Illegal logging laws - guidance for importers

This page provides explanatory information and guidance on the key elements of the illegal logging due diligence requirements, as set out in the Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012(the Regulation).

Additional helpful information on the due diligence requirements is on the Frequently Asked Questions and the Guidance Material and Resources webpages (including due diligence toolkits developed in partnership with selected industry associations).

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Step 1 - Establish and maintain a due diligence system

Before you import a regulated timber or wood-based product, you must have a due diligence system. This needs to describe the practices and procedures you will use to minimise the risk the product(s) you are importing contain illegally logged timber.

Your due diligence system must be in writing and should be tailored to meet your day to day needs. However, these key elements must be included in every system:

    • the procedures you will use to minimise the risk that your products contain illegal timber
    • relevant details about your organisation/self, including your company or business name (where applicable), your street and postal address, and a contact telephone number and email address
    • if you are importing the product(s) for commercial purposes, an Australian Business Number or Australian Company Number, and a description of your principal business activity
    • the person responsible for maintaining the due diligence system and their contact details.

Once established, your system should guide your due diligence decisions. It is up to you how often you review your system, but it should be kept up to date and relevant.

You may be asked to provide a copy of your due diligence system to the department as part of a compliance assessment process. Further information about the department’s compliance assessment process is on the Illegal Logging Compliance page.

Step 2 - Gathering information

Before you import regulated timber or wood-based product(s), you need to gather information about the timber contained in the product(s) and its background. This information will form the basis of your risk assessment.

As a minimum, the Regulation requires you to gather the following information (where reasonably practical):

  • the type and trade name of the product you are importing
  • the quantity of the product being imported (by volume, weight or number of units)
  • the country, region, and harvesting unit, where the timber was originally harvested
  • the country in which the product was manufactured
  • the common name, genus, or scientific name of the tree from which the timber is derived
  • the name, address, trading name, and business identification numbers (if any) of your supplier
  • the documentation provided by your supplier in relation to the product’s purchase
  • materials that attest to the product’s legality, this could include a suitable Timber Legality Framework certificate or license; the documents identified in a relevant Country Specific Guideline; or other evidence that suggests the product has not been illegally logged.

What is ‘reasonably practical’ depends on your individual circumstances. As a guide, you should consider the availability of the required information; the time, expense and difficulty in gathering the information; and the steps required to gather the required information. Ultimately, you need to be able to show that you have made reasonable efforts to seek the required information.

In some circumstances, it may not be possible to gather all of the required information. The absence of this information should be factored into your risk assessment. An inability to gather key pieces of information about your product(s) may make it harder to conclude that it is low risk.

How you gather the required information is up to you. This could include: phone calls, emails, web research, questionnaires sent to suppliers, site visits, etc. However, you must keep suitable written records of your efforts. These records must be held for at least five years after the import date (see Step 5 –Maintain Records).

Step 3 - Undertake a risk assessment

You will need to use the information gathered in Step 2 to assess the risk that the product(s) you are importing contain illegally logged timber. This requires you to consider the information you have collected and then make an informed decision about the risk associated with your product(s).

The Regulation allows you to use three potential methods to assess your risk:

  • a Timber Legality Framework (such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification(PEFC) certification schemes)
  • a Country Specific Guideline (CSG)
  • the regulated risk factors set out in the Regulation.

The method you use will depend on your circumstance, such as where the timber product is from, what species it includes, and the available documentation. However, the first two methods can only be used where your product(s) meets certain requirements. The third method is applicable to all circumstances.

In the case of a more complex risk assessment process, you may find that you don’t have enough information about the product(s) you are importing. In these circumstances, you may have to consider seeking additional information to inform your risk assessment process.

Option 3A - Identifying and assessing risk against a Timber Legality Framework

If you have gathered evidence that suggests the product(s) you are importing are certified under the FSC or PEFC timber certification schemes, you can potentially use the Timber Legality Framework risk assessment method.

