Schemes that can help establish a negligible risk of illegal timber

If you are able to obtain all the all relevant chain of custody/assurance scheme doucments relating to FLEGT or CITES or a robust VOC or VLC you can reasonably assume that your timber/timber product is assessed as neglible risk and due diligence is satisfied.

First see relative impartiality of different types of evidence for legality. 

Mandatory Schemes

There are two mandatory schemes that are implemented by or on behalf of Governments through a timber licensing system. These are:

FLEGT
Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) is an EU initiative to support countries to address illegal logging. A key part of the FLEGT action plan is the negotiation of bilateral voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs) between the European Union and timber-producing countries.

Under the terms of a VPA a country agrees with the EU to implement a timber licensing system. From that country, the EU only accepts licensed products, and unlicensed products are refused customs clearance.   The LAS ensures that timber entering the supply chain originates from legal sources and that the timber flows are controlled throughout the supply chain, from the forest where the timber is harvested through transport, storage facilities and processing until the point of export

The Regulation therefore exempts FLEGT-licensed timber and timber products from further due diligence requirements.

The operator can obtain information on all the partner countries and licensed products where agreements have been made or are in progress to ratification and implementation from the FLEGT website.

Defra (AHVLA section) is the designated competent authority for implementing the FLEGT licensing system in the UK.

Under the FLEGT Regulation, importers of timber coming from a country with which the EU has signed a VPA are required to present their FLEGT licence (issued by the exporting VPA country) to the UK competent authority for verification.

FLEGT explained.

Example FLEGT license.

CITES
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - regulates the trade in timber species and is a mandatory legality verification scheme which imposes controls on trade in certain species.  All import, export, re-exporting of the range of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.

CITES lists threatened or endangered wood species under three classifications, known as the Appendices. The restrictions on trade within these appendices vary depending on the extent to which the species is threatened with extinction.

In terms of compliance with the Regulation the operator is required to check the CITES species to identify if the species that it intends to place on the market is listed under any of the relevant Appendices.  Also see tree species for further details..

If the species is listed in these Appendices a permit is required from the relevant CITES Management Authority. The permit contains details of the exporter, details of the importer, the quantity, the species and the relevant management authorities’ details.  

All operators and traders that deal with this species have a legal obligation to ensure that all imports and trades are registered with the relevant authorities. It is important for all operators and traders dealing with these species to also question the endangered nature of these species. Trade in these species might be legal, but it is important to recognize that, in many cases, it is trade that has led to the need and requirement for close monitoring.

Further information is available from:
the EU and
Refrence guide

Verification schemes
Verification of legal origin (VLO) and verification of legal compliance (VLC) can be issued by certification bodies that have their own legal verification standard or audit against other certification bodies’ standards - see CPET – voluntary legality verification and other systems. Another option up is to buy certified timber and timber products under a chain of custody,

VLO verifies that timber comes from a known and licensed source and that the organization that carried out the harvest had the legal right to do so.  If the operator receives this material, they are still required to collate other documents relating to applicable legislation.  VLC expands upon the basic component of VLO by verifying that timber harvesting and other relevant management activities in the forest where it was harvested complied with all applicable and relevant laws and regulations.

See – CPET – Defining legality
And - links to different verification schemes

For an operator, requesting a VLC on the forest sources provides a mitigation tool where illegal harvesting, armed conflict or missing documentation have been identified as a risk.

For forests with VLO certificates, the operator would still need to mitigate further against other factors relating to compliance with legislation related to forest management, environment, labour and welfare, and health and safety, and compliance with requirements for trade and export procedures.

Two other initiatives exist to verify legality claims run by The Tropical Forest Foundation (TFF) and Timber Trade Action Plan (TTAP) managed by The Forest Trust (TFT).  Both initiatives provide information but cam require further mitigation measures such as verification by third parties.

Also see certification schemes.