In recent years, the domestic and international socio-political and business environments surrounding the forestry industry and trade have been changing significantly and rapidly, calling to address both legality and sustainability throughout timber supply chains and seeking contributions to the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given growing concerns about impacts of illegal logging and associated trade on climate change, biodiversity and revenue generating opportunity, there is an increasing number of countries with timber trading regulations requiring importers to demonstrate the origin and legality of timber and timber product. In 2017, the Government of Japan enacted the Clean Wood Act to promote the distribution and utilisation of legally harvested wood products in the country. Under the Act, importers are required to take measures to ensure that wood products they import into Japan have been legally sourced in compliance with the laws and regulations of the countries of origin.
In general, supply chains have become more complex, with more processed and/or mixing of timber sources. This makes it more difficult to determine a product’s original source. Also, high-value wood species inherently involve the risk of illegal logging due to high economic interests, often drawing international attention.
These complexities create difficulties to enhance the legal and sustainable timber trade. Timber importers dealing with processed timber products and high-value wood species are seeking more information on sourcing countries and evidence of legal and sustainable timber supply chains. The lack of information and knowledge could result in barriers to promote the trade of legal and sustainable timber and timber products.
Given this challenge, the development objective of the project is to contribute to enhancing importers’ commitment to the legality and sustainability of timber and timber products. Specifically, this project is to systematically analyse existing legality assurance systems/equivalent schemes and good practices in China, Myanmar and Viet Nam to support both Japanese and international stakeholders for the legal and sustainable timber trade.
China, Myanmar and Viet Nam have been selected as the target countries to be studied, given their important roles in suppling high-valued timber and finished and processed timber products on a global scale. Both China and Viet Nam import raw wood materials from a number of tropical countries, process them and then export globally the processed and finished wood products. Myanmar plays a significant role on the global market in supplying teak wood, which is considered as one of the high-value hardwood species and vulnerable to excessive harvest. Accordingly the project could provide useful information to promote the trade of legal and sustainable timber products globally.
The expected outputs of the project are: 1) Challenges for importers in assuring the legality and sustainability of timber and timber products from the target countries are identified; 2) Existing timber legality assurance systems/equivalent schemes in the target countries are analysed, with identification made of their strengths and weaknesses; 3) Good practices of upstream and downstream operators in the target countries in ensuring and verifying the legality and the sustainability of timber and timber products are collected and reviewed; and 4) Regional collaboration, information sharing and knowledge management are strengthened for both Japanese and international stakeholders.