Game changer in timber packaging world: Indonesia is first to issue FLEGT licences

Indonesian FLEGT licensed timber arriving in Europe for the first time
Indonesian FLEGT licensed timber arriving in Europe for the first time (EFI FLEGT)
The wait is over: FLEGT licences are here.

On 15 November 2016, Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensed timber from Indonesia arrived in Europe for the first time. The licences are now issued to accompany verified legal products it exports to the EU. The advantage of this is that FLEGT-licensed products are considered to comply with the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits EU operators from placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market.

This is the first FLEGT licence to be issued globally, and is a huge step in the timber world towards reducing illegal logging and allowing illegal products to enter the market. Any Indonesian timber products listed in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) annex on product scope and shipped to the EU after 15 November will not be permitted to enter the EU market unless they are FLEGT-licensed.

What is the historical context?

In 2003, the European Commission published the EU FLEGT Action Plan. The Action Plan was designed to improve forest governance, strengthening the legality and sustainability of forest management by promoting trade and thus reduce illegal logging.

FLEGT has seven specific aims:
• Supporting timber producing countries
• Promoting trade in legal timber
• Promoting environmentally and socially beneficial public procurement policies
• Supporting private-sector initiatives
• Financing and investment safeguards
• Using existing or new legislation
• Addressing the problem of conflict timber

Indonesia has undergone years of negotiations, having begun discussions in 2007 and has created new systems to control, verify and license timber. In 2011, Indonesia agreed to a VPA and this was signed in 2013, and came into force in 2014. This new legality assurance system (LAS) includes a clear definition of what constitutes legal timber, a procedure for verifying control of the supply chain (and the tools and knowledge for verification), licensing by a national authority and an independent audit. Now Indonesia has begun to issue FLEGT licences, timber will not be exported unless it is accompanied by a licence, to ensure no illegally logged timber can enter the market.

Other countries

Other countries are expected to follow Indonesia’s example. Currently five other countries are developing control systems (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Liberia and the Republic of Congo), and on 18 November 2016, Vietnam and the EU agreed to promote trade in legal timber and timber products and improve governance in the forest sector through a VPA in principle . A further eight are also negotiating VPAs including Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand.

So what does it mean for companies?

FLEGT is a big achievement for producer and consumer countries working together to prevent illegal timber products entering the market. However, it is still vital that as a company you continue to undertake due diligence for all timber and timber based products being placed on the market, particularly when bringing products into the EU. While a FLEGT license demonstrates that the timber has met the requirements of the EUTR, like any certification scheme due diligence should be conducted to ensure the license is genuine and intended for the product being supplied. This not only applies to your own action, but your suppliers too.

Products this could affect include office and catering supplies (such as desks, chairs or napkins) but also some packaging. For more information on what products could be included or for more information on FLEGT licensing, please contact us at