In the recent Forest forum meeting we shared Complicit in Corruption - a recent report written by non-profit Earthsight, highlighting the widespread corruption in Ukraine's forests, and revealing how illegality permeates the timber supply chain in Ukraine from harvest to export.
Earthsight spent two years running field and undercover investigations in Ukraine. Approximately 70% of Ukraine's timber exports enter the EU and Earthsight's investigations indicate that 40% of this timber is being illegally harvest or traded. The report also claims that a significant volume of illegally harvested timber has received the FSC stamp - the former chief of one of the largest timber producing state-forest enterprises admitted to Earthsight he had found it easy to circumvent FSC checks.
Over the past few months, our annual Book Chain Project conference has been the focus for the team in London. The event involved a day of panel discussions and delved into topics on all aspects of the Book Chain Project, all under the theme of ‘The Story of Books’.
Set against panoramic views of the WWT London Wetlands Centre, we gathered together 11 speakers covering 5 sessions, and invited participating publishers, mills and suppliers to attend. Altogether, we had a packed room with over 60 people in attendance and speakers from a variety of companies.
The speakers covered various topics including; the economics behind recent pulp price rises; the various pressures on mill groups around the world; deforestation hotpots and NGO efforts to keep corporate commitments on track. We also dedicated a session to the issue of plastic where we had the lead Plastics Campaign manager from Friends of the Earth examining the different recyclable alternatives available and how these options could be implemented into the book making industry. In addition to that, with pressure to tackle human rights abuses in all supply chains from the Modern Slavery statements, we ran a session on human rights and heard some hard-hitting examples of corporate engagement to correct previous abuses with the help of the Forest Peoples Programme.
The day was a great success and ended with a tour of the wetlands and feedback has been incredibly positive with 50% of attendees rating the event as ‘Very Good’.
Malaysia has shown positive intent to resolve the Nepali migrant worker crisis. The crisis started after Nepal government shut dubious visa processing agencies that illegally charged fees from Nepali workers. Both parties discussed about the probability of some temporary arrangement for the departure workers already cleared by the Malaysian Immigration and who have paid for Immigration Security Clearance and biometric identification test. The Malaysian government plans to introduce reforms in migrant labour sector. Malaysia will move ahead at the ministerial level after discussions end with clarity. It will hold another round of consultations with labour source countries to resolve all issues.
A database of over 4,000 chemical substances potentially found in plastic packaging, has been made publicly available. The Chemicals associated with Plastic Packaging (CPP) database (see CW; CRM) is the outcome of a collaboration between seven NGOs and research organisations in Europe and the US. The work has been submitted to Science of the Total Environment, and is now available, prior to peer review, as a preprint. The database is provided with the preprint as supplementary information.
EU member approved the proposal to restrict the phthalates DEHP, DBP, DIBP and BBP in articles. The four phthalates are on the REACH candidate list of SVHCs for their reprotoxic as well as endocrine disrupting properties. Under the proposal they would be restricted to a concentration equal to or below 0.1% by weight individually or in any combination in any plasticised material in articles used by consumers or those used in indoor areas. The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers now have three months to scrutinise the measure and the restriction will then be published in the EU’s Official Journal and will apply 18 months after the entry into force to products produced both in and outside of the EU.
The rise of robots in manufacturing in Southeast Asia is likely to fuel modern-day slavery as workers who end up unemployed due to automation face abuses competing for a shrinking pool of low-paid jobs in a “race to the bottom”. Especially, the workers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines — at least 137 million people — risk losing their jobs because of the automation in the next two decades. Those workers are more vulnerable to workplace abuses as they jostle for fewer jobs at lower wages.
In order to help consumers make informed choices for safer products while increasing pressure to substitute substances of concern, ECHA is going to establish a new database on the presence of hazardous chemicals in articles by the end of 2019 for waste treatment operators and consumers. The database will comprise information submitted by companies producing, importing or selling articles that contain Candidate List substances. Companies need to submit this information by the end of 2020. The work is based on the revised waste framework directive that entered into force in July 2018. It is part of the EU’s waste legislation package, contributing to the EU's circular economy policy.
The Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) is a collaborative effort to accelerate progress and improve accountability for responsible supply chain commitments in agriculture and forestry. Recently, the initiative has released the first draft of their framework for improving accountability for responsible supply chain commitments in agriculture and forestry, including as set of the core principles & definitions, a practical operational guidance. The initiative is now preparing to expand on the principles in an operational manual, and they are inviting input and feedback from as many companies, government entities, non-profits, and other stakeholders as possible.
The World Economic Forum recently published research suggesting consumers in a few key emerging market producer countries (Indonesia and Brazil) and importing countries (China and India) together account for 40% of global consumption of the four commodities most associated with tropical deforestation—soy, beef, palm, and wood products. The authors project that by 2025 demand for these commodities within these four countries could increase by 43%, resulting in forest areas equivalent to the size of Nigeria being cut down every. Increasing demand for meat and calorie-rich foods, regulatory changes, and shifts in constraints for domestic production will all be key factors in fueling demand in these emerging market economies.
