Sweden's soaring roundwood trade harms Russia and the Baltic States
Sweden today imports about three times as much roundwood as in the 1990s. Almost a fifth of the total raw material supply of the Swedish forest industry comes from the Baltic States and Northwest Russia, where forests of great biological value are at stake.
At the same time, there is a rising recognition of the problems that illegal logging and related trade cause for nature and people in Northwest Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, for example:
• loss of biodiversity through overcutting, cutting of protected species, harvesting in violation of forest laws, and logging without sufficient controls or management plans
• deprivation of local economies of essential sources of income through large- and small-scale theft of timber, breaking of license agreements, and tax laws
• distortion of timber prices and damage to the reputation of the forest industry.
The Swedish forest industry has begun to realize the need to tackle the flow of “black” timber across the Baltic Sea to Sweden and from there to the rest of Europe. Over the last few years major Swedish importers have improved their policies and control measures regarding wood procurement. However, according to the report, a lot more must be done.
The raw material supply of the Swedish forest industry sector is very complex. This means that virtually no bigger producer of forest products in Sweden can presently guarantee that wood of doubtful origin is not used in their production.
Full traceability of all timber from the logging site to the end consumer is a first basic step towards responsible trade. The report highlights that Swedish importers and producers must become better at controlling the ecological and social consequences of logging operations and forest management.
"Exporting countries should not suffer from ecological or socioeconomic effects from our timber imports that we would not be willing to accept in domestic forestry," says a WWF-Sweden spokesperson.
The right signals need to be sent by both industry as well as consumers all over Europe — demanding verification that the timber they buy comes from legal and responsible sources.
Currently only five big Swedish importers carry out field audits in the places they purchase their timber from, and only three are already utilizing the established chain of custody system of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for part of their operations.
Illegal logging and forest crime
WWF defines illegal logging and forest crime as the harvesting, transporting, processing, buying or selling of timber in violation of national laws. It lies within wider forest-related crime which includes both, as well as issues of access to and rights over forest resources, corruption, and poor management.
WWF believes that illegal logging and other forms of forest crime are part of a larger problem that includes issues of forest governance and corruption. They extend far beyond some individuals violating resource-management laws. WWF uses the term “illegal logging and forest crime” to include both large and small-scale timber theft and a variety of issues such as transfer pricing, breaching tax rules, any illegal aspects of timber sourcing and circumvention of concession agreements through bribery or deception.
What can companies do?
There are several steps a company can take if they want to show leadership for responsible forest management and trade:
1. have a clear policy on forest management and timber procurement.
2. buy only from known sources in compliance with the policy.
3. make sure that all timber purchased has been harvested and traded in full compliance with laws and regulations.
4. buy timber from sources in the process of certification.
5. buy timber from credibly certified sources such as FSC.
What can consumers do?
At present it is very difficult for consumers to know what they buy. Therefore it is important that they show the companies that they care.
1. Ask your local store - do they know where their timber is from?
2. Look out for the FSC logo! only timber from forests managed to the highest environmental and social standards is allowed to carry it.
For more information:
Communications Officer, WWF European Forest Programme
Tel: +43 1 52 45 470 -16