“How Deep Do I Have to Go?” is one of the biggest questions we get when discussing compliance. And there is no fixed answer. If you look at some recent enforcement actions, the government’s ideal is pretty challenging.
When the government worked out a plan with Lumber Liquidators, the goal was to establish an unbroken and verified chain of custody from itself back to the product’s source using documentation down to the forest level.
When the Young Living case came along a few years later, the goal was expanded to establishing an unbroken and verified chain of custody of the plant product from the harvest location, through transport and processing, through export and import to the U.S., through subsequent distribution in the U.S., leading to receipt and acceptance by Young Living.
That’s pretty deep!
The details of the settlements provide additional guidance and one of the main concepts is based around the idea of conducting risk assessment. Obviously the higher the risk, the deeper you should dig. And to a point, that becomes the answer to the question – what do you believe the risk to be and how deep do you feel you need to go to bring that risk down to the right level?
As noted in the past few blogs, depending where you are in the supply chain, you are limited in how far it’s really possible for you to go. Which again is why importing wood is not for Dabblers and why distributors and retailers should be ensuring themselves that their suppliers are conducting a level of due diligence that they have confidence in. You want to be able to justify your decisions to do business with specific companies and the justification should be more than “the product was available/cheap/pretty…”
No matter where you are in the supply chain, you need to ask questions. You may be only able to get one step back, so if that’s as deep as you can go, make sure you feel comfortable about that supplier. Make sure they are asking questions back down the chain too. Because if everyone goes just one step back, eventually we do hit the end of the chain!
Elizabeth Baldwin is Environmental Compliance Officer for Metropolitan Hardwood Floors. In her 25 plus year career in the wood industry has visited over 70 countries and hundreds of facilities of all sizes and types. She describes herself as a “jack of all wood trades.” Familiar with jungles of all sorts–having camped out along the Amazon and walked the halls of Congress–she blogs for the NWFA on both environmental and regulatory issues for educational and informational purposes only. Her blog is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice on compliance with CARB, TSCA, the U.S. Lacey Act or any other law, regulation, or compliance requirement/claim should consult with the regulatory agency directly and/or a qualified legal professional.