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/


UK / COP26

UK / COP26


















The UK is a particularly important country and actor within the EU FLEGT Action Plan, as the second-largest importer of timber in the world after China (Forest Research, 2018). Further to this, the UK has diplomatic and business ties to Commonwealth nations and strong trading links transnationally, setting an example of exemplary due diligence standards to the rest of the world.


Action within the UK will work to improve the understanding of UK buyers and specifiers of both the qualities of tropical timber products and the value of national Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) processes and FLEGT licensing in reducing compliance and reputational risks.


Specific work will be tailored to include FLEGT more widely in communications, promotion of information development and sharing, additional e-learning modules created on FLEGT education and tropical timber, and raising the positive profile of tropical hardwood and FLEGT generally.


Work within the UK will largely be a continuation or development of projects during the 2019-2021 FLEGT communications program, including the Conversations about Climate Change project, e-learning and education/ awareness-raising activities through various articles, seminars, and promotion.

The UK COP26 focused aspect of the TTF FLEGT program aims to create a focused and more powerful center of forestry-related activity, deemed essential to positive international climate action.


COP26 is a global United Nations Summit around climate change, looking at how countries are planning to tackle this environmental crisis and defining actions for climate action. This will be the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted, and it has been described as the most significant climate event since the 2015 Paris Agreement.


Activities include the design, development, and construction of a Forest & Forestry Pavilion, which will bring together and engage the fifteen tropical Voluntary Partnership Agreement countries, embarking upon FLEGT-licensing.  Efforts will ensure that FLEGT and tropical timber are placed on the climate agenda and continued presence after the event in November.


The EU is an important actor in the FLEGT Action Plan. The EU FLEGT Action Plan, established in 2003, aims to eradicate illegal logging and associated illegal timber trade through strengthening enforcement, governance, and regulations in tropical countries around the world.


Instigating the FLEGT Action Plan, the EU has a strong partnership with the fifteen countries currently implementing or negotiating their Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) – the prerequisite of FLEGT-licensing.


Work within Europe will continue to improve the understanding of buyers and specifiers of the qualities of tropical timber products. In addition, continued education on the value of national VPA processes and FLEGT licensing in reducing compliance and reputational risks. The Timber Trade promotes FLEGT-licensed timber as a legal and verified way to import tropical timber – stimulating European markets to use and grow the demand for FLEGT-licensed products.


China is the world’s largest importer of timber. The TTF FLEGT Project will build on the increased capacity of Chinese plywood associations in order to provide information on UK and EU market requirements – this includes the UKTR, EUTR, CRP, and developing guidance for Chinese importers, manufacturers, and exporters.


In addition, work will assist members in meeting these requirements and expand on achievements to date. Find out more about our work with China through our Chinese Plywood Project page.


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 being negotiations in 2007. The formal forestry sector employs around 120,000 Ghanaians, with timber recognised as an essential part of the future livelihoods and the sustainable economy of Ghana.


The FLEGT project will build on the increased capacity of Ghanaian trade associations to continue to engage members in national FLEGT processes and provide support throughout the VPA process. In addition, provide information on EU and UK market requirements (for example the EUTR and UKTR) and assist members in meeting these requirements. This will be conducted through a specifier and importer study, continued conversations and collaborations, exporter training, and the creation of business development guides.


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 TTF FLEGT work plan will build on the increased capacity of Indonesian trade associations to continue to engage members in national FLEGT processes. In addition, the TTF will continue to provide information on EU and UK market requirements (for example the EUTR/ UKTR) and assist members in meeting those requirements. Specific work will aim to increase the use of FLEGT messaging by Indonesian exporters and associations through enhanced communications, collaborations, and resource sharing on FLEGT and tropical timber. The development of a UK and EU specifier/ importer study will be designed for results sharing with Indonesian associations and the creation of exporter training and business development guides.


Vietnam plays a key role in processing in the timber sector of Southeast Asia. The VPA agreement between Vietnam and Europe entered force in June 2019. 


Recognising the importance of Vietnam on a global trading scale, the TTF FLEGT project has incorporated Vietnam as a further VPA country for engagement. The two main objectives for Vietnam are to provide information on UK and EU market requirements and assist members in meeting those requirements. An introductory portion of relationship building with associations and companies will work to develop a due diligence toolkit on UK and EU market requirements involving dialogue exchanges with priority countries, retailers, trade associations, and wider stakeholders.

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.