On March 8th, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), using information provided by Greenpeace, filed a formal report on non-compliance with the public prosecutor about a Dutch timber importer who has breached the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR). The EUTR, which was passed in 2010, prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber and products derived from illegally harvested timber on the EU market. According to their press release, the NVWA has also charged the company with a non-compliance penalty per cubic meter of timber. The company, which remained unnamed in the press release, must pay this penalty if they continue to place timber on the market without a fully functioning due diligence system. The company has been importing timber from Cameroon, which carries inherent risks because of the political situation in the Congo Basin. Timber from this region may therefore only be placed on the EU market if importers take sufficient measures to ensure that the timber is legally harvested. The press release states that the NVWA had previously issued a warning to the importer for not taking such measures.
Enforcement of the EUTR in the Netherlands
The NVWA is responsible for enforcing the EUTR in the Netherlands. This regulation obliges companies which place timber, pulp and paper, and wooden furniture on the EU market to put in place a due diligence system. If there is a risk that imported timber may be illegally sourced, companies must take mitigation measures to reduce this risk. Examples of mitigation measures include buying certified timber, commissioning independent audits, or using DNA or isotopic analysis. If it is not possible to implement such measures, the company may no longer import these products into the EU.
To date, the NVWA has audited approximately 150 importers in the Netherlands, of which 25% were found to not be in compliance with the EUTR and were given six months to improve their due diligence systems. After this time period is over, these companies will be revisited and reaudited. The companies who have already been revisited have chosen to only market certified wood, or chosen a supplier from a different country where deforestation and manufacturing are controlled, or have even stopped importing wood themselves.
The NVWA will continue to revisit these companies, and in addition will focus enforcement particularly on companies importing wooden furniture from China, India and Vietnam. Furniture is often made from several different timber species which may be harvested in several source countries and assembled in producer countries in complex supply chains, making reliable due diligence systems particularly important.