† Companies invited to improve traceability of inputs
To combat the trade in illegally harvested timber, the Federal Bureau of Consumer Affairs is stepping up checks on companies and requests for rectification of declarations. A work especially stimulating and corrective, certainly with the smallest joinery and carpentry.
The statements about the origin or the type of wood sold in Switzerland leave something to be desired. In 2021, only 16% of audited companies did just that, notes the Federal Bureau of Consumer Affairs (BFC).
The BFC carried out 108 checks last year, it said in a statement on Monday. At 32% of the companies, only part of the products was correctly declared. Nearly half of the companies did not fully and correctly declare any product.
As in previous years, the checks were mainly aimed at companies with a relatively high risk of incorrectly declaring timber, but also at declarable timber products. For the first time, several small craft businesses have been audited under a simplified procedure, the BFC notes.
Last year’s results were worse than in 2020 at almost all levels, the Agency notes. That year, 30% of audited companies still achieved the best rating.
Several factors explain this decline, according to the BFC. First, the 2021 audits focused on more small businesses such as joinery and carpentry. Companies in this sector often do not declare wood correctly.
Second, price volatility (wood price explosion in 2021) in furniture trade, furniture stores and DIY brands has prompted several relabelling, likely explaining an additional source of error.
Thirdly, the regions where controls have been rare until now will be inspected more in 2021. Not to mention the Covid-19 pandemic, which has not helped.
However, the good cooperation that has been established with the companies has made it possible to correct the incorrect declarations within the deadlines, assures the BFC, which has had to order a correction in only one and only one case.
A “good collaboration” between government and companies that does not go well for everyone. “Despite complaints against certain companies, no fine has been imposed in the past 12 years,” regrets the Bruno Manser Fund.
With this laxity, the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs (DEFR) is sending a signal to companies that they can ignore the regulations without fear of sanctions, writes the deputy director of the organization for the defense of tropical forests, Johanna Michel, in a press release.
And to recall that in 2020 the Bruno Manser Fund filed a complaint against Ikea Switzerland for making false statements about solid wood products. The DEFR subsequently closed the administrative procedure without imposing a fine, assuming that the “insufficient declarations” had been corrected and the procedure would therefore be annulled.
Given the deep ignorance of the timber declaration regulations observed in joinery and carpentry, the BFC has decided to conduct an awareness campaign this year. The Bureau, which relies on the preventive effect of any fines imposed, thus expects better compliance with the timber declaration obligation.
Since 2012, the Regulation on the declaration of timber and timber products provides for the obligation to declare the species and origin of timber and timber products sold to consumers. Since the beginning of the year, it has also been prohibited to market timber and products derived from illegal logging or trade in Switzerland.
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