Author: Todd Frank, Director, SCS Southeast Asia
November 15, 2016 marked a historic day for the forestry sector in Indonesia and for timber legality efforts globally. Indonesia became the world’s first country to export forest products licensed under the European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. This means that Indonesia’s forest products now automatically meet the strict requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, designed to prohibit illegal timber products from entering the EU.
The FLEGT Action Plan “aims to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.” This approval is an important achievement for both Indonesia and the European Union, representing more than ten years of work by the respective government agencies and by a variety of stakeholders to implement a transparent and credible system of timber legality throughout the Indonesian forest products sector.
This milestone is particularly gratifying to me. Having worked as a member of the SCS Forest Conservation Program for more than a decade, I know first-hand the environmental and social costs of illegal forestry practices. I have held an endangered orangutan in my arms, and witnessed how communities and biodiverse forests can be put at risk.
I have also audited exemplary forestry operations, and have a deep appreciation for the steps required to assure that laws on the books translate into actions on the ground.
In 2012, when I relocated my young family from the San Francisco bay area to Bali, I was well aware of the slash-and-burn methods that have led to devastating losses of tropical forests across large swaths of Southeast Asia. More than one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of Indonesian rainforest are estimated to be cleared each year.
SCS has been active in the issue of timber legality since 2008, when we founded the SCS Legal Harvest program, a pioneering certification standard to ensure that timber products are not being derived from illegal logging. I had the good fortune to personally participate as a stakeholder in the process that led to the establishment of the timber legality system set up by Indonesia for approval under the EU FLEGT Action Plan. The system is known as SVLK (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu).
SVLK became law in Indonesia in 2009 for all wood and paper products that are imported, exported, transported, or processed. Companies large and small throughout the forest products sector in Indonesia are required to participate, undergoing a rigorous certification process that includes an audit by an accredited certification body such as SCS. Much of Indonesia’s thriving furniture industry, for example, is comprised of tiny mom-and-pop shops – even these must be certified. The President of Indonesia owned a small furniture manufacturing company before entering politics. His company is now SVLK certified.
By becoming the first country to issue FLEGT Licenses through its SVLK program, Indonesia hopes to increase bilateral timber trade to the EU, which is currently worth roughly $1 billion USD. The importers in the EU stand to benefit by no longer having to conduct in-depth due diligence evaluations to ensure that the products meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation.
Check out this unique animated cartoon, which provides a good overview of the SVLK program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJRwVqxViO4. And this dramatized tutorial is also quite informative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tXANzDVRaM
PT SCS Indonesia has been accredited as an SVLK certification body since 2013. Since that time SCS has issued 75 SVLK certificates and over 2700 “V-Legal” certificates. Clients certified range from small family operated furniture makers to some of the largest paper mills in the world. We’re proud to have played in role in the SVLK system and look forward to continued success and improvement under the new FLEGT licensing system.
If you want to know more about SVLK, don’t hesitate to reach out. And here are a few additional articles you might be interested in reviewing:
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