This method relies on the fact that the FSC and PEFC certification schemes provide rigorous forest management and chain of custody standards, and are less likely to include illegally logged timber.

If you use the Timber Legality Framework risk assessment method, it is important that you confirm the product(s) you are importing are actually certified. While your supplier might be FSC or PEFC certified, there is a risk that they may not be supplying you with certified products.

Table 1 below outlines the keys steps that 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 must choose an alternative risk assessment method.

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

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

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

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

Using the certificate code or number, you can verify if the certificate is legitimate by searching on the relevant 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

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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

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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

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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

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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 assume the risk is low and import the regulated timber products.

Option 3B - Using a Country Specific Guideline

The Australian Government has worked with key trading partners to develop Country Specific Guidelines (CSGs).These detailed documents help you to better understand the legal frameworks that regulate the harvesting of timber in these countries. In some cases, the CSGs also provide helpful information on timber transportation, processing, and export approval processes.

The CSGs provide a useful oversight of how forests are managed in that country and in most cases, relevant documentation (such as certificates, licences or other documents) that you can seek from your supplier to demonstrate legality. This should help you to assess the risk that the timber product(s) you are importing includes illegally harvested timber.

Each CSG is accompanied by a “Quick Reference Guide” (QRG), which summarises the key information contained in the CSG. The QRG is your first point of reference for identifying whether the CSG method is an appropriate option for conducting your risk assessment.

Table 2 below outlines the keys steps that you should use when using the CSG risk assessment method. The ‘questions to consider’ included in the table will help you when using the CSG method, but should not be seen as an exhaustive list of issues to consider.

Table 2: Assessing risk against a country specific guideline
Step One – Determine if a CSG is applicable to the product you are importing

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Check that your product is covered by a CSG. The CSGs are published on our Guidance Materials and Resources page.

Common problems and solutions

The CSG method can only be used for timber or wood-based products that have been harvested wholly in the CSG country and where the product is being directly exported to Australia. They cannot be used where the timber is being processed in, or exported from, a third-party country.

It is also not possible to use a CSG when dealing with products containing timber sourced from multiple countries.

If the product will be transhipped via a third country and not unpacked, the CSG method can still be used.

If you find that your product does not fall within the scope of a CSG, you must choose an alternative risk assessment method.

Questions to consider:

Does the information and documentation clearly identify the country of harvest?

Was the timber in your product wholly harvested in the CSG country?

Is the country of harvest also the exporting country?

Step Two – Assess the information you have gathered against the CSG

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Compare the information you have gathered in the information gathering step of the due diligence process against the CSG for completeness and consistency.

Gather any additional information or documentation specified in the CSG.

Common problems and solutions

If your supplier is unable to provide you with documentation, the CSG may provide guidance on the type of documents available, the issuing authority, and how to obtain copies of the documents.

You are not required to obtain all of the documents detailed in the CSG, only those that are reasonably practicable to obtain. However, you will need to obtain enough information to support a reasonable assessment of risk using the CSG risk assessment method.

Questions to consider:

Have you checked the information, or obtained the documents that the CSG suggests are available to support legality of harvest?

Does the information you have gathered correlate with the information and documentation contained in the CSG?

Step Three – Identify and assess risk

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Using all of the information and documents you have collected, come to a conclusion as to whether the product(s) you are importing are likely to include illegally logged timber.

In coming to your conclusion, you need to consider any other information that may indicate whether the product has been derived from illegally harvested timber (including general information you have already obtained).

Common problems and solutions

CSGs may not account for local corruption levels, fraud, and the effectiveness of forestry laws within the country. When coming to your conclusion you should also take into account how these factors might affect your product(s).

While every effort is made to ensure that CSGs are up to date, they reflect forestry laws at a point in time and may not capture recent developments.

Questions to consider:

Are the documents collected genuine and have they been generated by the appropriate government entity or other body?

