Timber | Brazil

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Salient Themes

Areas of Most Severe Impacts

  • Conflict & Security
  • Culture & Indigenous Peoples
  • Land & Natural Resources
  • Labour

Early Warning

Signs of Increasing Risk

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Under DevelopmentPrograms to address adverse impacts

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Brazil is among the eight largest producers of wood and wood products in the world. Brazil’s main export products are mouldings, plywood, furniture, joinery, and sawn wood. The main destinations are the USA, Mexico and Europe with the Netherlands accounting for less than 2.1% of export value in 2018.

There is a difference in performance depending on the type of company: bigger, certified companies receive regular inspections and tend to perform better than smaller, non-certified timber processing facilities. A distinction can be made of certified companies, legal companies and illegal companies – with decreasing performance on social and environmental aspects.

Dutch Context

For the Netherlands Brazil is of lesser importance with respect to the import of semi-finished and finished tropical timber products. At the same time, there are members of the Royal Netherlands Timber Trade Association (VVNH) that do business with Brazilian companies.


Potential and actual adverse impacts on Labour issues have been reported regarding:
– Decent Work
– Occupational Safety and Health
– Freedom of Association & Collective Bargaining
– Forced/Bonded and child Labor

Reports indicate that:
• Not all social rights are covered by the relevant legislation and enforced in Brazil. In particular legislation to protect Freedom of Association and
the Right to Organize is lacking
• Rights like freedom of association and collective bargaining are not upheld.
• There is evidence confirming compulsory and/or forced labour in some mesoregions of the country. Given the lack of inspections, the extent cannot be determined.
• There is evidence confirming discrimination in respect of employment and/or occupation, and/or gender.
• There is evidence confirming child labour in some mesoregions of the country.
• The country is not signatory to ILO Convention No. 87: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.
• There is evidence that any groups (including women) do not feel adequately protected.
• Violations of labour rights are not limited to specific sectors.

Forest management in Brazil, in some cases, is still accomplished with low mechanization and a large amount of human effort, especially on small farms and for the management of native forests. The sector has a very low degree of professionalization, and a large proportion of the workers learned how to work in a practical way, with no professional guidance. This in combination with a persistent culture that treats as unimportant the issue of occupational sasfety and health, results in a large number of workers exposed to risks. Risks relate to the health and security of workers because it includes chemical, physical and even biological risks (such as poisonous animals and endemic illnesses). Important risks related to Occupational Safety & Health are high levels of dust, risks of non-fatal accidents (especially for sawmills, less for furniture manufacturing), exposure of workers to hazardous substances and chemicals and lack of awareness on them, lack of the use of PPEs (due to the hot climate), hearing damage, forklift hits, lack of hygiene and other in-factory issues.

The inspections carried out by the Ministry of Labor and Employment are insufficient to ensure compliance with the law, specifically in the rural sector. The results obtained during inspections, such as the labor analogous to slavery list, demonstrate that there are serious issues in the sector. In general, the labor laws are not well respected in the forest sector in Brazil. This is corroborated by the index of ‘Rule of Law’ of 48 (on a scale from 0 to 100), instituted by the World Bank.

Additional reported observations:
• In the north of Brazil (where the forests are located), welfare is significantly lower than the south. With increasing poverty, there are increasing risks that no sufficient investments are made to ensure health and safety at work by companies. Adding to that, the government is better equipped to perform regular inspections in the south and south-east of Brazil which means law enforcement is better in those regions.
• In general, problems increase with the remoteness of the operation: in the middle of nowhere (like forest) there are higher risks of problems with dust, noise and chemicals. In cities, this would result in problems with neighbours, so there is less risk.

Environment & Public Health

Potential and actual adverse impacts on the Environment & Public Health have been reported regarding:
– Health
– Healthy Environment
– Community Safety
– Climate Change

Reports indicate that:
Brazil consumes pesticides at large and increasing scale which results in deaths, non-fatal accidents and cases of human intoxication. The use of pesticides in the timber processing industry is not known, but this seems more applicable in the forest plantation context. Due to chemical impregnating of wood (chrome, copper), there is a risk these substances end up in the environment (for example through leaching during usage, storage and waste phases) and harm plants, animals and humans. There is limited authority and resources to ensure enforcement of environmental legislation which makes implementation difficult.

Green House Gas (GHG) emissions are a risk, but is was added that in comparison with other industrial activities, the wood processing industry could be considered as more carbon friendly as they partly operate on biofuel from the wood waste.

Waste management and the risk of fire is finally mentioned as an environmental risk. A common complaint by nearby communities is regarding the dust levels in the air. For the following list, the risk are not reported for certified operations, can be classified as minor (low probability) for legal operations and is there (extremely high probability) for illegal operations: health issues due to deterioration of air quality, health issues due to deterioration of water quality, health issues due to exposure to chemicals and substances, and accidents/incidents related to chemicals and substances.

Conflict & Security

There are reports of (threats of) violence against environmental activists.

The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) recorded 1,833 conflicts in the rural area in 2019. Of the 1,254 landconflicts recorded, 1,206 occurrences of land conflicts involved some form of violence against locals, caused by alleged landowners and / or land grabbers, ranging from threats to murders.


