RELEASE: Forest Legality Alliance introduces new and improved Risk Tool

Author(s)

Loretta Cheung

Illegal logging has long been an environmental concern, as well as a widespread organized crime and governance problem.  In recent years, avoiding illegal wood has also become a significant issue for businesses in the forest products sector.  The U.S. Lacey Act, European Union Timber Regulation and Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act require anyone importing wood to know where their products are coming from and take steps to eliminate illegal wood from their supply chains. To this end, an essential step is to understand the risks of sourcing certain species, and from certain countries.  It has been difficult, however, for businesses to obtain reliable information on timber legality risks.

The Forest Legality Alliance’s new and improved Risk Tool is now helping to bridge that information gap, and thereby helps companies conduct due care and make informed sourcing decisions. The Risk Tool provides country- and species-focused information to help buyers and importers understand the legal context of the products they buy. The country profiles for major wood producing and processing countries provide information on laws that govern the forest sector in the country of harvest, transparency indicators, a list of local contacts, and more. The species profiles of commercially important species provide information on commonly used trade names, the scientific name, endangered and CITES status, and other associated risks, if any, of using the species.

The Risk Tool was in development and available in “beta” form for three years. In this time, the FLA team focused on building the country and species profiles, adding more content each year, and soliciting feedback from our members and users. At the 12th semi-annual membership meeting held in Washington on January 27-28th, we introduced the new and improved Risk Tool, re-designed based on feedback and experience with the beta version. The re-designed Risk Tool features better presentation of information and improved navigation to enhance the user experience and help users more easily find the information they need. Here are some of the improvements:

  • Smartphone and tablet users make up 15% of users accessing the tool, and growing. The Tool can now be seamlessly used on all web-browsing devices.
  • Users can now translate over 100 pages on the Risk Tool into 90 languages using Google Translate. Though the translations are not perfect, it enables non-English-speaking users to use the Risk Tool right away, while we work with interested partners to adapt the tool to other languages.
  • The Risk Tool now features greater integration between country and species profiles. Country profiles list species that can be found in that country and users can access the species profiles directly from the country profiles. Likewise, users can jump to country profiles directly from species profiles.
  • On the country profiles, we’ve added a “tools and resources” tab. In addition to providing information, the Risk Tool also intends to point users to useful information developed by other groups who also work on developing resources for companies. The “tools and resources” tab lists some of these resources.
  • The species profiles can now be filtered by conservation status and CITES status.

The Risk Tool now features 21 countries and 68 species; more will be added soon. We are always looking for suggestions for how the Risk Tool can be improved to better serve users and adapted for more targeted audiences; please contact us at forestlegality@wri.org if you would like to provide feedback or discuss tailoring of the information included in the Risk Tool to your training purposes.