EU regulations currently focus on legal timber, but CBI, as a strong proponent of CSR, wants to set the bar higher. When it comes to exporting scarce resources like timber, compliance with local laws is, unfortunately, not always enough. CBI wants to ensure that timber is sustainably harvested, which is why it promotes the highest possible standards and certification. With its Bolivian Timber Project, CBI intends to bring Bolivian SMEs exporting timber up to EU standards. From March 2013 EU importers must do a risk assessment on the legality of the timber, and their risk is significantly lower if timber is certified by a high standards organisation.
CBI expert Marco Bijl is convinced that Bolivians are aware of the importance of countering the illegal timber trade. “Bolivian timber and forestry legislation is already in line with EU regulations and even the guidelines of the Forest Stewardship Council. The implementation of Bolivian timber and forestry legislation is not yet fully up and running but it’s clear that many illegal activities are already being dealt with.” This helps the local Bolivian market because it means producers observing the law can now compete fairly.
This Bolivian Timber Project is the first one in which CBI is using a fully integrated approach, meaning that in addition to the regular Export Coaching Programme, capacity building and service development have been added to the training process. CBI also makes its European Market Intelligence available to participating Bolivian companies, giving them a good idea of what the European market expects from them and sustainable, value-added timber.
Bolivian timber exports reached €3.2 million in 2013, a 62 per cent increase over 2012 and Bijl believes that thanks to this project the European market will soon see more from Bolivian timber exporters. “Bolivia has been underrepresented when it comes to exporting timber to the EU, but EU buyers will find that Bolivian exporters have the necessary experience and access to many valuable timber species.”
As part of the project 13 Bolivian SMEs displayed their products on the 2013 Timber Expo in Birmingham, UK, promoting the Bolivian timber product sector and improving its image. A respectable 71 unique importers from 10 different countries visited the stand. “We are preparing actors in the Bolivian timber sector to eventually take over CBI’s role,” concludes Bijl. “Like CSR in general, this is a gradual process, but when done correctly a sustainable one.”