Sustainability is the USP for timber products; of that I have no doubt. The EU Timber Regulation is on its way. For many of you in the UK there will be little change. Under the regulation, if you are deemed a “trader”, and do not “first place” timber on the EU market, you are only required to be able to identify from whom you bought and to whom you sold.

But, for those who do “first place” timber in the EU and are termed “operators” under the regulation, there is some pain. While guidance on who “first placers” are is yet to be published, the regulation intended them to be companies which import from outside the EU and those that harvest EU forests.

So my advice is simple: if in doubt, assume you are an “operator” for the time being. That means you are obligated to undertake due diligence and are also subject to a prohibition that makes it an offence to place illegal timber on the market.

The onus is on the state to prove illegality and penalties are yet to be set by individual member states. One likely penalty is “losing the right to trade”. This has to be a motivating factor to ensure you take your obligations seriously.

But, while this regulation is causing some panic, due diligence is a common practice in business, and many of you are already doing it.

However, certification is not given a “green lane” under the EUTR. In practice the trade accepts it as evidence of legality and I hope that certification schemes’ criteria will be included in further EU guidance. But there is now pressure on the schemes to ensure they meet EUTR requirements.

Under the regulation, incidences of fraud and misleading claims are likely to rise. My role at the ETTF will be to ensure they’re exposed.

Legality is not the only parameter to consider. I have long advocated the need to promote all our sustainability credentials – LCA, carbon and so on.

The UNECE reported that, despite the current economic climate, the only construction sector to show resilience was “green” building. A prohibition at the border means the construction industry doesn’t have to spend time and money implementing their own timber checks – so they’ll buy more!

The timber trade still needs to capitalise on this opportunity. However, we should never forget that our raw material and forests are our unique assets and supply issues will remain at the heart of how we are judged.

The gain? The timber trade has been under the spotlight for years and we have progressed significantly. The goalposts may change but I am confident that implementing this regulation is a big step that improves the perception of timber. So the time for rhetoric has gone. Now action is needed.

Rest assured, though, I shall also be lobbying for other materials sectors to share the pain! As an industry we learnt to understand NGOs and it is fascinating to watch other sectors deal with them now. It will be interesting to see how it all ends.