Flying the flag for FLEGT



Our future trading relationship with Europe may be uncertain, but the TTF has clear plans for its new Europe-wide FLEGT communications project.

The Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan (FLEGT), developed by the UK and the rest of the EU to combat illegal logging, started life in 2003. Incorporating Voluntary Partnership Agreements with key supplier countries (to date all tropical) and FLEGT licensing, it has taken time to establish and implement.

When initiatives take a long time to come to market, the message can get a little dry. Combine that with current political uncertainty and distractions, and it could be easy for joint international programmes and policy development to be overlooked. This is what, in part lies behind our new TTF FLEGT Project, funded by the UK Department for International Development.

FLEGT’s work to strengthen sustainable and legal forest management and promote trade in legally produced timber helps raise the bar for producers. Providing governance and a regulatory framework that operates across whole supplier countries, not just to a forest boundary, is a huge challenge, which is why it’s taken the time. But the scale of this international ambition and co-operation is astonishing, with impact on the ground and all along the supply chain. From forest governance through business management, auditing, traceability, individual and community welfare and transparency, FLEGT and the VPAs also provide unprecedented levels of stakeholder engagement. They are bringing democratic lasting change beyond the forest and creating strong roots throughout society.

So the TTF FLEGT Project has much to talk about. Working with European partners and tropical supplier countries to encourage better comms throughout the supply chain, we are in the early stages of engaging with furniture manufacturers, retailers, architects, designers and students in the UK and Europe. Our work so far indicates low levels of specific understanding of FLEGT, but willingness to engage to enhance procurement guidelines and reassure the market on social and environmental criteria.

A strong focus will be products available from FLEGT-engaged supplier countries. After all, architects don’t design buildings and manufacturers don’t make furniture out of sustainability certificates. On October 31, we are holding a Tropical Timber Conference in London focused on what products are available, what regions are doing well, trends, and solutions being implemented to reduce business risk and improve quality of supply.

We are also developing a FLEGT timber product installation design and build to increase knowledge and confidence in responsible timber purchasing. FLEGT Tool Kits are being developed and education workshops in VPA supplier countries are taking place.

FLEGT and VPAs are not about substituting certification, but can take driving legal and sustainable forest management and timber trade to the next stage, and make certification more straightforward. The VPA implementation process, even before countries start FLEGT licensing, is transforming communities worldwide. And the fact that FLEGT licensing ensures EUTR compliance has to be a significant benefit too.

So, while we may be still in the early stages of customer and specifier awareness, as more countries start issuing FLEGT licences it’s our job to ensure the market is ready and willing to bring on their products.