Supply Chain Characteristics that Impact Traceability

Traceability Takeaways

  • Importing country regulations, such as the Lacey Act in the U.S., require importing companies to assess and manage the legality of their timber supply chains and to identify the origin of individual logs or batches of wood. Therefore, existing and emerging traceability systems in the timber sector focus predominantly on the geographic origin of wood materials. Because of their focus on geographic assurance, these systems are not typically designed to offer labor or human rights assurance. However, the geographic information they provide can be helpful in conducting initial risk screens and prioritizing supply chain areas for further labor and human rights due diligence.
  • In timber supply chains, the most robust forms of product tracking involve physically marking and tracing individual pieces of wood. As in other supply chains, identity preserved product traceability models are typically more expensive than other models. They can also present implementation and capacity challenges. However, organizations like the World Resources Institute have noted that these comprehensive approaches are more likely to be feasible in solid wood higher-end or niche product lines, where consumers are willing to pay a premium for products. Mass balance approaches to traceability in timber supply chains are often more feasible but are not likely to provide information on wood origin for finished or semi-finished wood products.1Timber Traceability. World Resources Institute, 2022.   Mass balance or volume-based traceability systems can also be vulnerable to fraud and laundering, especially in areas with high levels of illegal logging that may correspond to labor and human rights abuses.
  • Understanding the footprint of timber supply chains down to the harvesting level is important, as both child labor and forced labor are present at the harvesting and transport nodes. There is evidence that migrant workers and third-party labor recruiters are present in timber production and trade, as well.
  • The timber supply chain is complex and includes many different harvesters, processors, and distributors. This creates different points of aggregation and/or co-mingling. Illegal logging and smuggling are also prevalent in the timber supply chain.

Nature of Labor Rights Risk/Vulnerable Workers

Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by U.S. Government

Child Labor cited by U.S. Government

Risk of Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by other source

Risk of Child Labor cited by other source

Documented presence of migrant workers

Documented presence or significant likelihood of third-party labor recruiters

Documented presence of other vulnerable workers

Features of Production and Supply Chain

Large numbers of dispersed, unorganized, or informal small producers or other worksites

Multiple points of aggregation, co-mingling, and/or transformation across supply chain

Complex/opaque supply chains and/or lack of vertical integration

High degree of flexibility in procurement practices of downstream entities

  • Illegal logging is prevalent in timber supply chains, indicating a significant presence of dispersed suppliers in the upstream nodes.
  • Traders or cooperatives aggregate the wood, and legal and illegal timber is often mixed in the global market.9Stained trade: How U.S. imports of exotic flooring from China risk driving the theft of indigenous land and deforestation in Papua New Guinea. Global Witness, 2017.
  • The supply chain of timber is complex and involves a number of different harvesters, processors, and distributors.10Ramage, Michael H. et al. “The wood from the trees: The use of timber in construction.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2016.

Distribution of Labor Risk in Various Production Areas

Scale or nature of risk is strongly associated with certain types of suppliers/entities

Scale or nature of risk is present across multiple tiers or nodes of supply chain (including in associated downstream or upstream goods)

Scale or nature of risk varies significantly based on geographic area of production

  • Labor risks are heightened by the presence of illegal logging and smuggling of timber managed by criminal organizations.
  • Risks of forced and child labor are present in logging and transport nodes.

Linked Upstream and Downstream Risks

Risk in Nodes in Timber Production

The timber supply chain is complicated by the involvement of different harvesters, processors, and distributors.11Ramage, Michael H. et al. “The wood from the trees: The use of timber in construction.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2016. The supply chain starts with wood harvest. The logs are then moved from the forest to different processors depending on how they will be used. Different processors exist for logs meant for pulp and paper production, furniture manufacturing, and construction.12Kesari, Shikha. “Timber: Top 5 Uses of Timber | Economic Geography.” Geography

The global trade in products originating from illegally-extracted timber is a multimillion-dollar industry.13“WWF Position Paper on Illegal Logging and Related Trade.” Worldwide Fund for Nature, 1 July 2009.   Illegal timber is harvested around the world as a result of weak government enforcement of regulations and corruption.14“Timber species: protecting threatened tree species from illegal logging and unsustainable trade.” Traffic. Illegal timber is smuggled and mixed in with legal timber and sold on the international market.15Stained trade: How U.S. imports of exotic flooring from China risk driving the theft of indigenous land and deforestation in Papua New Guinea. Global Witness, 2017.

Cultivation, Logging and/or Harvesting




Associated Downstream Goods and Consumer Sectors


The primary use of timber is in the construction sector.

Household Goods

Timber is used in the production of furniture and other household goods.


Timber is also increasingly used for wood-based textile fiber.

Top Global Countries

  1. New Zealand16List of exporters for the selected product in 2021 Product: 4403 Wood in the rough, whether or not stripped of bark or sapwood, or roughly squared (excluding rough-cut wood for walking sticks, umbrellas, tool shafts and the like; wood in the form of railway sleepers; wood cut into boards or beams, etc.), .
  2. United States of America
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Germany
  5. Russia
  6. Belgium
  7. Uruguay
  8. Netherlands
  9. Canada
  10. France

Examples & Resources: Traceability Efforts Associated With Timber