With the introduction of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) only months away, PEFC UK hosted a Stakeholder Meeting in London on the 26 June, with the central theme of mitigating risk in procuring forest products. The first in an annual opportunity for the sustainable products community to come together and discuss pressing industry issues, saw a panel of industry experts spanning the timber, business consultancy, print and publishing and retailing sectors share their experiences and knowledge with nearly 100 delegates.
Central to all presentations was the EUTR. Ready to come into effect in March 2013, it will impact everyone trading in timber and timber products in the EU, including paper, packaging, furniture and wood fuel sectors. It will apply to all Member States and will make it illegal to place timber and timber products which have been illegally-harvested at the point of origin, onto the EU market.
Rachel Butler from the European Timber Trade Federation had a simple and clear message for the audience – know your obligations. If you are an operator or ‘first placer’ of the timber product onto the EU marketplace, it is crucial to remember that whilst certification and chain of custody is vitally important, the overriding factor and “key to implementation” is to exercise Due Diligence in your procurement methods. In terms of EUTR awareness, the timber trade is far ahead of the paper and pulp sectors in this regard. Rachel was also keen to explain that the EUTR should not be viewed as an import restriction. It is a mechanism to stem the import of illegal timber into the UK and create a watertight paper trail from forest to customer.
PEFC is in the process of revising its International Chain of Custody Standard, to support certified companies in meeting EUTR requirements and Sarah Price from PEFC International, put the EUTR into context within protecting corporate reputation, explaining how responsible sourcing and sustainability should be core to all procurement strategies. Consumers and customers are increasingly demanding this as a prerequisite to doing business. This was echoed by B&Q’s Sustainability Manager (Products) Julia Griffin, who said that traceability is increasingly being asked for by customers and as such they have a huge responsibility under the EUTR. Again, the central piece of advice was to have access to adequate information about your suppliers and products, and to carry out risk assessments to determine the risk of illegal timber entering at any point in your supply chain, and then take appropriate measures to mitigate the identified risks.
Mark Thompson from PwC, introduced some context surrounding the increase in regulatory controls and drivers for sustainable focus and how the pressures of the ‘mega trends’ of climate change and biodiversity has shot up the scale of interest at boardroom level. EUTR is part and parcel of these changing trends and for all commercial organisations, making sure that “sustainability is core to business strategy,” is where long term value creation will be made.
Summing up the event, Alun Watkins, who heads up PEFC UK, said: “We were delighted that so many PEFC stakeholders were able to join us for our inaugural stakeholder event. The theme of risk mitigation in the procurement of forest product was a popular choice and feedback from delegates has been very positive.” The full and busy afternoon ended with a drinks reception with many delegates remaining to discuss the issues and topics raised during the presentations and panel debate.