Mark Rayfield, chief executive of Saint Gobain Building Products (SGBD), said he believes subsidiaries International Timber and Jewson fulfilled their EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) due diligence risk analysis obligations on ipe imported from the Brazilian state of Pará .

Greenpeace, however, said that the company’s suppliers had previously been fined for "forest crimes" and that timber laundering was widespread in Pará. In its report, "The Amazon’s Silent Crisis", it went further, claiming illegality was endemic in the state’s timber sector. It also told TTJ that suppliers’ bona fide-looking legality documentation was often obtained fraudulently.

Subsequent to the NGO’s claims, SGBD says the offending ipe has been withdrawn from sale pending further supply chain audit and investigations by the UK EUTR competent authority (CA) enforcement agency, the National Measurement Office. And Greenpeace has also urged other CAs across Europe to probe Brazilian Amazon imports.

All this underlines that the EUTR is bringing the timber sector under even greater NGO scrutiny. More importantly it highlights the demands and complexities of satisfying the Regulation. And if a business as well resourced and demonstratively environmentally committed as SGBD has had problems, some smaller companies must be seriously struggling in the face of the kind of issues Greenpeace has highlighted in Pará. The episode has also strengthened calls for greater central guidance for the timber sector from the EU to help it comply with the EUTR. The Regulation, says this lobby, expects timber traders to be expert in international timber and forestry legislation, detectives able to spot fraudulent documentation and illegality intelligence gatherers.

So what members of the European Timber Trade Federation want for a start is a central information bank on supplier country laws EU timber ‘operators’ have to observe to meet the EUTR’s requirements . Others also want the support of an EU intelligence centre constantly assessing illegality risk factors worldwide.

The Spanish federation AEIM already has the rudiments of the latter, and the tropical timber organisation ATIBT has been working on a more general industry EUTR information platform. So, say supporters of such projects, there are foundations to build on.

The availability of more central EUTR back-up, they maintain (and they also advocate speedier appointment of more EUTR Monitoring Organisations), would not lessen obligations on timber companies to do due diligence. But they would underpin the latter, which would in turn reinforce the Regulation and its effectiveness in combating the illegal trade.