(This page was last updated in April 2022)
Swiss Timber Trade Ordinance
The Swiss Timber Trade Ordinance (TTO, Ordinance No 814.02 on Placing Timber and Wood Products on the Market) outlines the obligations of operators and traders who place timber and timber products on the Swiss market. Initiated via a parliamentary initiative in 2017, an important objective of the Regulation was to align Swiss law with the EUTR and eventually seek mutual recognition.
Thus, like the EUTR, the TTO has three key components:
- It prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber and products derived from illegally harvested timber on the Swiss market;
- It requires the “first placer” (operator) of timber products on the Swiss market to exercise due diligence; and
- It requires traders who deal in timber products after the first placing to keep records enabling basic traceability of supply chains.
The product scope mirrors the scope of the EUTR and covers a wide, but not an exhaustive range of timber and wood products. The products are categorized along HS codes and listed in Annex 1 of the Regulation.
"Due diligence" in the TTO context requires operators to undergo a process to minimize their risk of placing illegally harvested products on the Swiss market. The approach shares similarities with the concept of "due care" in the U.S. Lacey Act, but as in Europe, it is a prescriptive system with specific steps that must be followed. The three elements of the due diligence system are:
- Information: The operator must have access to information describing the timber and timber products, country of harvest, species, quantity, details of the supplier and information on compliance with national legislation.
- Risk assessment: The operator must assess the risk of illegal timber in the supply chain, based on the information identified during the first step, and taking into account criteria set out in the TTO.
- Risk mitigation: When the assessment shows that the risk of illegal timber in the supply chain is non-negligible, the operator must mitigate the risk by requiring additional information and verification from the supplier and/or taking further mitigation steps.
The competent authority responsible for enforcing the TTO is the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). Organizations can develop and maintain their own DDS or seek support from a recognized inspection body. Recognition requires, among other criteria, accreditation against ISO/IEC 17020, 2012.
Due to an interruption in the overall Switzerland-EU free trade agreement negotiations in 2021, mutual recognition of the TTO and the EUTR is not being pursued for now. This means that the law also applies to material imported from the EU.
FOEN published guidance on several categories of material (CITES, EU imports, FLEGT-licensed timber, etc.) and how to treat them under the TTO. Only valid CITES documentation can be considered proof of legality, whereas FLEGT licenses, existing EUTR DDS documentation and certification status can be considered as risk mitigating properties.
In the event of intentional violation of the prohibition to place illegal timber on the market and the due diligence requirements, there is a risk of imprisonment of up to three years or a fine. Fines for intentional violations of the provisions on traceability can reach up to CHF 20,000.
An excellent website with additional resources on the TTO was created by FOEN and is available in German, French and Italian.
Enforcement to date
FOEN has started to implement an enforcement strategy which includes priority setting via a risk- based approach and close cooperation with the customs authority. They are also building an online platform and digital workflow for controls, where operators and traders can submit their evidence of compliance.
Declaration of wood and wood products
In addition to the TTO, which entered into force on January 1st, 2022, Swiss law has also included an obligation to declare wood species and countries of origin to consumers since 2012. The product scope of this Regulation is limited to solid wood products and a list of associated HS codes that is different from the TTO list. The law obliges businesses that sell to consumers to provide the information on species and origin directly on the product, next to it or on its packaging.
The competent authority for the wood declaration obligation is the Federal Consumer Affairs Bureau (FCAB). More information can be found on the bureau’s website.
Penalties and enforcement to date
By January 2022, no convictions had been reported regarding infringement of the Regulation and sanctions are not clearly specified. However there has been some mainstream media coverage regarding infringements from well-known brands and public pressure for stricter enforcement. Subsequently, FCAB and the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) communicated an update on the enforcement approach:
"Under the new procedure, starting in January 2022, the FCAB will notify the EAER if it finds a violation of the wood declaration obligation after an inspection. Based on the results, the EAER, as the prosecuting and judging authority, then opens administrative criminal proceedings and informs the companies concerned about the opening of the case and further steps."
The FCAB also provides a public form to report infringements for civil society and all other interested parties.