How can you know if your dining room table is legal and truly ‘green’? One major furniture retailer found the answer by going to China to meet its suppliers and tracing the factories’ timber supplies all the way back to the forest. This is one example emerging from the era of responsibility in forestry and timber trade.

For years, the global timber supply chain has too often been a liability for forests, making it easy for importers and manufacturers to overlook their enormous and often very destructive footprint in faraway tropical forests. Focused on short-term profits, companies lacked motivation to ask hard questions about the source of wood used in furniture and flooring, and the links in the chain along which their products traveled. Today it is different. Consumer demand for socially and ecologically responsible timber products and policies in Washington and Brussels are creating changes in forests from West Kalimantan to Luang Prabang.

An international supply chain requires an equally transnational response from conservationists, and the Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) program offers such a response. Active across eight countries in the region – from communities in Lao PDR to factories in China – RAFT has worked to bring transparency to the global timber supply chain, along with legal and sustainable management to the forests of Asia and the Pacific. This includes: strengthening laws to prohibit imports of illegal timber; helping companies and governments to design and use chain of custody systems to track forest-product exports all the way back to the forest; and fostering business-to-business learning about why it is important to clean up a timber supply chain and how to actually do it.