Paper, packaging and the European Timber Regulations

Posted by John Mitchell on
The European Timber Regulation 995/2010 will come into force on 3 March 2013.

It has the laudable aim of prohibiting the placing of illegally harvested timber or timber products on the European market, and put obligations of those who place such goods on the market for the first time to carry out extensive due diligence to ensure that those products derive from legally harvested sources.

Those further down the supply chain are required to maintain records of who they have purchased products from, and have in place risk mitigation procedures to ensure they do not trade in illegally harvested timber.

Those dealing in wood, particle board veneer and other builders' joinery have been aware of this regulation for some time and their trade associations have done plenty of work in educating their members of its requirements and liaising with those countries where such products are often sourced.

However, this regulation also covers pulp and paper goods as listed in Chapters 47 and 48 of the Combined Nomenclature (normally used for tariff purposes.) This includes such varied items as toilet tissue, grease proof paper, wallpaper, envelopes, cartons, boxes, bags and labels.

For those who import such goods onto the EU market in a small scale, particularly from suppliers in Far East, they are likely to find that obtaining the detailed information they are required to collate extremely difficult.

Due diligence

The requirements for the due diligence system are set out both in the head regulation and a supplemental regulation (607/2012) setting out detailed rules concerning each element of the due diligent system.

In brief the three elements are as follows:

  1. Information gathering: concerning the supply of timber, including the species, country (and if relevant, region) of harvest, quantity and relevant documents indicating legality of harvest.
  2. Risk assessment: taking account of the prevalence of illegal harvesting in the country/region of origin or of that particular species of timber, and assurances of compliance to applicable legislation.
  3. Risk mitigation: the measures taken to reduce any identified risk to a point where it can be considered to be "negligible".

For those whose supplier outside the EU is not the initial party in the supply chain the gathering of information would need to include the name and address of any party in the supply chain between harvest and the person placing on the EU market.

Unless, following a full assessment of the product specific and the general information collated, no cause for concern can be discerned, then the third part of the due diligence system comes into play where risk mitigation is put into place.

All information prepared as a result of the due diligence system needs to be stored for 5 years and be made available for checks by the enforcement authorities.

Enforcement

The body charged with enforcing the regulation in the UK is the National Measurement Office. They will be carrying out checks on operators in accordance with a periodically reviewed plan following a risk based approach.

Any operator who places illegally harvested timber or timber products on the EU market, fails to apply due diligence or fails to maintain a due diligence system would be liable for a term of imprisonment for up to 3 months (as an individual) and/or a fine up to the maximum level of £5,000 for each offence if convicted in the Magistrate Court and a term of imprisonment for up to 2 years (if an individual) and/or an unlimited fine if convicted in the Crown Court.

Our view is that in the short to medium term enforcement will concentrate on those importing timber itself into the EU. However, anyone who imports paper or paper goods which would fall within this regulation needs to work with their suppliers to do all that they can to comply with the requirements of the due diligence system, and if commercially possible, prioritise dealing with the suppliers who are best able to provide the information required.

Article 6 of the Regulations specifically refers to the use of certification or other third party verified schemes to carry out the risk assessment process.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) does not currently provide sufficient information to enable the operator to have the specific information required under the product specific section of the due diligence system. However they are in the process of developing an on line claims platform which will enable information regarding species or origin of timber to be obtained.

In order for third party verified schemes to be recognised confirmation needs to be provided by the National Competent Authority and as at present it does not appear that this decision has been made by DEFRA concerning any third party verified schemes.

We believe that as the paper industry becomes more aware that they are covered by the regulation, and suppliers, particularly in the far east, are asked for this information on a regular basis, then more information, guidance and resources will be available to small businesses.

Advice can be sought from sustainability consultants who have experience in supply chain verification and would be able to advise as to the best way to obtain the information required.

About the Author

John specialises in risk and compliance, advising businesses in those areas of commercial life where the criminal law or penal sanctions are used to regulate business.

John Mitchell
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