Boost for Sabah timber's competitiveness, sustainability with EU link-up

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s timber industry is set to update its sustainability measures following adherence to European Union (EU) market requirements.

This comes after the Sabah Forestry Department and the European Union officially launched a partnership to update the Sabah Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) for competitiveness and to enhance environmental governance.

In a joint statement on Wednesday (June 19), they said the partnership demonstrated a forward-looking approach to sustainability.

It was a significant milestone in Sabah's efforts to ensure sustainable and legal timber production, demonstrating the state’s commitment to fighting deforestation and climate change, the statement read.

The updated Sabah TLAS will see timber harvested in line with EU market requirements as well, it added.

Established in 2009, the Sabah TLAS is a due diligence system developed in response to EU requirements under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme.

This initiative is part of a broader Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) strategy adopted since 1997, aimed at ensuring all timber trade between Malaysia and the EU is regulated through rigorous due diligence measures.

Over the past decade, Sabah TLAS has played a pivotal role in enhancing compliance, transparency and forest governance with its Compliance Certificate gaining international acceptance in key timber trade markets including Europe, Australia, the United States, Japan and South Korea.

The updating exercise will involve alignment of the Sabah TLAS with the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), the statement said.

In addition to EUDR, the Sabah TLAS will also align with the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CS3D) which aims to foster sustainable and responsible corporate behaviour, contributing to the EU and Malaysia’s broader goals of promoting human rights and environmental sustainability.

By integrating these frameworks into the Sabah TLAS, the Sabah Forestry Department is proactively advancing environmental and social governance, the statement added.

It noted that the alignment would enhance the credibility and marketability of Sabah's timber products, position the state as a leader in sustainable forestry management, enhance the competitiveness of its timber industry, and improve prospects for participating in global value chains.

The EU, an attractive single market of 27 countries, is the largest trade bloc in the world and accounts for around 15% of the world’s trade in goods.

It is the fourth largest destination for Malaysian exports. The EU is also the second largest source of foreign direct investment for Malaysia, with €25.2bil (RM127.4bil) in 2022.

The updating exercise will involve a series of consultations and workshops with government agencies of the Implementing Agencies Coordination Committee (IACC), the Sabah Timber Industries Association (STIA), the Timber Association of Sabah (TAS), as well as upstream and downstream timber industries.

Training and support for Sabah stakeholders will ensure they are equipped to meet the new requirements.

The launch of the partnership to update the Sabah TLAS was attended by Dr Audrey-Anne Rochelemagne, first secretary (Team Leader for Cooperation: Malaysia and Thailand), Delegation of the European Union; and Sabah chief conservator of forests Datuk Frederick Kugan.

“We are committed to enhancing our environmental governance and ensuring our timber products meet the highest international standards,” Sabah chief conservator of forests Datuk Frederick Kugan said at the launch.

“While we are committed to enhancing our environmental governance and ensuring our timber products meet the highest international standards, the system most importantly must factor in the current state development agenda and plans,” he added.

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