Supply Chain Tracking Company Partners with Liberia to Prevent Illegal Logging

TimberHelveta, specializes in supply chain tracking systems that give companies the ability to track any and every item in their supply chain. In forestry, this means that it can link barcodes and radio identifiers to individual trees and map them using GPS and Helveta’s proprietary software.

Using these tags, it allows timber producers to demonstrate that their wood and lumber comes from a legal source. According to Patrick Newton, President of Helveta, this gives an additional level of auditability and supply chain assurance to buyers and watchdog groups:

If it doesn’t have the tag or the audit trail attached to it, they will know it is probably illegal

And, according to an article in the Economist, that’s exactly what is happening in Liberia.

In February of 2008, Liberia’s Forest Development Authority hired an inspection firm and Helveta to create a national system to track all commercial Liberian timber products. In the future, timber suppliers will have to attach a bar code to each tree and its corresponding stump. An entry into Helveta’s tracking database will record pertinent data including, the origin, species, size and destination of the wood.

By setting up this database, inspectors can then select bar-coded logs at random to ensure that they match up to an entry. Theoretically, this process will make forging paperwork that much harder, as well as easier to catch.

In order to prevent corruption from undermining this system, the system will automatically flag suspect timber, and send an email or text message to appropriate authorities. While this is obviously not an infallible system, it does make the inspector’s job that much easier and resistant to pressure from unsavoury timber suppliers.

This system allows timber suppliers to provide assurance to downstream wood product suppliers that the wood being sold has been legally harvested.

Photo Credit: Timber by René Erhart via Flickr’s Media Commons

One comment
  1. Noam Sugarman

    This is indeed quite intriguing, but how much of the wood on the timber market actually comes from illegal harvests? Is this something that could curb deforestation in a meaningful way, or can that only be achieved by lowering the amount that can legally be extracted?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *