Illegal logging laws - guidance for importers

​Importers must obtain information about the wood, pulp and paper products they intend to import into Australia and undertake a due diligence process to comply with the requirements for the Regulation. This process is to ensure, as far as can be reasonably and practicably determined, that the products they are importing are not derived from illegally harvested timber.

This section provides explanatory information and guidance on the four key elements of the due diligence requirements as outlined in the Regulation.

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Establish and maintain a due diligence system

Before importing a regulated wood, pulp or paper product, an importer must have a due diligence system in place.

The system needs to be in writing and should include your business or entity details including company name, street and postal address, ABN or ACN, and a description of your principal business activity.

It is also necessary to identify the person and position responsible for maintaining the due diligence system, and include their contact details.

To monitor the due diligence system effectively, you must maintain records covering all steps and elements of the due diligence system assessment and mitigation. Records can be kept digitally or on paper and must be maintained for at least five years.

The department has partnered with several industry bodies to produce a number of tools to help you carry out due diligence. These are listed under the Illegal Logging guidance material and resources page. They include step-by-step guidelines and procedures, and a collection of templates and forms that help you to undertake due diligence in practice.

Gathering information

Importers must seek to obtain information about the wood, pulp or paper products prior to importing into Australia.

The type of information you must endeavour to access and gather includes:

  • the country of harvest, the region within the country and the forest harvesting unit details;
  • the country in which the product was manufactured;
  • a description of the regulated timber product, including:
    • the type and trade name of the product; and
    • the common name, genus, or scientific name of the tree from which the timber is derived;
  • quantity of product;
  • the name, address, trading name, business and company identification numbers (if any) of the product’s supplier;
  • information required to use a Timber Legality Framework or Country Specific Guideline to inform the risk assessment (where relevant);
  • evidence the product has not been illegally harvested, which would include consideration of:
    • whether the harvesting of the species of tree (from which the timber in the product is derived) is prohibited where the timber has been harvested; and
    • if the harvesting of the timber in the place is authorised by legislation in the place of harvest (including regulations)—whether the requirements of the legislation have been met for the harvesting of the timber; and
    • if payment is required for the right to harvest the timber and whether that payment has been made; and
    • if a person has legal rights of use and tenure in relation to the place in which the timber is harvested—whether the harvest of the timber is inconsistent with the law establishing or protecting those rights.

This information can be gathered via a variety of methods including emails, web research, phone calls or on-site visits.

Undertake a risk assessment

You will use the information gathered to undertake a risk assessment and make an informed decision about the risk that the product(s) was derived from illegally harvested timber.

The Regulation allows you to use one of three methods to assess the risk associated with your products including –

Which method you choose to undertake your risk assessment is dependent on your individual circumstance.

In the case of a more complex risk assessment, you may also find that you don’t have enough information on the product(s) you intend to import and it may be necessary to seek further information than originally obtained.

Identifying and assessing risk against a Timber Legality Framework

A risk assessment can be done using a recognised Timber Legality Framework (TLF).

The timber legality frameworks currently recognised in Australia are listed under Schedule 2 of the Regulations and include FSC and PEFC.

If using the TLF risk assessment method, it is vital that you confirm the product(s) you plan to import are in fact, certified. While you might be dealing with a FSC or PEFC certified supplier, be aware they may also sell un-certified products.

As outlined in the information gathering element of the due diligence process, always do your research on the validity of the supplier and product you intend to import.

Table 1 below outlines the keys steps you can take to assess if your products are FSC and PEFC certified.

If after completing these steps you find that your products are not certified, you cannot use this risk assessment process and instead must undertake a risk assessment applying the regulated risk factors method or CSG method (if available).

Table 1: Assessing if your products are FSC or PEFC certified

Step One -  Check if supplier’s certificate number is legitimate

Actions

Certified suppliers should have a unique FSC or PEFC certificate code or licence number quoted on their certificate.

The number will generally follow the structure of: TT-COC-1234, BMT-PEFC-2334 or SGS-COC-12244.

Using either the certificate or license number, you can verify if the certificate or licence number is legitimate by searching on the relevant certification scheme’s website:

Common problems and solutions

If the number or code has been typed incorrectly and you cannot locate it online, contact your supplier and request they email you a hyperlink to the online certificate record or contact the respective scheme and query the certificate codes provided by supplier.

Step Two - Check your supplier is the certificate holder

Actions

When you have located the certificate details online, ensure they match the details provided by your supplier.

Common problems and solutions

If the details of your supplier do not match those on the certificate, you should seek to clarify the authenticity of the certificates.

If your supplier has claimed the product is FSC or PEFC certified, but it is not their name on the certificate the chain of custody may potentially be broken. You need to seek further information from the supplier or the relevant governing body. 

Where the chain is broken, you are not able to rely on the TLF and must undertake a risk assessment against the regulated risk factors or use the CSG method.

Step Three -  Check the certificate is valid for the period of supply

Actions

The expiry date of the supplier’s certificate should be listed on the FSC or PEFC’s websites. Check the certificate is valid for the associated period of supply.

Common problems and solutions

If the certificate appears to have expired or is currently suspended, you should seek further information as to why this has occurred. You may need to clarify this information with the supplier or discuss the matter directly with the governing bodies of the appropriate scheme.

Step Four - Check the products being supplied are listed on the certificate’s record

Actions

Certified suppliers can supply both certified and non-certified products. You will need to check that the products being supplied fall with the scope of your supplier’s FSC or PEFC certificate.

