The introduction of the European Timber Regulation (EUTR) from March 2013 will prohibit the placement of illegal timber or timber products on the EU markets. The Association for British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) is dedicated to supporting the industry to meet its EUTR obligations, and here outlines the basic facts every member of the industry should know …
UK furniture manufacturers and retailers are likely to be classed as ‘operators’ and/or ‘traders’ under the EUTR – operators have more stringent obligations under the regulations than traders. Penalties under the EUTR can include fines, the seizure of goods and suspension from trading – its enforcement agency is the National Measurement Office.
What is an operator?
Operators are those that first place timber or timber products on the EU market. They are required to exercise due diligence (a framework of measures and procedures) when placing the products on the market, to determine that they are not illegally harvested. Due diligence must be completed prior to purchase. The requirements are to:
• Collect and allow access to specific information, covering: product description – country/region/area of harvest, species common (scientific) name, quantity, supplier, customer(s), and supporting documents and information
• Undertake a risk assessment – this is where information gained through supporting credible documents etc plays an extremely important part, coupled with any necessary checks
• Undertake additional risk mitigation procedures as appropriate – for example, from higher risk sources or where the supply chain is complex
While certified products with an unbroken chain of custody (eg PEFC and FSC) take you some way to establishing negligible risk of illegally-sourced timber, these and other similar schemes are not currently a green light to meeting the regulation. This is because two important areas are not covered sufficiently by these schemes, namely ‘country of harvest’ and ‘tree species’. PRFC and FSC are looking to address these problems at the moment.
What is a trader?
A ‘trader’ is a company further down the supply chain that has not first placed timber or timber products onto the EU market. The trader, for example, could be a furniture manufacturer that sources timber from a wholesaler in the EU, which itself buys the product from outside of the EU. In this example, the wholesaler is an ‘operator’. The obligations of the trader are:
• Upstream traceability – to record the name and address of the operators or the traders who have supplied the timber or timber products to you, and
• Downstream traceability – to record the name and address of the business to which you have supplied the product. Note that the downstream traceability requirement only applies business-to-business, not if you sell direct to the final consumer
• To keep this information for at least five years, and provide it to competent authorities if they so request. Therefore, companies would be best advised to introduce a record system by type that allows the easy identification of purchases and sales of timber/timber-based products. The records should cover at least a period of five years as far as retention is concerned.
It has become clear to the BFM that many multiples and some independent furniture retail stores will expect their furniture suppliers to satisfy them that the product is legally sourced in accordance with the EUTR. This means that even if a company is classified as a trader, the retailer will expect proof of legality and therefore the furniture supplier (even though not the ‘operator’) will need to obtain from its immediate supplier any relevant information and documentation that the retailer requires.
This is all about brand and reputation. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has produced guidance for its members on what they should expect from their suppliers.
The EUTR, for no logical reason we can ascertain, excludes seats from its scope, and this therefore means that a sofa, for example, could be imported from a country outside of the EU and contain illegally-sourced wood, but would not be subject to the due diligence requirement. However, if a furniture manufacturer brought in wood direct from outside of the EU to make a sofa, that wood would be subject to the EUTR and its due diligence requirements.
Why are seats exempt? The reason it seems is that seats were simply overlooked by the legislators. The BFM, through the British Furniture Confederation (BFC), and through the European employers’ association for the furniture and wood industry (UEA), are lobbying on this issue, and we understand that seats will be included within the EUTR at some future point. Also, it is worth stating that this exemption will be ignored by many retailers if they are keen to protect their reputation.
The BFM considers itself to be at the forefront in supporting the industry to meet its EUTR obligations, and as a part of this has initiated the following:
• Introductory seminar – September 2012 (supported by the Timber Trade Federation (TTF))
• Workshop on implementing the EUTR – December 2012 (members only) – jointly with AIS.
• Website – advice, guidance, including checklists and supplier questionnaires/declarations (members only)
• Engaged a consultant to provide support to members with implementing the EUTR and/or certification.
In addition to working closely with the TTF, the BFM has also forged partnerships and negotiated discounted certification rates for BFM members with the PEFC and the Soil Association. We are also in close liaison with the head of sustainability at the BRC.