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Fighting Environmental Crime, Illegal Logging in Your Supply Chain

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 12, 2016 3:58 PM

Forget weapons trafficking or illegal hacking. When it comes to crime, illegal logging ranks near the top. "Illegal logging is the most lucrative environmental crime and one of the most profitable organized criminal activities, alongside narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting, and human trafficking," according to a new white paper by Thomson Reuters. (Disclosure: Thomson Reuters is FindLaw's parent company.)

Deforestation, ecosystem disruption, and damage to the climate are some of the obvious effects of illegal logging, but its consequences aren't just environmental. Illegal logging's consequences can include significant impacts on human life and well-being, and, if illegal logging taints your supply chain, significant legal headaches.

A Global Problem -- and a Potential Legal Liability

Generating revenues of up to $100 billion a year and accounting for 10 to 30 percent of the global wood trade, illegal logging is a problem that spans the globe. It can be found everywhere from Siberia to Central Africa. Malaysia, for example, has been repeatedly criticized (even blacklisted) for its illegal logging, while Brazil announced recently that it had shut down one of its largest illegal logging operations.

The Taliban has used illegal logging to support terrorist activities. Slavery and human trafficking are often a part of the illegal industry, with more than 33,000 forced laborers working in illegal logging in Peru alone. Bribery and political corruption are also closely associated with illegal logging activities.

In sum, it's not a very good thing. But if illegal logging gets into your corporate supply chain, you could be facing significant liability. The Lacey Act makes it unlawful to trade, receive, or acquire timber that was illegally harvested, possessed, transported, sold, or exported. International law, like the EU Illegal Timber Regulations or the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act can also apply.

Mitigating Risk

Like any potential legal problem, your exposure to liability from illegal logging in your supply chain can be mitigated. The Thomson Reuters' white paper suggests paying attention to seven red flags associated with illegal logging. These include:

  • Suppliers' Location: Are they in a tropical nation with lots of forests, porous borders, and poor governance?
  • Processing Countries: "Timber laundering" operations tend to be geographically concentrated in a few areas.
  • PEPs and Government Entities: Company's should be aware of a supplier's connection to "politically exposed persons."
  • Corruption: The more corruption, the more risk that you may be tainted by illegal logging.
  • International Regulations: The more your supplier's country complies with international environmental protections, the less risk you'll be exposed to.
  • Forestry Certification Schemes: Some companies participate in third-party sustainable-forestry programs.
  • Supplier Reputation: A history of past violations or improper conduct is a major red flag.

And, of course, there are plenty of experts available to help as well. Thomson Reuters' Third Party Risk solutions, to give one example, can help you identify and mitigate any risk, while maximizing sustainable commercial opportunities.

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