Timber importing requires due diligence

Anyone importing timber and wood products into Switzerland for the first time is responsible as an initial operator for ensuring that the timber has been legally harvested and traded. As proof of legality, those responsible must establish a system, in order to comply with the due diligence requirement. Major elements of this are gathering information for the risk assessment and measures to mitigate the risk where required.

Businesses placing timber or wood products on the market in Switzerland must first systematically gather all the information and documentation necessary for a risk assessment. Using the documentation collected, they conduct a risk assessment based on the risk from the country of origin, timber type or other factors. If the risks prove not to be negligible, they must adopt risk mitigation measures and also document them. The products may only be placed on the market in Switzerland when the risk is negligible.

This information must be gathered

As the basis for the risk assessment, businesses gather and document the following information:

  • a description of the timber or wood product, including the trade name and type of product as well as the common name of the tree species and its full scientific name
  • the country of origin (where the tree was felled)
  • the region, unless the risk of illegal harvesting is regarded as equally high in every region of a country of origin
  • information on the harvesting concession, unless the risk of illegal harvesting is regarded as equally high for every concession granted in a country of origin or region
  • the quantity of timber and of wood products in volume or weight or in number of units
  • the name and address of the supplier
  • information indicating compliance with the applicable legislation in the country of origin

How risks are identified and assessed

Businesses must assess the risk that the timber or wood products may originate from illegal harvesting or illegal trade. The risk assessment is based on the information collected and on the following criteria:

  • compliance with the applicable legislation in the country of origin is guaranteed and can be proven: this may include certification or other third-party-verified schemes which cover compliance with legislation
  • the prevalence of illegal harvesting of the tree species concerned
  • the prevalence of illegal harvesting in the country of origin or in the individual region of the country of origin; the prevalence of armed conflict in the country of origin must also be considered in this connection
  • any sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the European Union or Switzerland in relation to the import, export and transit of timber and wood products
  • the complexity of the supply chain of timber and wood products (consideration of intermediaries and processors through which illegal timber may reach the supply chain)
  • the risk of corruption in the countries concerned as well as other recognised indicators of good governance

Mitigating the risk of illegal timber

If the assessment reveals that the risk of illegal timber harvesting and trading is not negligible, an enterprise must effectively limit the risk as far as possible by instigating a risk mitigation process. Additional information or documentation must be requested from the supplier or a check must be carried out by independent third parties. In the case of a corruption perception index (CPI) of under 50, the lower the CPI, the more critically the relevant official documents should be viewed and the less they can constitute proof of legality.

Ensuring traceability

Businesses must keep records on those to whom they have passed on timber or wood products. Traders must document the suppliers from which they obtain timber or wood products and the users to whom they are passed on. They do not have to document delivery to consumers.
Evaluating the due diligence system
Small and medium sized enterprises (SME) in particular may appoint an inspection body to evaluate the conformity of their due diligence system and its use. The specifications for these inspection bodies and their recognition by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) are currently in preparation. Further information will be available in the near future.

Further information

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Last modification 06.05.2022

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