From 1 January 2022, placing illegally harvested tiFrom 1 January 2022, placing illegally harvested timber and the products made from it on the market in Switzerland is banned. The new Timber Trade Ordinance (TTO) comes into force simultaneously with the amended Environmental Protection Act (EPA). It requires all market players to comply with their due diligence obligation and to minimise the risk of illegal timber.
Illegal timber harvesting is a global problem with negative environmental, economic and social consequences. To combat it, many governments have enacted regulations on the trade in timber and wood products. Illegal timber is banned in the USA by the Lacey Act, in Australia by the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill and in the EU by the European Timber Regulation (EUTR). All the regulations require products to be checked with the necessary diligence before they come on the market.
Combatting illegal timber harvesting and trading
The Federal Council has brought the amended Environmental Protection Act (EPA) into force, banning the trade in illegally harvested timber and the products made from it with effect from 1 January 2022. The amended legislation was approved by Parliament in 2019 and forms the legal basis for the new Timber Trade Ordinance (TTO), which came into force on the same date. With the TTO, the Federal Council, as instructed by Parliament, has enacted legislation equivalent to that of the European Union (EU; EUTR 995/2010). The purpose is primarily to stop illegally harvested or traded timber and wood products from being placed on the market in Switzerland. Stopping illegal timber harvesting and trading will curtail deforestation and biodiversity loss, which will help to combat climate change. In addition, trade barriers between Switzerland and the EU should be removed.
At the core of the ordinance is a due diligence obligation for those placing timber and wood products on the market for the first time, who are known as initial operators: They must be able to prove that they have systematically assessed risks and have reduced any that exist to a negligible level. They must set up, use and regularly update a due diligence system for this purpose.
Traders who already buy or sell timber placed on the market must document the suppliers from which they have obtained timber or wood products and the users to whom the products have been passed on. This traceability will enable initial operators to be identified.
Forest owners who harvest timber in Swiss forests are also subject to the new legislation. They may assume that the cantons’ compulsory forest use permit and any other approved use documents (e.g. business plan) contain the necessary information. Accordingly, they are required to retain these documents proving “legal harvesting”. As a rule, risk assessment and risk mitigation are met by obtaining these documents.
The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) is responsible for the checks on initial operators and traders and the cantons are responsible for those on the forest owners.
What due diligence involves
Anyone placing timber and wood products on the market in Switzerland for the first time is responsible for ensuring that the products have been legally harvested and traded. As proof of this, market players should ideally set up a due diligence system with immediate effect. Read on to find out what is needed.
Enforcement and checks
The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) is primarily responsible for enforcement. The FOEN focuses mainly on businesses that import large quantities of timber from high-risk countries, whereas the cantons deal with timber harvested in Swiss forests.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What does the new legislation involve and who is affected? Answers to the most important questions can be found here.
Newsletter «Legal Swiss timber trade»
The FOEN informs initial operators, traders and other interested parties about important developments, publications and events on the subject of timber trade regulation (in German, French and Italian).
Declaration requirement for timber and wood products in Switzerland
Since 2010, a duty to declare timber and wood products has applied in Switzerland. The related ordinance (SR 944.021) requires sellers of timber and wood products to give consumers transparent information on the timber type and origin (timber harvesting country).
Last modification 06.05.2022