On the other side of the world something extraordinary is happening today. Today, November 15th, Indonesia is making the first ever—not just their first, but the first EVER from ANYWHERE—FLEGT shipment to Europe.

We covered FLEGT a while back, but for a short review, production with a FLEGT license gets a hassle-free entry into the EU. It’s kinda like “Global Entry” for wood—shipments have reduced scrutiny and reduced burdens on both exporters and importers.

Indonesia was one of the first countries (and was the first Asian country) to start negotiating a VPA with the EU. Indonesia's forests cover around 60 percent of its land area, and they are one largest exporters of tropical timber in world.

I don’t want anyone to think this was an easy or causal process. They’ve been working on this program since March of 2007—that’s nearly a decade of work, building a program worth recognition. Other countries (Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Liberia and the Republic of Congo are next in line) will follow, but Indonesia will always have the distinction of being first.

A further nine countries—Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam—are negotiating VPAs and hope to eventually receive FLEGT recognition. All together, these 15 countries cover 24 percent of the world's tropical forests and represent approximately 75 percent of the EU's tropical timber imports.

This is a huge vote of confidence for the Indonesian Timber Verification Legality System (SVLK) and a major step forward in legal trade of wood. In fact, the Indonesian Trade Ministry expects timber exports to grow 10 percent with the SLVK certification and FLEGT license.


Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")