“Illegal logging throughout the world’s forests continues to undermine efforts to promote social equity, environmental conservation and sustainable economic growth in many nations,” the Rainforest Alliance reports. “In developing countries alone, it has been suggested that illegal logging may result in lost assets and revenues of more than US $10 billion annually.” To address the problem, the Rainforest Alliance has released updated timber legality verification standards to help companies protect their supply chains and comply with new laws.
In the United States, the government has amended the Lacey Act to include a ban on illegally harvested wood and wood products. The European Commission’s Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) has focused on promoting the availability, utilization and trade in legal forest products imported by the European Union (EU). New regulations are under development to define the requirements for timber importers who place wood and wood products in the EU markets.
“Third-party auditing is critical,” says Christian Sloth, verification services manager for the Rainforest Alliance. “We developed standards for verification of legality to respond to a growing need for companies to provide assurances – to customers, owners, investors, or the general public – that answer questions about the legal status of timber sources.”
The Rainforest Alliance approach to legality includes a step-by-step approach starting with two levels of legality assurance; the first level is Verification of Legal Origin (VLO). Verification of Legal Origin (VLO) verifies that timber comes from a source that has a documented legal right to harvest, according to the laws and regulations of the local government. Suppliers of VLO timber must follow and maintain documented chain-of-custody systems.
The second level of legality verification is called Verification of Legal Compliance (VLC). The VLC standard expands upon the basic component of VLO by verifying that timber harvesting complies with all applicable laws and regulations related to forestry, including laws relating to environmental protection, wildlife, water and soil conservation, harvesting rules, worker health and safety, and fairness to communities.
The Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program updated legality verification standards can be downloaded from the legality verification site at www.rainforest-alliance.org.