Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources

This paper examines governments’ efforts to use public procurement policy to promote the use of legal and sustainable timber. Timber procurement can provide valuable lessons to governments when developing sustainable procurement policies for other products associated with deforestation.

Logging and timber production and transportation at Craignure on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)Logging and timber production and transportation on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Photo by Getty Images.

Governments are increasingly using public procurement policy to promote the use of legal and sustainable timber, thereby helping to reduce deforestation and illegal logging and encouraging sustainable forestry. 

At least 26 countries, mostly in the EU, currently possess some form of timber procurement policy at central government level. Although some have been implemented more recently than others and all tend to vary in their design, the evidence suggests that they are having a positive effect on increasing market share for verified legal and sustainable timber. Although government purchasing accounts for only a limited share of the market, the evidence also suggests that these timber procurement policies are having a broader impact on consumer markets, partly through their impact on suppliers and partly through the signals they send to the market. 

These policies are also relatively straightforward to introduce: many countries already possess some form of green procurement policy, and criteria for legal and sustainable timber can easily be tailored to fit. In general no new legislation is needed, though the more comprehensive policies benefit from training and advice to government purchasers. 

The gradual spread of the EU Green Procurement Policy programme, and commitments by an increasing number of private companies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains are likely to encourage further uptake of procurement policies for sustainable timber. Timber procurement can also provide valuable lessons to governments when developing sustainable procurement policies for other products associated with deforestation, such as palm oil.