trade Analyst.

David Hopkins annotated the activities of the UK Timber Trade Federation’s (TTF) government-funded communications campaign, regarded as one of the most active trade bodies in the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) promotion and market education.

“As the UK Timber Trade Federation, we promote FLEGT as a way to improve conditions in the forest: for the forest themselves, for the people who are dependent on the forests, and to improve the conditions throughout the tropical supply chain”, Mr Hopkins said.

By adding sustainable forest management within the timber industry and growing the market for sustainable timber, the TTF is helping to keep our forests standing.

“FLEGT is essentially about improving forest and timber sector governance. We utilise the TTF’s FLEGT campaign driven by the conviction that without a proper system of governance we will never be able to tackle the issues behind deforestation”, Mr Hopkins.

Activities of the past 18-month FCDO funding utilised design projects to raise awareness of the FLEGT Action Plan, enhanced inclusion within procurement policies for designers, architects and retailers and challenging perceptions of tropical timber. Additional efforts developed e-learning programmes, multi-media articles and strengthening stakeholder engagement.

Rupert Oliver portrayed an overview of trade. International trade of timber and wood furniture from the fifteen Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) countries was not detrimentally affected by the covid-19 pandemic, seeing a decrease of only 1.6% in 2020.

Timber trade from Indonesia, currently the only FLEGT-licensed country, to the EU has increased since licensing began in 2016, an “encouraging sign from the perspective of the FLEGT licensing system”, Mr Oliver said. Legality requirements for market trade are increasing globally, with around two thirds currently governed by some form of requirement. This portrays an encouraging future for FLEGT and engagement with the action plan.

Imports of furniture from VPA countries to the EU and UK accumulated to $570 million in Q1 of 2021, an increase from approximately $350 million in Q2 of 2020. By comparison, sawn wood for the last two years has remained relatively level at around $180 million. When comparing the imports of tropical wood and furniture by EU and UK countries, the UK in 2021 Q1 remains the largest importer at around $250 million. The UK is followed by the Netherlands with $150 million, France with $145 million and Germany importing approximately $143 million.

The findings of the previous four years of IMM’s market surveys on trade between FLEGT VPA countries and the EU was eloquently portrayed by Sarah Storck.

Amongst the EU, trade research indicates that awareness of FLEGT and understanding of how importers, operators and timber traders can specify and the benefits of specification is improving. FLEGT licensing is perceived to make importing timber goods from Indonesia easier but there is a critical recognition that FLEGT-licensing and FLEGT-licensed products need to be more effectively communicated and enhanced endorsement within the marketplace to strengthen messaging.

Interviews of over 600 timber importers and traders, and consultations of more than 200 stakeholders identified three focal areas for recommendations. These were ensuring consistent and effective enforcement of the EUTR; strengthening endorsement and promotion of FLEGT-licensed timber, and minimising bureaucracy involved in importing FLEGT-licensed timber. 

Governance and legal reform is the basis for all other positive developments in the forest and forest commodity supply chains. Greater efforts should be utilised to communicate the benefits of FLEGT-licensing, importing from VPA countries and the country-wide reforms these countries are undertaking towards enhanced forest management, multi-stakeholder dialogue and governance.

The session concluded with a fruitful and engaging question and answer session to the panel facilitated by Steven Johnson of the ITTO. Full resources including the recording and speakers’ presentations can be found here.