21 June 2024

Justine Guiny

Justine Guiny

Senior Policy Manager - European Union

Turning point for trees: How ambitious new laws will redefine the way we buy and sell everyday products

The loss of earth’s precious forests is alarming – and while there are actions that we can take as individuals, we need large-scale reform from policy-makers to address the issue. The new EU Regulation on Deforestation-free products (EUDR) could be a ray of hope: an ambitious piece of environmental legislation that will prevent products that have contributed to forest loss and degradation from entering and leaving the European market. But how will this impact those who make a living from forest products? Will competent authorities be able to effectively implement these new rules? Next week will mark the one-year anniversary of the EUDR entering into force, and six months remaining until the new requirements become applicable. On the eve of World Rainforest Day, we reflect on what this means for different stakeholders, and the role that TRAFFIC can play in supporting this transition to sustainable timber supply chains.


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Sipping a cup of coffee, going for a bike ride, flicking through a newspaper, tucking into a chocolate cake or your favourite beef burger – what do all of these actions have in common? They all depend on products that may be linked to deforestation, often 1000s of miles away from their consumers.

The importance of earth’s forests can’t be stressed enough. They absorb carbon dioxide, and provide oxygen for us to breathe. They provide extraordinary biodiversity, clean water, and livelihoods for millions of people. But illegal and unsustainable logging, alongside overexploitation of non-timber forest products, pose a major risk to the resilience of ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

The EU Regulation on Deforestation-free products (EUDR) promises to go some way in addressing these alarming threats, by further regulating where our consumables come from and making companies the ones that should be accountable for it.

This new law demands that coffee, rubber, cocoa, beef, soy, palm oil and wood can only enter the EU market if it is proven that the product is not linked to deforestation, or forest degradation for the case of timber.

This is good news for biodiversity and climate, and if fairly implemented, for local communities too. It could be a turning point in the all-too-often destructive processes for sourcing these commodities, not only in the EU, but globally. However, to be successful, all actors along the supply chain must be involved, and for many, this presents significant challenges. With four decades of experience working on comprehensive solutions for supply chain traceability and sustainability, TRAFFIC is uniquely placed with knowledge, tools, and connections along those supply chains, to support the effective and inclusive implementation of the EUDR.


  • Workshop with CSOs and IPLCs representatives on the implementation of the FLEGT/VPA in Cameroon, in line with the EUDR, in Yaoundé, Cameroon, January 2024
    ©  Felix Nwang Ndzi / TRAFFIC
    Understanding this new law – small producers will need to understand what the new EUDR requirements involve: complying with the EU definitions of deforestation and forest degradation as opposed to their own national definitions; knowing the extent to which their products are entering the EU market; knowing how to harness this new legislation to defend their land tenure and human rights.
  • New documentation – they will then have to inform the operators that place their products on the EU market of where exactly their products come from and how they were harvested.

Where TRAFFIC helps:

Supporting this transition is essential to ensure small producers and indigenous people can still gain income through these commodities, have their rights respected and are not left behind.

  • TRAFFIC is providing training on the EUDR to representatives of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs).  Not only does this improve prospects for small producers by enabling their products to be sold, it also makes them more aware of and able to stand up for their human rights, as this is a key element of the EUDR.
  • We’re also supporting IPLCs in managing community forests in a sustainable way so that they can make a legal and secure living from well-managed natural resources, benefitting the planet too.

Operators/Larger companies/retailers

  • Due diligence – operators (those who first place items on the EU market) will be responsible for performing the due diligence to demonstrate the products they want to sell are not linked to deforestation or forest degradation. There will be no ‘blanket proof’: company-wide certifications from a supplier won’t be enough to tick the sustainability and legality box. Every product must have the documents behind it to prove it is deforestation/degradation-free.

This is a lot to ask of companies, but the initial heavy-lifting required further demonstrates that a regulatory system that forces companies to be fully accountable is really needed. In reality, operators will need to adapt anyway: forest resources are shrinking which is not in the best interests of anyone.

It raises the question: with the EU market becoming harder to reach, can’t companies switch to less stringent markets? But actually, other markets are moving in the same direction as the EU: the UK is working on a Due Diligence Act which will cover much of what is in the EUDR, the US is also taking similar steps. Many commodities exported to other major markets – such as China -  are frequently processed and then reexported to Europe, meaning the requirements at source will still apply.

Where TRAFFIC helps:

  • Understanding the law – there needs to be a widespread understanding of quite complex laws. With regards to timber as one of the EUDR commodities, TRAFFIC is ready with a solution. We have been working for instance in Cameroon, Gabon, the Central Africa Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Congo to develop National Legality Frameworks – comprehensive briefings of the legislation surrounding timber trade for companies operating in these countries. We are ready to adapt those approaches to the new requirements of the EUDR.
  • Scrutinising supply chains - TRAFFIC has demonstrated important approaches on more ‘hidden’ ingredients in support chains – the non-timber forest products – for example in the WildCheck report and accompanying platform. We advise private sector companies to assess risks and opportunities in their wild plant supply chains and recommend steps needed to ensure transparency, sustainability and reducing risks of human rights violations. Much of this work and TRAFFIC’s understanding of wildlife trade supply chains (in particular timber) is transferrable to the commodities within the scope of the EUDR.


