Two weeks ago, I wrote about Indonesia's new Timber Legality Assurance System, SVLK, and last week I discussed the EUTR system for the European Union. Time to combine them and look at again at the "green lane" concept in the world of timber trade.

The SVLK is the foundation of Indonesia's work on developing a VPA (Voluntary Partnership Agreement) with the EU that will give certified Indonesian products the right to use the "green lane" when entering the EU. This means that properly certified material will be considered compliant with the EUTR and allowed to enter the EU without hassle.

As noted in my earlier blog on the EUTR, U.S. products currently do not have the right to use the green lane into Europe.

Nor does Lacey have any form of a green lane for either imported material or domestic production. Under Lacey, a red oak floor from trees harvested in New York is considered as equally at risk as merbau flooring that has been certified legal in Indonesia. In fact, under many proposed systems of Lacey due care, the Indonesian product is defined as having lower risk since most groups give priority to a certified product.

Some groups look at the green lane concept as affirming "Spatial Risk Assessment" (SRA: the assignment of risk based only on geographic location) as the best method by which to base your level of due diligence or by which to select your suppliers. But I see green lanes as a very different concept from SRA-they are based on a government-to-government agreement as to what the local government says defines legality within their own country. Furthermore, the local government has defined a system by which companies can show compliance. It is not regionally based, but a true system of legality assurance, monitored by the government with certification available to those companies that follow it, not just to those that happen to be based in that region. One of the challenges with Lacey is that there is no true definition of compliance recognized by the U.S. government-a green lane system would help provide that.

That's why many people feel that Lacey should offer some form of green lanes-that countries with national certification programs should have easier entry into the American market, just as they will have into the EU. The U.S. government could even do a state-by-state assessment within the U.S. to improve conditions here.

By the way, I was discussing this issue with Joe Buckhaults of Robinson Lumber, and he said to me that he could "see where the green lane option that the EUTR provides could make sense. If the exporting and importing countries can work out a system, government-to-government, then complying with due diligence would become more clear-cut, no pun intended."

He may not have intended the pun, but I liked it enough to share here. And I agree with the idea behind it.

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.'")