In a report broadcasted by ARTE Television Station on 21 September 2020 about the situation in the Romanian forests, the allegation was raised that HS Timber Group acquired timber harvested in a Natura 2000 region without appropriate legal documents. Furthermore, the ARTE report states that HS Timber Group did not comment on the respective inquiry made by the journalist.
HS Timber Group states the following: HS Timber Group only acquires timber with the appropriate legal documents and all suppliers are subject to a thorough on-site auditing programme. As a part of the programme, the company also checks harvesting plots of its suppliers on-site in order to confirm compliance. The company provided this information to the journalist responsible for the ARTE report.
In more detail:
HS Timber Group does not perform any timber harvesting activities itself, but cooperates with strictly checked professional harvesting companies, as suppliers. In the case mentioned in the ARTE documentary, the respective supplier was able to prove that the mentioned harvesting activity had demonstrably all necessary legal documents and permissions, according to the Romanian law.
About 33% of all forests in Romania are protected, according to Natura 2000 standards. These standards do not exclude harvesting of wood. The harvesting plot specifically mentioned in the ARTE report has a size of eight ha and is located in the region of “Coridorul Rusca Montană - Țarcu – Retezat”1, which has a total size of about 24,000 ha.
HS Timber Group operates exclusively within the framework of every relevant law and regulation in the countries where it is active. The company strongly believes that, compliance with the law and with law enforcement are key elements in gaining confidence from the civil society, as well as for the country's industrial development. The company appreciates feedback from the civil society, as a driver for internal development and improvement and therefore also takes input also as a starting point for further discussion and amendaments to the Due Diligence System.
HS Timber Group has already in place – since January 2017 - an Action Plan for a Sustainable and Secure Supply Chain, which exceeds by far the legal requirements in Romania, striving for a higher level of environmental protection.
In order to fulfil this commitment, HS Timber Group has implemented a strict Due Diligence System (DDS), to secure sustainability and legality in its supply chain. The DDS is based on risk analyses depending on purchasing areas, strict verification of all origin documents and on-site checks for all timber it purchases. Furthermore, the company has its own timber tracing system in place. TIMFLOW tracks every transport made to HS Timber Productions' sawmills and the details are available to the public. Trucks without TIMFLOW equipment are not allowed to enter HS Timber Productions sawmills.
Additionally to the existing layers of protected or high conservation value areas (national parks, UNESCO, Pin Matra) in the internal control systems, the company newly introced the Natura-2000 layer in order to get full evidence of all deliveries from such areas. For plots older than 160 years, the company performs field audits in order to verify that harvesting has been conducted in compliance with the requirements for this protected area.
Furthermore, the company supports low impact forestry practices by collaborating with the Tomorrow's Forest Foundation and external experts on this issue.
The ARTE report also mentioned the EU infringement procedure against Romania and that HS Timber Group did not submit any comment about this process at all.
In this connection, HS Timber Group wants to state very clearly, that the company, as a matter of principle, does not comment on political discourses or on legal actions, such as infringement processes and acts within the framework of every law and regulation in force.