Common problems and solutions

If the product you are purchasing is not covered by your supplier’s certification, you should check with the supplier as to whether there is a mistake on the record. If this is the case, you should also ask for written confirmation from the certification body.

Step Five - : Check the product that is supplied is the product that was promised

Actions

After completing all of the steps above, it is a possibility that the supplier has not provided you with the certified product. This is also a risk that should be managed.

Common problems and solutions

You should seek a sample of invoices and delivery notes to make sure the certificate number is suitably quoted and that under the product description the product is listed as FSC or PEFC certified. Products listed as PEFC or FSC certified may include a product claim, such as:

  • FSC 100%, FSC Mix X%, FSC Mix Credit, FSC Controlled Wood
  • X% PEFC Certified, PEFC Controlled Sources

If you can complete the steps above, confirm that the timber you intend to import is certified, and are not aware of any other information that might suggest the product you are dealing with includes illegally logged timber, you can determine the risk is low and import the regulated timber products.

Using a Country Specific Guideline

These detailed documents are available to help importers better understand legal frameworks established in other countries that regulate the harvesting of timber.

The CSGs allow you to identify the information (such as certificates, licences or other documents) you can obtain from your supplier in order to be confident that the timber product you are importing presents a low risk of having been derived from illegally harvested timber.

If you elect to use this risk assessment pathway you should:

  • seek to gather the information outlined in the guideline
  • consider any other information that may indicate whether the product has been derived from illegally harvested timber (including the general information you have already obtained).

The Department updates guidance information as new information is available. We are currently developing further guidance on how to undertake a risk assessment using the CSG pathway.

We have negotiated and developed several Country Specific Guidelines (CSGs) which are published on our illegal logging guidance materials and resources page. We continue to work with our trading partners to develop additional Country Specific Guidelines

Using the regulated risk factors

The Regulation sets out risk factors that can be used to assess the risk associated with a particular regulated timber product. The method evaluates the information you have gathered, and assesses the risk against the factors outlined in Table 2.

The risk factors can be used by importers in respect of products from any source.

Table 2: Illegal logging risk factors for regulated timber products

Risk factor

Risk identification (low, medium, high)

Justification (reason for your low, medium, high)

1. Consider the occurrence of illegal logging in the area of harvest

Some countries/regions have strong governance and enforcement over forestry activities while others have less robust laws and issues with corruption. This factor effectively requires you to identify the risk of illegal logging in the country or region of harvest.

An indicator of risk might be that the timber is harvested from a known protected area, or your supplier is unable or unwilling to tell you where the timber has come from.

  

2. Consider the occurrence of illegal logging in the area the species is derived from.

Indicators of risk might include your supplier is unwilling or unable to tell you what species of timber is in your product, you are aware that the species doesn’t grow in the area where your supplier says it was harvested or that the species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ or ‘threatened’.

  

3. Consider the occurrence of armed conflict in the area of harvest.

Areas of armed conflict may make it difficult for the relevant authorities to control forest resources and to ensure legal management of timber extraction from such areas.

  

4. How complex is the product?

Long supply chains and complex composite products can create difficulty in understanding the timber components and their sources.

If you do not have full understanding of the components of the product and their source of supply you need to consider the risk that your product might be contain components from illegal sources.

  

5. Is there any further information that may indicate whether the logs were illegally logged?

*This factor requires you to consider any additional information that that indicates the timber was illegally logged.

Indicators of risk include:

- forged, inconsistent or missing documents
- the supplier is known to deal with illegally logged timber
- goods being sold significantly below the market rate
- appropriate taxes not included in price
- cash only, or lower price for goods without paperwork
- asked to pay a bribe
- unable to get rational answers to questions

  

FINAL RISK CONCLUSION (circle):

                     LOW                               MEDIUM                                       HIGH

If you have concluded the risk to be low, you have completed your risk assessment and can import the regulated timber products. You should maintain this record as evidence that you have completed a risk assessment. Any records need to be kept for 5 years.
If you have concluded the risk to be higher than low you must mitigate the risk. Refer to Risk Mitigation.

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Risk mitigation

Risk mitigation is required when you have undertaken a risk assessment and you have determined the risk to be anything higher than low.

The type of risk mitigation you undertake is flexible, however the mitigation needs to be adequate and proportionate to the identified risk. Examples of risk mitigation include, a decision to request additional evidence or information from your supplier as to the product’s legality or origin as the basis for a further risk assessment. You could also potentially ask your supplier to provide you with a certified alternative (if available) or even visit the supplier to learn more about their supply chains. Other risk mitigation activities might include changing products or suppliers.

Once you have applied an appropriate risk mitigation, you are required to document the steps you have taken and demonstrate how the mitigation action has reduced the overall risk of the product containing illegally logged timber.

If you are unable to mitigate the risk adequately and proportionately to the identified risk you must not import the product. If you do proceed to import the product(s) and are later found to have intentionally, knowingly or recklessly imported illegally logged timber, you could face serious penalties.

More information

We are here to help you comply with our illegal logging laws.

A suite of illegal logging publications, resources and guidance material is available under the Illegal logging guidance material and resources, including departmental education and guidance materials and resources developed in partnership between the department and industry.

Contact us for further information on how the laws operate and whether they affect you:

  • phone during business hours on 1800 657 313 or if outside of Australia +61 2 6272 3933
  • email illegal logging
  • subscribe to the illegal logging mailing list to stay informed of the release of any new information or guidance materials or any upcoming information events.
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