Using market forces to save our forests

Forests are where timber comes from, and when we lose forests around the world to deforestation, whether from illegal logging or conversion of land for agriculture, this undermines the future of the industry. With no forests, there is no future for the industry.


This is why all TTF members, both under our Responsible Purchasing Policy, and both UK and EU law, must only trade in sustainably sourced timber. By growing the market for sustainable timber, we can help ensure our forests stay standing.


Unfortunately, not all countries have strong laws in place to preserve forests and ensure timber is sustainably sourced. FLEGT, which stands for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade, is an integral to the UK and EU’s efforts to expand sustainable practices.


Countries which become FLEGT-licensed by improving their forest practices, and shifting towards sustainable forest management, benefit from the EU Action Plan by gaining superior market access into the EU and UK markets – a strong economic, market incentive for keeping forests standing.


The UK and EU member states have a strong partnership with the 15 countries currently implementing or negotiating their Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) – the prerequisite before FLEGT-licensing.

Our work in promoting FLEGT

The Timber Trade Federation are promoting FLEGT-licensed timber as a legal and verified way to import tropical timber – stimulating European markets to use and grow the demand for FLEGT among stakeholders, including designers, architects, specifiers and traders.


Working with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), our FLEGT project focuses on FLEGT-licensed Indonesia, and countries which have entered into Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) such as Ghana. We also work with China, which as the largest importer of timber in the world has a strong power to influence sustainable trade and forestry standards.


Conversations about Climate Change falls under the TTF’s FLEGT work, as an opportunity to showcase the beauty of tropical hardwood species from countries undergoing measures and mechanisms to achieve FLEGT-status. This design competition, exhibition and event series, in collaboration with the Building Centre, provides a platform to promote important climate conversations in the lead up to the postponed COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November 2021.


You can find out more information on the entrants to our design competition here: https://ttf.co.uk/conversationalists/

Countries and case studies


Indonesia is the first and currently only FLEGT licensed country, achieving this status in November 2016. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest exporters of tropical timber products, with a trade value of  €10.4 billion in 2019.


The UK has strong relationships with Indonesia and thus the TTF plans to build upon the increased capacity of Indonesia trade associations to continue to engage members in national FLEGT processes. Through this, the TTF will provide information on EU and UK market requirements, including the EUTR/ UKTR, and assist Indonesian trade associations and members in meeting those requirements.


Work will largely continue on from relationships previously established. The formation of a perception study for distribution and results sharing will form a pinnacle starting point from April 2021. FLEGT and positive tropical timber messaging will be strengthened and promoted for sales and marketing promotion within furniture exporters and other key producer groups. Business developing training will be fabricated and delivered to exports in addition.


Ghana is in the final stages of their VPA implementation, and are the next expected FLEGT licensed country after Indonesia. They were the first country to begin negotiations in 2007 to tackle poor forest governance. In 2018, the EU accounted for 11% of Ghana’s timber exports.


The formal forestry sector employs about 120,000 Ghanaians, with timber recognised as an essential part of the future livelihoods and the sustainable economy of Ghana.


Building on the increased capacity of Ghanaian trade associations in order to engage members in national FLEGT processes, provide information on EU and UK market requirements, and assist members in meeting those requirements.

Europe and UK

Europe and the UK are the nations driving the EU FLEGT Action Plan, which was first introduced in 2003. Within this action plan are a large number of initiatives designed to help strengthen sustainable forestry practices.



The UK is a particularly important nation within the FLEGT Action Plan as the second-largest importer of timber in the world after China, and through it’s diplomatic and business ties to Commonwealth nations.


Improved understanding of buyers and specifiers of the qualities and tropical timber products, the value of national VPA processes, and FLEGT licensing in reducing compliance and reputational risks.


China is the worlds largest importer of timber, and the UK TTF are working to communicate European requirements for timber products under the EUTR and CPR, including the development of guidance for  Chinese importers, manufacturers and exporters


We also promote FLEGT licenses and buying from FLEGT-licensed countries as a method to meet broader European customer requirements. You can find out more about our work with China through our Chinese Plywood Project page.


Building on the increased capacity of Chinese plywood associations in order to provide information on UK and EU market requirements, assist members on meeting those requirements and expand on achievements to date.


Vietnam’s VPA with Europe entered into force in June 2019 and plays a key role in processing in the timber sector in Southeast Asia.



