We think that our research is important for a broad range of stakeholders.
The recent implementation of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) means that a certain level of due diligence has to be met to ensure that the legality of the wood used in furniture was legally harvested. Some countries are negotiating Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) with timber and wood product exporting countries to effectively ‘green lane’ trade with the EU, with the agreement that national systems in exporting countries meet EU standards for timber legality verification. Without a VPA, the companies involved in importing and exporting will have to prove that the timber imported to the EU was harvested legally.
Here are some reflections on why we think the issue of EU timber and wood furniture trade is important for different groups:
EU furniture traders, manufacturers and timber traders
- The EU is a major furniture importer and imports about USD 15 million of wood furniture every year and about USD 3.6 billion of timber (based on our calculations of 2014 data from UNcomtrade).
- All of these timber and wood products must be verified as legal. In countries that have a VPA, this might be easier overall, but it may affect different types of producers in different ways.
- EU importers may find that their suppliers may be challenged to export to the EU, resulting in possible increased costs, or the necessity to change suppliers companies that can meet the requirements. This could have implications in terms of from what countries EU importers can import and with which suppliers they are able to trade.
- At the same time, retailers may be able to alleviate concerns of consumers by assuring them that wood products in the EU are harvested legally, and therefore do not contribute to illegal logging.
- The implications on ecolabelling initiatives are not yet clear, but it is possible that there is a positive or negative impact on ecolabelled products.
We think that these arrangements will have some influence on markets, even if they are not yet felt that strongly.
Furniture manufacturers, timber harvesters, processors, traders and exporters in the Global South
- VPAs and verification of legality come with significant costs. In order for these verification systems to be robust, they require monitoring and processes that are resistant to corruption.
- Different types of companies may be more or less able to adapt to the EU requirements. This may mean that the EU market becomes more accessible to some companies and less to others. In order to stay in business, this may require alternative market arrangements, with possible costs and the need to develop new market relations.
- The prices of legal timber may change in comparison to illegal timber as a result of verification systems and altered market access.
We think that these arrangements will have some influence on markets and what types of companies will be able to access what types of markets.
- FLEGT presents an innovative governance model from with there are significant lessons to learn. While several other studies look at the effectiveness of FLEGT to reduce illegal logging and therefore deforestation, ProdJus will uniquely analyse perceptions of ‘justice’ as different groups of stakeholder understand them. Our findings will therefore provide perspectives that will inform not only FLEGT, but other attempts at influencing natural resource management through trade.
We think that by looking at justice in FLEGT, we will elucidate perceptions about natural resource governance that could lead to improvements of some areas of policy and confirmation of effectiveness and legitimacy of others.
Customary forest users in the Global South
- The idea of ‘legal’ is not understood the same way by all groups. Although the VPA allows each country to define what ‘legal’ means, State definitions of legality are often contested. Since verification involves monitoring, it is likely that conflicting understandings of ‘legality’ are protruded under the VPA.
- In different countries, community-managed forest products may be included or exempted from verification. Depending on the context, this could mean improved or reduced ability to sell timber to companies oriented towards export.
- Forest users could be better protected against infringement of illegal loggers in customary forests due to the verification of legality.
We think that these arrangements will have some influence on customary users in terms of livelihoods and customary land claims.