Are there any inconsistent or missing documents?

Is the timber the subject of a logging ban or restriction in the CSG country?

Has there been any media articles, third party reports, or government statements that would bring the legality of your product(s) into question?

Is there any other information you know or ought to know, that would call into question the legality of the product(s)?

Step Four – Determine your risk assessment outcome

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Once you have completed the steps above, you should be able to determine if your product is likely to include illegally logged timber.

If you have concluded the risk to be low, you have completed your risk assessment and can import the regulated timber products.

Common problems and solutions

If your risk assessment process has concluded the risk to be greater than low you need to further mitigate the risk. This is explained in greater detail in Step 4 of the due diligence process.

Option 3C - Using the regulated risk factors

The Regulation establishes a series of risk factors that can be used to assess the risk that the timber or wood-based product(s) you are importing contain illegally logged timber. These risk factors have been identified by the government as being useful indicators of legality and should help you to undertake an informed risk assessment process.

This risk assessment method can be used for products from any source or background. It should also be used when the requirements of the Timber Legality Framework and Country Specific Guidelines risk assessment methods cannot be met. In some situations, this method may also provide the simplest way of conducting your risk assessment. This is most likely to be the case when you are dealing with products that come from low risk sources.

The method requires you to evaluate the information you have gathered in Step 2 of the due diligence process and then assesses the risk against the factors outlined in Table 3.

Table 3: Illegal logging risk factors for regulated timber products

Step One – Consider the occurrence of illegal logging in the area of harvest.

ACTION:

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 of the species in the area it is derived from.

ACTION:

Some timber species are more likely to be illegal logged. This factor effectively requires you to identify the risk of the timber species being illegally logged in its region of harvest.

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.

ACTION:

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?

ACTION:

Consider the complexity of the supply chain involved in the production of your 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?

ACTION:

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

Indicators of risk include:

  • potentially 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

STEP TWO - If you have concluded the risk to be low based on your assessment using the regulated risk factors, you have completed your risk assessment and can import the regulated timber products.

If you have concluded the risk to be greater than low you need to further mitigate the risk. This is explained in greater detail in Step 4 of the due diligence process.

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Step 4 - Risk mitigation

Risk mitigation is required when you have undertaken a risk assessment and determined the risk to be anything higher than low. This indicates, that the product may include illegally logged timber.

How you mitigate the risk is up to you. However your mitigation efforts need to be adequate and proportionate to the identified risk. This could include, but is not limited to, asking for additional evidence or information from your supplier; asking your supplier for a certified alternative; visiting your supplier to learn more about their supply chains; or instigating a regular audit process. Ultimately, you may need to consider requesting a lower risk product, or even changing suppliers.

Once you are satisfied that you have mitigated the risk to a low level, you must document the steps you have taken and keep records showing how your actions reduced the risk that your product contains illegally logged timber.

If you are unable to mitigate the risk adequately, you should not import the product. If you do proceed to import the product(s) and are later found to have imported illegally logged timber, you could face serious penalties.

Step 5 – Maintain Records

The Regulation requires you to maintain records covering all steps and elements of the due diligence process. Records can be kept digitally or on paper and must be maintained for at least five years.

You need to keep records that clearly set out:

  • your due diligence system
  • the information gathered about a regulated timber product
  • your risk assessment process and conclusion
  • any supplementary risk mitigation activities undertaken.

Your records may be assessed as part of the department’s compliance assessment process. Further information about the department’s compliance assessment process is on the Illegal Logging Compliance page.

More information

We are here to help you comply with Australia’s illegal logging laws. These webpages provide a range of resources and guidance to better understand your obligations under the laws.

You can also contact us for further information on how the laws operate and if they affect you:

  • phone during business hours on 1800 900 090 or if outside of Australia +61 2 6272 3933
  • email illegal logging
  • subscribe to the illegal logging mailing list to receive new information or guidance materials and details on upcoming information events.