The FLEGT workstream for 2021 – 2022 will incorporate Vietnam as a further VPA country for engagement. Work will provide information on UK and EU market requirements and aim to assist members in meeting those requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can trading timber help improve sustainable forestry practices?

Increased pressure on the timber industry to follow responsible procurement practices, source from sustainably managed forests and eradicate illegal logging, led to the formation of FLEGT. Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) is the EU’s Action Plan to eradicate illegal logging and subsequent trade in tropical countries through strengthening enforcement, governance, sustainable forest management (SFM), and promotion of trade in legally produced timber.


Timber from a FLEGT-licensed country is considered to have undergone due diligence due to the timber legality assurance system (TLAS) of the supplier country. Therefore buying FLEGT-licensed timber, is a proof of legality and means that you do not need to undergo further due diligence. FLEGT-licensed timber is given a ‘green lane‘ into UK and EU markets – a powerful market incentive for countries to transform their forestry industry to improve their management practices.

What is the responsibility of timber traders within FLEGT?

The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) aims to reduce illegal logging by ensuring that no illegal timber or timber products can be sold in the EU. This was created as part of the EU FLEGT Action Plan.


The UK Timber Regulation (UKTR) and UK FLEGT Regulations apply in Great Britain from 1 January 2021 but the requirements remain the same as under EUTR / EU FLEGT.


Buying from certification sources or a country that is FLEGT-licensed is one way that companies can reduce the risk and demand of buying illegally sourced timber. The TTF’s Responsible Purchasing Policy, also requires members to undergo a risk management framework ensuring due diligence on their timber products.


Certification, born from a raising awareness of deforestation and illegal logging in the early 19990s, set strict management standards for forestry companies to meet within their defined concession areas and against which they can be audited for compliance by a verified third party.


FLEGT by comparison is a country-wide government process, designed to reduce levels of illegal logging and improve forest governance. This process undergoes a independent auditor, and in some countries a independent monitoring system and regular meetings between the EU and timber producing country to assess progress. As a result, FLEGT licences are effectively ‘triple verified‘.


The FLEGT Action Plan and Certification both have merits and shortcomings, which David Hopkins and Saskia Ozinga explore in depth in their joint publication on Chatham House – Tackling Deforestation: The Need for Regulation. Their summary conclusion is: “forest certification has been pioneering and can play a role in reducing deforestation, but without proper regulation, its impacts will be limited or lost altogether”.

How do producer countries become part of FLEGT?

Any timber-exporting country outside of the EU / UK can undergo the process to achieve FLEGT-licensing.


The timber-exporting country must first work on agree their country specific Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) – a legally binding trade agreement between the EU/UK. VPAs promote trade in legal timber and address illegality through improved forest governance, law enforcement and complying with the relevant laws of that country.


The process of implementing a timber legality assurance system (TLAS) set out in the VPA, verify legality and automatically comply with the requirements of the UKTR / EUTR.


As of January 2021, six countries have ratified a VPA with the EU: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Liberia, Indonesia and the Republic of the Congo. Nine countries are negotiating their VPA: Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

How can I know that timber bought through FLEGT is sustainable?

FLEGT-licensing and the process behind Voluntary Partnership Agreements, go beyond timber legality assurance and verification to include wider sustainability aspects under the EU FLEGT Action Plan.


Positive impacts include democracy, justice, jobs, welfare, security, climate change and biodiversity. FLEGT-licensing supports all three pillars of sustainability – social, economic and environmental. Forests in VPA countries are managed in line with legal requirements, including forest management and biodiversity conservation; tenure rights and use-rights given; and in guaranteeing stakeholder participation to define legal requirements for SFM, ensuring a holistic framework.


Multi-stakeholder processes embedded under a FLEGT VPA address legal and policy reform needed to overcome governance challenges that are a barrier to countrywide sustainability. In addition, licensing entails official auditing of the entire supply chain and monitoring by the EU and VPA country authorities, bring “unprecedented scrutiny on the forest industry”.

What countries currently have a FLEGT licence or a VPA?

Fifteen tropical countries are implementing or negotiating VPAs. Together their forests cover an area the size of the EU and they account for 80% of EU tropical timber imports (2018).


The countries implementing VPAs are Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, the Republic of the Congo and Vietnam. The VPAs with Guyana and Honduras have been initialed.


Indonesia is the first to reach the milestone of FLEGT licensing; see the section on Indonesian FLEGT licences. Ghana is also at an advanced stage of VPA implementation.


The countries negotiating VPAs are Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand.