FLEGT Explained

FLEGT Explained


Illegal logging and associated trade is one of the biggest environmental threats, which the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan aims to tackle and eradicate.

FLEGT – The EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Action Plan to the problem of illegal logging and associated trade, is one unfamiliar by most. With an incredible potential for the future of sustainable trade, stakeholder engagement and sustainable forest management practices, FLEGT is an acronym with which you should familiarise yourself.

Forests are invaluable: for their carbon sequestering and storage; biodiversity and natural resources; services to all of humanity and potential for climate change mitigation. However, forests face many threats to their existence, with one of the biggest threats being illegal logging and deforestation. This has major economic, social and environmental consequences, which the EU FLEGT Action Plan aims to help address.

The plan aims to address illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance, and promoting trade in legally produced timber.

The Timber Trade Federation are currently working to promote FLEGT-licensed timber as a legal and verified way to import tropical timbers, raising awareness of the initiative and trade with the countries working toward FLEGT licensing through its FLEGT project. Conversations about Climate Change is part of this work, with the six winning designs to be created from responsibly sourced tropical hardwood from VPA countries to draw light to the merits of the FLEGT Action Plan for these countries and create a greater awareness and education of these resources and FLEGT in general.


Forests have an enormous importance for the future of climate change including services to biodiversity, carbon storage, preventing erosion and regulating water supplies.

FLEGT applies to all forests within the country implementing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) – natural forests, plantations, concession and conservation areas – because illegal logging can happen anywhere there is a tree. The definition of forests can vary due to ownership and land usage and as a result, there are often different rights present. Clarification of ownership and land tenure is often a critical first step in the protection of forests.


The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR), brought into force in 2013 to ensure that no timber or timber products placed on the European market come from illegal sources, is a direct result of the FLEGT Action Plan. Furthermore, FLEGT establishes country-specific Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) which involves partner countries developing a Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) that verifies timber products legality, in line with their local laws and responsibilities.

Defining legality based on country specific circumstances requires stakeholders to identify a subset of national laws that will level the playing field for legal operators, enabling governments to manage forests sustainably and protect the rights of forest-dependent communities. This negotiations draw upon stakeholders from the government, private sector, civil society and indigenous peoples to create and agree upon a clear and credible definition of legality that is practical to enforce and takes all interests into consideration. This VPA legality definition, forms the basis of the country’s TLAS, individualised to tackle corruption, mismanagement and poor laws.

“VPAs have made more progress than any other international instrument” FERN.


FLEGT, or specifically buying FLEGT-Licensed timber or timber products, makes it easier for law enforcement agencies to meet their responsibilities, by improving the detection of crime and articulating clear procedures for handling cases of illegality.

In the EU, enforcement is a requirement of the EUTR, requiring all EU member states to carry out checks and due diligence to ensure that there is no illegal timber in their supply chains.

In VPA partner countries, law enforcement is strengthened through defining legality (see above point), measures to control supply chains to ensure that wood from illegal or unknown sources cannot contaminate the supply chain of timber products and verification of compliance.


The FLEGT Action Plan recognises that illegal logging is more than a technical matter but a political problem. Recognising this, FLEGT provides incentives for timber-exporting countries to open new political space to improve transparency, accountability, participation, coordination and capacity.

For some VPA countries, improved governance is the main drive behind their pursuit of FLEGT and their VPA negotiations, to tackle corruption and conflict over land tenure. Good forest governance allows for more functional and peaceful economies, borders and trade routes and fairer and more efficient laws – for the interest of all stakeholders. With this follows a well-managed, productive, health forests that benefits all.


The EU FLEGT Action Plan was the first initiative to combine demand-side and supply-side measures – which is one of its greatest merits. The EUTR makes it illegal for anyone to place illegal timber products on the EU market, requiring imports to adopt due diligence procedures to ensure that they can verify the products they supply and purchase are legal.

Voluntary Partnership Agreements create a verified system between the EU and timber-exporting country that timber is produced and harvested in accordance with national laws. As a result, FLEGT-licenses automatically fulfil the due diligence requirements of the EU Timber Regulation.

A countries VPA TLAS does not have to be applied to all exports – just those destined for the EU. However, to date, all countries with a VPA have chosen to include all country exports to apply their TLAS to, and most have also included their domestic markets as well. This demonstrates the strengthen of FLEGT and appreciation.