PhD Seminar – Regulating the journey of timber: Sustainability and legality governance in Indonesian wood value chains

About the seminar

Illegal logging and the trade in illegal timber are significant contributors to deforestation and forest degradation in the Global South. Both public and private forest governance initiatives have emerged to address these problems, internationally and nationally. In Indonesia, a Timber Legality Verification System (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu – SVLK) was introduced in 2009 under a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union. SVLK requires all wood in Indonesian value chains to comply with sustainability (PHPL) and legality (VLK) standards.

Depi Susilawati's PhD project explores the architecture and implementation of SVLK, actors’ compliance with SVLK, and implications of the results for forest governance in Indonesia. It draws on the concepts of transnational experimentalist regimes, smart regulation, and holistic compliance; and uses a value chain framework to structure case study investigations of three wood value chains representing the different forest resource bases in Indonesia, viz. natural, plantation, and private smallholder forests. Around two months of value chain mapping, field observations and semi-structured interviews were conducted for each case; these were complemented by literature review, analysis of audit reports and policy documents.

Case study results show that some elements of the architecture and implementation of SVLK at each stage of the value chain worked well, but others did not. In the natural forest and tree plantation concession cases, sustainability assessment was problematic in various respects, and less rigorous than that under voluntary forest certification. In the plantation case, other reports suggested SVLK assessments had not identified significant sustainability issues. In the plantation and smallholder cases, there was evidence of non-compliance – in the forms of wood legalisation and illegalisation – at various stages of the case study value chains. Overall, SVLK has been successful in enhancing stakeholders’ participation in Indonesian forest governance, and in fostering the legality of wood products. However, SVLK is not improving the sustainability of forest management to the extent it could, and is not designed to address other long-standing underlying challenges in Indonesia’s forestry sector, such as corruption and tenurial conflict. Refining elements of each of the architecture and implementation of SVLK, and of compliance mechanisms, will be necessary to further foster legality compliance and sustainable forest management in Indonesia.


About the speaker

Depi Susilawati is an Indonesian PhD Scholar at Fenner School of Environment and Society, the Australian National University. Under the supervision of Professor Peter Kanowski, her PhD project looks at the implementation of sustainability certification and timber legality verification in Indonesian wood value chains.

She holds a Bachelor degree in Forestry from Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. Her Bachelor research looked at the succession of local institutions for community forest development in Indonesia. Afterwards, she obtained her Master degree in Environmental Science from Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands. In her Master thesis, she evaluated the implementation of the Indonesian timber legality verification system in the verified community forests in Java island, which in turn provided a platform for her current PhD research.

Prior to her PhD, she has been working on research and training projects for the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, which collaborated with key international organisations, including MFP (UK-AID), SNV, RECOFTC, GIZ, AHT, and CIFOR-ICRAF. Her research interests are related to sustainable forest management, forest certification, timber legality, community forest, market analysis and development.

Depi has teaching experience at the ANU as a tutor for the Managing Forested Landscape course and demonstrator for the Introduction to Environmental and Social Research course.