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Post: Sustainable Forestry in the EUDR Era: FSC’s Blueprint for Compliance

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Sustainable Forestry in the EUDR Era: FSC’s Blueprint for Compliance

Blindsided by EUDR

It is fair to say the European Union’s Deforestration Regulation (EUDR) blindsided many living beyond their borders, the South African Forestry Industry included.

The EUDR came into force in June 2023 and through it the European Union (EU) aims to mitigate the adverse effects of deforestation and forest degradation driven by the consumption patterns of EU member states. EUDR recognises the detrimental role deforestation and forest degradation plays in the climate and biodiversity crises we currently face and puts in place legislation to help mitigate this.

While an intensified global effort to combat deforestation and address climate change can only be viewed as a good thing, it will impact all those forestry producers wishing to access the lucrative European markets. If South Africa’s Forestry Sector wants to continue exporting our forest products to the EU market it is paramount that we understand and adhere to the requirements set out in the EUDR.

In this article, we explore the implications of EUDR for South Africa’s Forestry Sector and examine how the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) is playing a crucial role in supporting compliance efforts.

The driving force behind EUDR

EUDR replaced the existing EU Timber Regulation, placing greater emphasis on tackling deforestation and forest degradation and signaling a renewed EU’s commitment to promoting transparency and traceability across global supply chains, ensuring that products consumed within the EU are sourced responsibly.

Its goals are threefold:

  1. to prevent the availability of products linked to global deforestation.
  2. reduce the carbon footprint associated with certain commodities.
  3. to address deforestation caused by agricultural expansion.

 

Regulatory scope

The EUDR applies to operators and traders importing products into the EU market, excluding Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). It encompasses seven commodities known to significantly contribute to deforestation: timber, beef, palm oil, soy, coffee, cocoa, and rubber, along with their derivatives.

The six core requirements outlined by the EUDR include:

  1. Compliance with Legal Conditions: Ensure that products comply with relevant legislation in the country of production, including laws pertaining to land use, labour rights and human rights.
  2. Social Protection Measures: Uphold social protection measures, including fair wages and safe working conditions, to safeguard the rights and well-being of workers involved in the production process.
  3. Proving Deforestation- and Degradation-Free Status: Provide evidence demonstrating that products are sourced from areas free from deforestation and forest degradation occurring after December 31, 2020.
  4. Geolocation Data: Furnish geolocation data indicating the provenance of materials, including the precise coordinates of the production areas, to ensure transparency and traceability across the supply chain.
  5. Traceability: Establish traceability mechanisms to track the journey of products across the supply chain lifecycle, enabling verification of their compliance with EUDR requirements.
  6. Risk Assessment and Mitigation: Conduct comprehensive risk assessments to identify potential non-compliance risks and implement appropriate mitigation strategies to address them effectively.

 

As the South African Forestry Sector harvests commercially planted (or farmed) trees, rather than indigenous forests like elsewhere in the world, there is a temptation to think EUDR does not apply to our timber products. This would be misguided, while it was not set out to protect commercial plantations, the products derived from them need to go through all the same checks as wood sourced from indigenous forests.

Forest Stewardship Council®(FSC®) leading the way

As Forestry Sectors across the globe brace for the impact of the EUDR, the role of organisations like the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) become increasingly significant. FSC, recognized globally for its commitment to sustainable forestry practices, is poised to assist companies in navigating the complexities of EUDR compliance while advancing the mission of protecting our forests.

In many ways, FSC’s mission and the objectives of the EUDR are inherently aligned, both aiming to safeguard forests and promote responsible sourcing practices. Leveraging its extensive experience and expertise in sustainable forestry, FSC is well-positioned to support the Forestry Sector in South Africa, and beyond, to meet EUDR obligations effectively.

Integrated Tools for Compliance

In response to the implementation of the EUDR, FSC is set to launch ‘FSC EUDR Aligned’ by June 2024. This initiative will provide a comprehensive suite of integrated tools designed to assist operators and traders across the supply chain in meeting their compliance requirements. FSC EUDR Aligned will guide stakeholders through the due diligence process, offering clear guidance and support at every step.

Does FSC Certification assure EUDR compliance?

While FSC certification does not exempt companies from EUDR obligations, it serves as a robust foundation for compliance efforts.

FSC certifications already fulfill numerous EUDR requirements, including legal conditions and social protection measures. By leveraging FSC certification, companies can streamline their compliance journey and access valuable guidance and technologies to facilitate data collection and processing.

The FSC EUDR Aligned will go beyond this, providing tools and frameworks tailored to meet EUDR core standards and alleviating significant compliance burdens on FSC members.

Conclusion

As South Africa’s Forestry Sector prepares for the implementation of EUDR, collaboration with organizations like the FSC who are developing frameworks and toolkits will be instrumental in ensuring smooth compliance processes. Forestry South Africa’s (FSA) Environmental Management Committee (EMC) has a close working relationship with FSC Southern Africa and will work closely with them to help the Sector navigate the international regulatory landscape with confidence, while contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.

Source: Forestry South Africa – Newsletter (Pages 26 – 27)

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