  • Identifying products subject to EUDR - identifying commodities and products accurately is a challenge, particularly for timber. There are thought to be over 20,000 commercial species of timber1.
  • Knowing the requirements – customs and other enforcement units will be responsible for checking the legality and sustainability of products as they pass through borders and go on sale in the EU. For species whose trade is regulated by CITES, a CITES permit will not be sufficient to establish legality, again, the operator must demonstrate fulfilment of the EUDR back to the source. A checklist outlining the necessary documentation associated with different commodities would go a long way in simplifying the job of law enforcement. TRAFFIC is currently developing such a guide for products timber coming from Cameroon, with the potential to replicate for other countries.

Where TRAFFIC helps:

  • Identifying timber species: we are working on a cutting-edge, automated timber species ID tool which will dramatically speed up the process of verifying the species against the documents that accompany the goods and cut down on misidentification at border controls.
  • Tracing timber: we have created a user-friendly device to support the tracing of timber and forest produce along the supply chain in the country of export, providing at hand information to facilitate cargo checks and increase accountability of law enforcement officers in countries where levels of corruption are high.
  • Information and collaboration :
    • EU-TWIX, a joint platform initiated by the Belgian Federal Police and coordinated by TRAFFIC, enables collaboration and information-sharing between customs, police, the judiciary and CITES Management Authorities across borders. This system will also be invaluable in enforcing the EUDR and identifying attempted routes for illicit goods.

    • Training of Customs and other law enforcement agencies on timber legality, and provision of guidelines and a handbook for customs.

    • For timber specifically, TRAFFIC holds a wealth of trade data which paint a useful picture of global timber markets and is helping us to analyse discrepancies between timber trade data declared at the point of export and at the point of import. We regularly run training workshops on this topic for law enforcement officials.


TRAFFIC Central Africa staff at the Three Basins Summit in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, October 2023

Policymakers have a crucial role to play in providing sufficient guidance, tools and funding to make the transition happen, as smoothly, inclusively and sustainably as possible. 

  • Funding – The EU has committed about EUR1 billion for forests under the EU budget, until 2027. It also launched a new Team Europe Initiative on Deforestation-free Value-Chains. EUR70 million from the French, German, Dutch and European budgets are set to respond to repeated pleas from producer countries for more financial and technical support in implementing the EUDR. This pot is set to grow. Partnering with the private sector to trigger more funding support for forests is also the EU’s new approach. These investments will now need to be directed towards solutions that are both adapted to the challenges on the ground, and inclusive, to make sure all actors along the supply chain take ownership of the EUDR’s ambition and run with it. Likewise, the ‘forest partnerships’ which the EU has so far signed with the Republic of Congo, Guyana, Mongolia, Uganda and Zambia, backed by EUR25 million financial support will need to demonstrate strategic and adapted support to the implementation of the EUDR.

Where TRAFFIC helps:

Due diligence database – the EU Commission is developing a new 'Information System‘ , where all operators placing an EUDR-targeted product on the EU market will need to submit their Due Diligence Statement, though the development of this system is slow. TRAFFIC can help advise how this system can be adapted to EU Member States’ authorities to use.

Benchmarking system – another development of the EU Commission which will assess the deforestation risk level of each producer country. TRAFFIC is primed to feed into this using the information we hold on timber trade dynamics.

Producer country legislation - policy makers in producer countries will also need to ensure that there are systems in place allowing for companies sourcing their products to perform Due Diligence more easily. They might also need to update national legislations to reflect the new EUDR requirements and TRAFFIC will continue supporting governments in Central Africa and beyond to take ownership of these new requirements.

Impact assessments and EUDR revisions – as and when these are performed by the EU, TRAFFIC can channel information from what’s happening on the ground. TRAFFIC is also now a member of the EU multi-stakeholders platform on Protecting and Restoring the World’s Forests and as such can provide input into the guidance and tools developed by the EC to support the EUDR implementation.


Ultimately, this regulation is the fruit of strong demand from EU consumers to policy-makers to create solutions to avoid products landing on the EU market that are linked to deforestation. The voice of consumers will still have a key role to play in the review process of the EUDR, alongside the voices of producer countries, smallholders, IPLCs, and other actors concerned.

  • Buying smart – once the EUDR is fully implemented all companies will have to comply with high sustainability standards, making the lives of ethically-minded consumers much easier.
  • Making companies accountable - you can write letters to your local politicians or to your favourite consumer brands to ask what they are doing to support those at the start of the supply chain. This is not just an EU issue – the whole globe must get behind this effort.
  • Spread the word – do your family, friends, and colleagues know how the future of precious forests can be tied back to their cappuccino, wooden chair or chocolate cupcake? Raise awareness of this topic and the parts we all have to play. Keep the pressure on and encourage companies to be ambitious and your politicians to back this change – what other forest-linked commodities do you use, not yet covered by the scope of the EUDR? The first (and simplest) thing you can do is to share this article.



Overall, the EUDR is a huge opportunity to set things right. The EU Green Deal and its EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy has become the world’s most ambitious environmental roadmap and made the EU a central environmental standard setter. The EU must hold onto this leadership role in its next mandate, after the June 2024 elections!

Will other countries and regions follow suit? Its success depends on the ambition, but also the capacity from the rest of the world to align with these new standards of legality and sustainability.