Potential and actual adverse impacts on Land have been reported regarding:
– Land and Natural Resources
– Livelihoods
– Food
– Displacement

Reports indicate that:
There’s a risk of forest management taking place without license or with a license issued through illegal means, especially for native forests. Oversight and surveillance by government is limited. The existing legislation despite very comprehensive on land tenure issues has been failing to be converted in efficient public policies to ensure that legal determinations are enforced. Command and control instruments are flawed or insufficient to meet legally stipulated objectives. Judicial or extrajudicial disputes over land tenure are frequent.

Conflicts over land possession are common in the Legal Amazon region. These conflicts are often related to land grabbers and illegal loggers that make use of violence to drive away local and traditional population of their lands and make illegal use of its resources. In some cases, wood logged from those areas reaches the international market. Land tenure violations are a systemic problem in Brazil, since a large number of new occurrences are registered every year throughout the country.

The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) publishes every year its report on Rural Conflicts, listing data regarding areas where there is conflict over land in Brazil. Through these reports, it is possible to gain knowledge about all properties being disputed at the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária; INCRA).

Brazil is considered a country with a high perception of corruption. Two indexes of corruption perception of international recognition are highlighted: Transparency International and the Worldwide Governance Indicators. The first, published annually, analyzes the corruption of the countries in various aspects and sectors, positioning Brazil in 106th in the 2019 report, with a score of 35 out of a maximum of 100 . The second examines various indicators of governance, including corruption control. In this respect, Brazil obtained, in 2019, a score of 42.31%. Although legislation is comprehensive, through the evidence used, to be inefficient in avoiding problems of illegal land tenure. This can be attested through the data mentioned on the sources of information – FSC, CPT, Transparency International, and The World Bank – indicating citations for disputes over landholding rights, by the weakness of surveillance system and high level of corruption perceived in the country.

Culture & Indigenous Peoples

Potential and actual adverse impacts on Culture & Indigenous Peoples have been reported regarding:
– Indigenous Peoples Lands, Territories, Resources and FPIC
– Indigenous Peoples Cultural Rights

Reports indicate that:
Many Indigenous people’s (IP) and Traditional peoples (TP) territories are not yet demarcated and even when indigenous lands are already demarcated and registered, indigenous peoples’ rights over lands and natural resources are still often threatened by non-indigenous occupation and invasion. Moreover, there are large protests against currently proposed legislative measures that would severely undermine the protection of IP and TP rights.

The conflict resolution is not broadly accepted by affected stakeholders as being fair and equitable as there was a lack of balance between the
demand for conflict resolution involving traditional peoples and communities and compliance with such resolution, or prevention of such conflicts
by the government in seventeen States.

Current legislation on free, prior and informed consent of traditional population is generalist, not covering matters concerning specifically the forestry activity. The law only addresses the commitment and obligations of the public power concerning its actions involving traditional and indigenous people rights, not including obligations for the private sector. In some cases, the law can be applied to the private sector based on jurisprudence. However, these cases are only related to management taking place inside demarcated indigenous or traditional people lands without consent of those people. In cases where the organization is near to or uses Indigenous or Quilombola land – the large number, diversity and scattered nature of the traditional communities in Brazil leads to a low level of compliance with such legislation. Even though there is an effort from IBAMA and INCRA to demarcate new traditional territories, it is not possible to guarantee that all territories have already been recognized. Also, the existence of recognized traditional territories is not enough to ensure the rights of these people are being upheld.

As the licensing process required for forest management can be fraudulent, there is risk of forest management being carried out inside indigenous or traditional lands. Despite the efforts from the Public Prosecution in the inspection and cancellation of all illegal management plans, there is no guarantee that from now on there will be no illegalities in the licensing process for forest management. As there is risk of harvesting activities being illegally conducted inside indigenous and traditional lands, there is also a high risk of these activities being carried out without formal consent from those people.

It’s reported that many management plans are approved without the required investigations by the public bodies, resulting in cases of forest management taking place with non-compliances to legal requirements. There are cases of violence against communities related to illegal forest management. Illegal loggers in Legal Amazon often make use of violence to drive traditional people away from their extractive reserves and make illegal use of the resources. Residents have been threatened and murdered by illegal loggers in order to leave their traditional lands and resources, causing irreparable damages to their traditional culture.

There is a lack of information about the enforcement of the laws related to customary rights. There is a lack of information about the enforcement of the laws related to traditional and indigenous people’s rights outside Legal Amazon. However, cases of disrespect with traditional rights concerning land use rights and cases of violence against indigenous people are frequent in the whole country.


IRBC agreement ‘Promotion of sustainable Forestry’ (2020). International responsible business conduct in tropical timber value chains.

The report is based on international research and three sources that covered different sub-sectors in Brazil: sawmills for primary processing, plywood production, flooring industry, engineered wood and furniture manufacturing.

FSC (2019). Centralized National Risk Assessment for Brazil


Company data provided by SPOTT. This data assesses multiple timber and pulp producers and traders on the public disclosure of their corporate commitments to environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practice. Each company receives a percentage score as a measure of its transparency in relation to ESG risks.

Latest update: July 2020 | Next scheduled: July 2021