Due Diligence: A Solution for Viet Nam’s Timber Legality Assurance System
Vietnam ranks second in Asia and fifth in the world for the value of its timber product exports, which the Vietnamese Government aims to increase to 20 USD billion by 2025 Although Vietnam’s timber industry has grown rapidly, it faces supply challenges. Viet Nam imports around 2.5 million cubic metres of timber from more than 100 countries each year. Responsible sourcing is essential for the credibility of the Vietnamese timber processing sector and key to tackling illegal and unsustainable logging worldwide.
The Vietnam Government’s commitment to remove illegal timber from the supply chain is reflected in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forestry Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA FLEGT), which it signed with the EU in 2019. To fulfil this commitment, Viet Nam issued Decree 102/2020-ND-CP regulating the timber legality assurance system (also known as the VNTLAS Decree). Under the VNTLAS, enterprises importing timber into Viet Nam must prove its legality. Specifically, timber importers must perform due diligence to prevent illegally harvested timber from entering the timber supply chain.
However, customs and law enforcement officials lack the knowledge and practical skills to ascertain the legality of imported timber. In 2020-2021, The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) cooperated with the Forest Protection Department (FPD) under the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST), and the General Department of Vietnam Customs (GDVC) to train 100 representatives from state agencies nationwide on import controls, the timber supply chain, and timber species identification. GIZ also cooperated with Prefer by Nature and the Vietnam Timber and Forestry Products Association (VIFOREST) to develop training courses on due diligence for 200 representatives from timber import enterprises.
Assessing the legality of imported timber is complicated – species verification, complex regional and global supply chains, and international regulation demand extensive knowledge and skills. Because the VNTLAS is a new initiative, acquiring this level of expertise takes time. To ensure that law enforcement, timber businesses, and other stakeholders have the opportunity to learn about the VNTLAS and due diligence, Prefer by Nature and GIZ have developed an e-training course (the DDS e-training course) based on consultations with the FPD, the GDVC,and other stakeholders.
The new online course, which sidesteps Covid-19 restrictions, is free and can be taken anywhere and at any time – participants only need a stable internet connection and a smart device.
The 5.5-hour course, which will be officially launched on 16 September, does not have to be completed all at once.After answering 60% of questions correctly, participants will be eligible for the “e- training course on due diligence for timber imports in Vietnam” certificate. More importantly, participants will learn about the generalrules of the VPA-VNTLAS, due diligence, risk assessment and risk mitigation for imported timber.
The DDS e- training course (Trách nhiệm giải trình trong nhập khẩu gỗ tại Việt Nam (preferredbynature.org)) will be officially launched on September 16, 2021.
By helping to ensure the legality of imported timber, the DDS online course is expected to improve credibility for Vietnamese companies and create opportunities in EU and other international markets. The DDS course was developed under the “Support to VPA processes in Viet Nam, Laos and Cameroon: Towards legal timber supply chains between VPA countries” Project, implemented by German Development Cooperation (GIZ) and VNFOREST and co-financed by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).