SVLK Sustainability Credentials Stressed

8 April 2022

Indonesia’s development and rebrand of its timber legality assurance system is seen as potentially adding value to FLEGT, writes consultant editor Mike Jeffree

The EU’s proposed new deforestation regulation has raised doubts over the future of its Forest Law, Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement programme (FLEGT VPA).

If the regulation is implemented as proposed, FLEGT-licensed timber would no longer have preferential ‘green’ access to the EU market. It would subsume the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and absorb elements of FLEGT VPAs with supplier countries into new Forest Partnerships. FLEGT Licences would still be acknowledged as proof of timber’s legality, but EU importers would be required to put licensed goods through due diligence to ensure zero linkage with deforestation or ‘forest degradation’.

The UK has stressed its continued support for FLEGT VPAs and confirmed that FLEGT-licensed imports will still have preferential market access without having to undergo due diligence under the UK Timber Regulation (UKTR). But the loss of the free pass for licensed timber to the EU is seen by some as disincentivising supplier countries engaged in VPAs from progressing them.

Indonesia, however, the only country to date to be authorised to issue FLEGT licences, having committed huge amounts of time and energy to implementing its VPA, is not letting latest developments cut the ground from under its feet. It has further developed its SVLK Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS), which underpins its FLEGT licensing scheme, and rebranded it the Indonesian Forest Legality and Sustainability Assurance System.

In latest communications, developed with backing from the UK Multistakeholder Forestry Programme (MFP4), the Indonesians say they have been developing SVLK since 2001 to help “eradicate illegal logging, promote sustainable timber trading and reinforce good forest governance”. However, they add, to date the market focus has been on SVLK certification as proof of legality. This, combined with the increasing “shift of international markets towards responsible trading in forest products”, has led them to “strengthen the SVLK system with a more robust regulatory framework” and greater “regularity emphasis on sustainability”.

So, stress the Indonesian authorities, as well as providing assurance that timber and wood products have been produced in compliance with all local laws and regulation, SVLK certification and, hence, Indonesian FLEGT licensing provides added proof too that the forests where they originated have been managed to strict environmental, social and economic criteria. These ensure use of reduced impact logging, demarcation of protected areas and protection of endangered species. To achieve SVLK certification, forestry companies must also undertake environmental impact assessments, implement sustainable landscape management and safeguard forests’ provision of environmental services.

SVLK social obligations on businesses include that their activities impact positively on all stakeholders and that they observe workers’ rights and land rights of indigenous and local people. They must also guarantee fair distribution of forest benefits.

SVLK from the outset had a sustainability focus. Now the Indonesians have reinforced that. Some feel they have also provided a template for other VPA countries to develop their timber legality assurance systems and the way they communicate them, potentially helping ensure a further value for FLEGT into the future.

Mike Jeffree