The Dutch government has expressed its intention to recognize the Malaysian Timber Certification System (MTCS) as evidence of sustainable wood for a two-year period, even though MTCS does not meet all official criteria. This is done to encourage full compliance with those criteria and means government agencies can use the wood in their building projects. The World Wild Fund for Nature, worried about the negative impact on the Malaysian rainforest and indigenous tribes, objected.
WWF asked Stibbe to find legal arguments against the decision with which it could engage the government and lobby Parliament. Stibbe believed that the issue touched upon the very integrity of government procurement policies and agreed to the pro bono work. It considered various legal strategies, including proceedings, but ultimately decided to provide advice.
Using its knowledge of European Court of Justice rulings, Stibbe argued that by certifying wood that does not meet all criteria, the government undermines trust in procurement policies and opens itself up to compensation claims from businesses that lose procurement procedures. In spite of our best efforts, the government decided to uphold its decision to recognise MTCS as proof of sustainable wood. In line with Stibbe's advice, however, the government did underline the importance of a clear policy to avoid confusion in future procurement procedures.