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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine creates timber supply chain challenges

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused ‘huge disruption’ to worldwide timber supplies, following an already-turbulent period throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Timber certification bodies viz. FSC and PEFC labelled timber originating from Russia and Belarus as ‘conflict timber’ thereby restricting its use.

PEFC, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, an international alliance promoting third-party certification of wood, now labels all timber originating from Russia and Belarus as ‘conflict timber’, forbidding its use in PEFC-certified products. Likewise, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has suspended all trading certificates in Russia and Belarus, blocking all controlled wood sourcing from the two countries.

A recent statement from PEFC considers that wood-products ‘originating from occupied Ukrainian territory is considered ‘conflict timber’. It mentions that the products sourced from some parts of Ukraine can be considered high-risk for legal non-compliance, due to the ‘prevalence of armed conflict’ in parts of the country. In these areas, it could be concluded that a de-facto lack of law enforcement in the forest sector may exist due to the armed conflict.

Similarly, FSC has communicated that – in the invaded regions of Ukraine or within armed conflict zones – the norms of Ukrainian legislation cannot be enforced. This position is also reflected in the revised FSC Controlled Wood Risk Assessment for Ukraine which also makes risk conclusions for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, temporarily occupied by Russia, as well as the Anti-Terrorist Operation zone in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions – zone of armed conflict.

Ukraine has around 9.7 million hectares of forest land (FAO, 2020), representing 16.7% of the total land area. Only 0.6% are primary forests, 49% are naturally regenerated forests, and over 50%, are planted forests. The vast majority of forests (nearly 87 %) are state-owned, while 13% of forestry land plots are attributed to communal and private property. State Forest Resources Agency of Ukraine (SFRA) and other central government bodies manage the state-owned forest.

Though the current restrictions of timber import are not applicable to timber from Ukraine, the illegal logging is a considerable problem in the region as per Regional Environmental Center. The illegal wood exports and timber-related corruption were on the rise in the past decade. The Timber Legality Risk Assessment for Ukraine contains an evaluation of the risk of illegality in Ukraine for 6 categories and 26 sub-categories of law.

FAQs on ‘Conflict Timber’

Following the announcement from PEFC that all timber originating from Russia and Belarus is ‘conflict timber’, the council received several questions and requests for further clarification. PEFC continues to monitor the situation and will consider additional measures as necessary. Here are brief answers to select questions:

1. Which timber is considered ‘conflict timber’?
Material originating in Russia and Belarus for which a PEFC DDS was applied after 2 March 2022, 11:55 am EST is considered conflict timber, therefore controversial, and cannot be used in the PEFC chain of custody, neither as PEFC certified nor as PEFC controlled sources.

2. What about timber originating from Russia and Belarus before 2 March 2022?
Material originating in Russia and Belarus for which a PEFC DDS was applied before this 2 March 2022 11:55 EST and for which the DDS resulted in negligible risk can be used and be placed on the market.

3. Is timber originating from the Ukraine considered ‘conflict timber’?
Based on the Resolution on Aggression against Ukraine by the United Nations General Assembly, timber originating from territories controlled by the elected Ukrainian government is not included in the clarification by PEFC. Timber from the territories controlled by the elected Ukrainian government for which a PEFC DDS was applied, and the DDS resulted in negligible risk can be used and be placed on the market. Timber originating from occupied Ukrainian territory is considered ‘conflict timber.’

4. Does the clarification only apply to timber originating from PEFC-certified forests in Russia and Belarus? What about timber originating from uncertified forests or timber certified by other forest certification systems?
The clarification applies to all timber originating from Russia and Belarus (PEFC certified forests, forests certified by other certification systems, and uncertified forests).
Does the clarification apply to PEFC-certified material as well as to PEFC controlled sources?
The clarification applies to any material entering a PEFC chain of custody and therefore includes both PEFC-certified material as well as controlled sources.

5. Does ‘conflict timber’ only apply to timber or also to other forest-based products?
The categorisation applies to all forest and tree-based material and products. For ease of reading, this document refers to ‘timber’, but this shall be understood as ‘forest and tree-based products.’

6. If Russian companies source timber from Russia for internal market purposes, does the conflict timber clarification apply?
Yes, the conflict timber clarification applies. Material originating from forests in Russia and Belarus is considered conflict timber and cannot be placed on the market under a PEFC claim nor can it enter the PEFC chain of custody, regardless of whether it is to be exported or used within Russia or Belarus

For more info, please write to conflict-timber@pefc.org.

12.5% of global timber supplies affected
As of December 2021, some 31,976,108 hectares of forest in Russia and 9,022,400 hectares of forest in Belarus were PEFC certified. This corresponds to 12.5% of the total global PEFC-certified area of 328,464,110 hectares. Around 104 companies in Russia and 110 companies in Belarus were PEFC chain of custody certified.