Over the past few months, our annual Book Chain Project conference has been the focus for the team in London. The event involved a day of panel discussions and delved into topics on all aspects of the Book Chain Project, all under the theme of ‘The Story of Books’. There are 60 people from invited participating publishers, mills and suppliers in attendance. 11 speakers from a variety of companies talked about topics on pulp price rising, mill pressures, deforestation hotpots, plastic issues and modern slavery etc. The day was a great success and ended with a tour of the wetlands and feedback has been incredibly positive with 50% of attendees rating the event as ‘Very Good’.
ECHA has added eight new SVHCs to the Candidate List following the SVHC identification process with the involvement of the Member State Committee (MSC). Two further substances, TMA and DCHP, have also been added to the list, having been identified as SVHCs by the European Commission due to their respiratory sensitising properties and toxic for reproduction and endocrine-disrupting properties, respectively. The Commission’s decision follows the referral of the MSC opinions on these SVHC proposals in 2016.
Indonesia is making it easier for foreigners to work here — but they will have to study as well. A decree by President Joko Widodo that is set to take effect on June will simplify Indonesia’s procedures for issuing work permits to foreigners, which are often hampered by delays, arbitrary denials and revocations, not to mention compulsory bribes to civil servants just to stamp the paperwork. Buried inside the order is a section requiring all expatriate workers to undergo formal Indonesian language training, an apparent first for any nation in Southeast Asia. The foreign business community has been caught off guard by the new requirement.
The tariffs on Canadian lumber and Canadian uncoated groundwood paper from the Trump administration on trade war, resulting in a significant rise in the cost of newsprint. Newspaper publishers in the US is now struggling to adapt, incorporating newspaper section limits, cutting page counts, decreasing issue frequency and laying off staff.
Pressure to meet fast fashion deadlines is leading to women working in Asian factories supplying Gap and H&M being sexually and physically abused, according to two separate reports published by Global Labour Justice on gender-based violence in garment supply chains. More than 540 female workers at factories that supply the Gap and H&M have described incidents of threats and abuse. The reports claim that these allegations recorded between January and May this year in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, are a direct result of pressure for quick turnarounds and low overheads. Gap and H&M are going to investigate the allegations and they welcome initiatives to tackle violence, including an ILO convention.
Resolute Forest Products Lawsuits (re-alleged racketeering and defamation by environmental organisations, USA)
Canadian logging company Resolute Forest Products has filed two lawsuits against various Greenpeace entities, Stand. Earth (formerly known as "ForestEthics"), and some of these organisations' staff members in the United States and Canada. These lawsuits were brought in relation to the organisations' criticism of the environmental impact of Resolute Forest's logging practices in the Canadian boreal region and to their campaigns encouraging customers to hold Resolute to account for its unsustainable forestry practices. The environmental organisations being sued assert that the lawsuits are meritless and constitute "strategic lawsuits against public participation" ("SLAPP") meant to silence their criticisms. Following the filing of Resolute's lawsuits, Greenpeace launched a campaign aiming to stop the use of SLAPPs to silence free speech. As part of this campaign, Greenpeace has received support from over 100 authors in several countries.
The Forest Trust have released a short video on their Respect programme which aims to address human rights issues in agricultural supply chains. It discusses some of the issues on plantations in Indonesia and in the manufacturing sector in China, and the worker-focused solutions they are implementing to tackle them.
FSC has sent a "come clean" ultimatum to APP and its billionaire Indonesian owners, the Widjaja family, following evidence it continues to cut down tropical forests and operate through corporate proxies. A letter was sent to the pulp and paper giant on Monday which sets out the demands FSC expect APP to meet if they want to be readmitted to the council. The ultimatum comes after Greenpeace ended a five year truce with the company earlier this month following an investigation that revealed the company had been destroying tropical forests the entire time the two parties were cooperating on conservation. FSC have demanded APP respond to their letter by Monday, stating publicly their high level commitment to the council’s standards and proposing remedies to Greenpeace’s evidence of deforestation. By June 11th the company will also have to fully disclose their corporate structure and any other violations of the standards.
Canadian company Catalyst Paper Corp. is selling its US operations, including a pair of paper mills in Maine and Wisconsin, to a Chinese company Nine Dragons Paper. Nine Dragons Paper is paying US$175 million for the mills and an operations centre in Dayton, Ohio. There are no plans for lay-offs at the mills, which employ about 610 workers in Rumford, Maine, and 380 workers in Biron, Wisconsin, a spokeswoman said.
A new study finds that illegal logging, coupled with weak state-run timber licensing systems, has led to massive timber harvesting fraud in Brazil, resulting in huge illicit harvests of Ipê trees. Ipê wood is largely shipped to the U.S. and Europe with the high value (up to $2,500 per cubic meter at export). Buyers all along the timber supply chain turn a blind eye toward fraud, with sawmills, exporters, and importers trusting the paperwork they receive, rather than questioning whether the lower prices they pay for Ipê and other timber may be due to timber laundering. This process is doing major damage to the Amazon. To reduce document fraud, the Brazilian federal government required that all states register or integrate their timber licensing systems within a national timber inventory and tracking system known as Sinaflor. While this should reduce fraudulent paperwork, better oversight of forest management plans and more onsite inspections of timber operations are needed also.
Results of a market survey conducted by ECHA shows the volume of bisphenol S (BPS) used as developer in thermal paper manufactured in the EU doubled between 2016 and 2017. The market share of BPS-based thermal papers is expected to continue to increase in the coming years, and in particular after 2 January 2020, when BPA can no longer be used in thermal paper in the EU.