It’s time for UK importers, traders and users of tropical timber product to accept responsibility for their part in global deforestation and its impact on some of the poorest countries. We must open our eyes to the consequences of what, for many suppliers, has been a largely laissez-faire attitude towards illegal logging. By upping our game and co-operating with the government, we can have a significant impact on the continuing social injustices and environmental damage that this industry is helping to perpetuate. Some in the trade have made positive steps towards minimising the amount of illegal timber in circulation, but we have not gone far enough.

The government’s April 1, 2009 [sustainable procurement] deadline is an achievable goal. While it won’t be an easy target to reach, it is in our interests – both ethically and commercially – and those of developing countries to embrace this initiative.

I’m sure we all agree that there is poor understanding of the government’s current policy requirements among government buyers and the supply chain, and that policing of the policy has been far from ideal. While this has led to scepticism and frustration, it should not result in antagonism or apathy amongst the very people who are instrumental in making it happen.

As the government works towards putting more effective monitoring and enforcement in place, the timber trade must do its part to move towards a complete blockade of illegal timber entering the EU and to supporting supply chains that provide sustainable timber product.

Achieving the goal of legal and sustainable timber supply to the UK requires private sector determination and co-ordination with public sector efforts. While options for implementing legislation are considered, and commitments to VPAs are negotiated, accelerated development of the market for legal and sustainable timber product through smart procurement policies, like the government’s, is imperative.

Of course, there are myriad issues to overcome, but if we approach these complexities with the bigger picture in mind, knowing what we can achieve if we consolidate our efforts, we will succeed.