With the introduction of the 2014 version of Australian Standard AS 4707 – ‘Chain of Custody,’ a new category of materials known as "Controlled Sources" was introduced.

Controlled Sources are wood and wood products which, although not certified under the Australian standard for Sustainable Forest Management or the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) system, have undergone a rigorous due diligence assessment to ensure that the material does not originate from controversial sources.

These sources can include timber of illegal origin, timber harvested in contravention of local and international forestry legislation, timber extracted without payment of appropriate taxes and royalties, timber extracted without the knowledge or permission of land owners, genetically modified timber, and timber resulting from the conversion of forest to other land uses.

AS 4707 provides a due diligence assessment process which allows otherwise uncertified wood and wood products to be assessed and be classified as Controlled Source where it is free from controversial factors.

The due diligence process includes assessments to ensure compliance with local, national or international legislation applying to forest-related activities, in particular the following:

  • Legality of forest operations, harvesting, conservation and biodiversity management
  • Management of areas with high environmental and cultural values
  • Protection of endangered species
  • Health and labour issues relating to forest workers
  • Indigenous people’s property, tenure and use rights
  • Third party property, tenure and use rights
  • Payment of taxes and royalties
  • Compliance with legislation of the country of harvest relating to trade and customs
  • The wood or wood product is not derived from genetically modified forest organisms
  • Native forest has not been converted to other land users including plantations

Where wood and wood products are assessed and found to be free of the indicators for controversial sources, the product relating to can be classified as an AFS Controlled Source Material.

Note that the very rigorous and robust due diligence process is audited by JAS-ANZ accredited certified bodies to provide independent validation that the product assessment and due diligence processes are in place, are effective, and the results of assessments are transparent and records maintained.

This independent audit process provides an extremely high level of confidence to purchasers of Controlled Source material that it is of legal origin and from non-controversial sources.

Benefits of AFS Controlled Source material are:

  • The due diligence system complies with the federal government’s illegal logging legislation and material can be claimed to have undergone an independently audited legality verification process. This provides confidence to consumers of the products legal status and in purchasing the Controlled Source material consumers are not inadvertently supporting illegal activities.
  • A formal claim for Controlled Source material can be made under a chain of custody management system. This allows products to be branded and identified as Controlled Source and the claim to be passed through the supply chain on endorsed documentation.
  • Often controlled wood assessment is the first step towards formal certification of an organisation’s forest management system. Implementing this system requires technical expertise and years of effort. Starting with a Controlled Source assessment establishes the basic principles – verifiable documentation, robust and transparent data collection, improvements in forest products and so on – which can built upon when developing a management system that withstands the scrutiny of independent audit.  Supporting Controlled Sources drives continual improvement and improves the management practices of organisations working toward certification.
  • The due diligence process is non-restrictive and can be implemented by any link in the supply chain. This includes forest growers, forest managers, processors, importers or merchants. For example, an importer could assess an overseas supplier, or a domestic processor could assess their non-certified supplier of wood and make verifiable claims of legality.
  • Controlled Source material can be mixed with certified materials in such products as paper or wood panels, where it is common for input materials to originate from different sources. For products carrying the AFS brand, the certified component can be no less than 70 per cent and the controlled source component no greater than 30 per cent.
  • There are some unique species and products for which there is no certified supplier. Applying due diligence process and Controlled Source assessment ensures that such products will be of legal origin and from non-controversial operations and sources.

Controlled wood assessment can be the first step towards formal certification of a forest management system

Obviously, certified wood and wood products are much better alternatives to Controlled Sources, and Controlled Source material is in no way a substitute for certified wood. However, until such time as 100 per cent of the world’s forests are AFS or PEFC certified, there remains a need for a robust, transparent and audited process which establishes legality and confirms the non-controversial origin of wood products.

Further, in establishing processes to demonstrate compliance with AFS or PEFC Controlled Sources, a forest manager is exposed to a vigorous auditig process and helps to condition such organisations to requests and concepts which underpin certification.

The fact remains that AFS-controlled source material is a significantly improved alternative to non-certified wood and those who process and trade in non-certified wood would benefit substantially by insisting that material in their supply chain undergoes the AFS due diligence processes to allow sale and marketing as Controlled Source material.