A four-year investigation by the US Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) uncovered evidence of an illegal timber trade stretching from Chinese-owned Dejia Group in West Africa to major hardware stores located across the USA.
The timber was from the okoumé tree, classed vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with a range limited to just four African countries. US Federal officials are investigating the importers, Evergreen Hardwoods and Cornerstone Forest Products. The Dejia Group also exports to European countries where the EU Timber Regulation is in force, including France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Greece.
- United States
- Chinese-owned Dejia Group
- Cornerstone Forest Products
- Evergreen Hardwoods
- hardware stores
- illegal timber trade
- IUCN Red List
- okoumé tree
- The Dejia Group
- Timber Regulation
- US Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
- US Federal officials
An investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that some workers at tea estates certified by Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade in Sri Lanka suffer from illegal wage deductions and take home as little as 14 U.S. cents a day. Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade said they were investigating as deducting wages without workers' consent was not allowed by law and contravened their standards. Unilever said it was "deeply concerned" and would investigate. Major tea company Tetley, owned by India's Tata Global Beverages, said it was in touch with the Rainforest Alliance regarding the findings.
US regulators say several children’s makeup products from Claire's stores tested positive for asbestos. According to Chemical Watch, the US House of Representatives is considering a bill requiring talc-containing cosmetics marketed to children to bear a warning label that the product may be contaminated with asbestos.
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.
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.
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.
the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in the U.S. and the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) in China launched the IPE Green Supply Chain Map, the only tool in the world to openly link leading multinational corporations to their suppliers’ environmental performance. Based on publicly available data from the Chinese government, IPE’s database and map provide real-time data and historical trends in air pollution emissions and wastewater discharge for nearly 15,000 major industrial facilities in China and access to environmental supervision records for over half a million more.
US chain store Target has removed two fidget spinner models from sale, after a study from NGO the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) study found they contained high levels of lead. The federal legal limit is 100 parts per million (ppm) for lead in children’s products, but fidget spinners are classified by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) as general use rather than as children’s products. They are only considered toys if labelled age 12 and under.
After NRDC released powerful evidence of continued logging in boreal forest areas that were placed under a logging moratorium via the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA), Resolute Forest Products came back with a media statement that underscored governments’ role in regulating forest clearcutting. "It’s the Quebec government that gives companies permission to go and harvest on these lands," said company spokesperson Karl Blackburn. “We do not go where we want. We go where the government allows us to go."
Even as the logging industry lobbies the Canadian government to further delay measures that would protect the country’s diminishing woodland caribou herds, research and satellite images of the boreal released last month by NRDC clearly illustrate the failure of voluntary industry commitments to protect woodland caribou habitat.
The largest hardwood flooring retailer in the United States, Lumber Liquidators, agreed to plead guilty to several violations of the Lacey Act. The company will have to pay a combined $13.2 million for importing illegally harvested timber from areas including forests in far eastern Russia and other compliance issues. The raids that led to the charges followed investigations and reports by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and WWF. Lumber Liquidators faces separate allegations that it imported laminated wood products with illegal levels of formaldehyde.
The think tank Innovation Forum held a two-day conference in Washington DC entitled “How business can tackle deforestation” attended by 160 representatives from companies, NGOs and investors. Whilst multiple major consumer goods companies have declared their commitments to achieving zero deforestation in their supply chains many others have raised concerns over the term and what the policy actually means in practice.
Rainforest Alliances’ recent position paper, ‘Halting Deforestation and Achieving Sustainability’ warned that zero deforestation commitments may not be enough to protect the world’s forests, due to two reasons. Firstly, though many major companies have signed up for these commitments, many other producers and buyers will not. These companies will continue to rely on deforestation to produce their goods, unless a way is found to address underlying issues, such as growing worldwide demand for forest products. Secondly, focusing solely on deforestation risks drawing attention away from other business practices within the commodities supply chain which may deserve equally urgent attention e.g. water scarcity and labour laws. In addition, the use of ‘zero deforestation’ as a catchphrase is problematic because there remains no clear agreement over what the term means. Rainforest Alliance emphasises the need for greater education, auditing and transparency so that consumers know the impact of what they are buying and are able to trust companies’ sustainability claims. Though a commendable step in the right direction, ‘zero deforestation’ commitments need to be backed up with comprehensive action plans if they are to deliver credible results.
A new report titled ‘Logging Concessions Enable Illegal Logging Crisis in the Peruvian Amazon’ has found that the Peruvian Forest Law is being exploited for illegal purposes. Loggers are required to declare which individual, GPS-referenced trees will be cut in a one or five year period. As a result many have invented the existence of trees, they then log in other areas and claim trees came from inside their concessions and use the paperwork from these concessions to “prove” it. In over half the cases violations have related to CITES-listed cedar species. Nearly 70% of the concessions inspected have been suspected of “major violations”. This follows what was supposed to be a strengthening of the law through a trade agreement between Peru and the United States in 2009. The report’s authors say the root of the problem is that the authorities only check the regulatory documents in transport or at port arrival well after the logging has taken place. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has previously been highly critical of Peruvian logging practices highlighting the abuse of migrant workers and strategies designed to confuse the authorities in order to cover up illegal logging.
A report from the UK- and US-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has said that up to 80% of the hardwood harvested in the Russian far east is logged illegally. The EIA say the demand for this material comes from Chinese sawmills and subsequently their western customers. The material that is of most concern is illegally logged Russian oak. US wood flooring retailer, Lumber Liquidators, was named in the report as being heavily reliant on Chinese suppliers who allegedly mainly sell illegally logged material. The EIA say the US and EU regulations on illegal logging are important pressure points where they now have the ability to intervene – before now, and without this pressure, illegal logging in Siberia has seen rapid expansion. Despite industry incentives from the Russian government, incredible demand from China has led to Chinese sawmills establishing just over the China-Russia border. EIA’s investigations suggest that most of these mills rely on a supply of illegally logged timber.
The US Government and 20 of the world’s largest companies from the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) have announced a partnership to eliminate deforestation from supply chains by 2020, starting with palm oil, soy, paper and beef. Production of these four commodities in four countries alone causes 50% of global deforestation. Leaders from the CGF companies, the US and other governments and NGOs will meet in the Autumn to identify practical actions to achieve the deforestation commitment.
The US House of Representatives will vote this week on a bill called the RELIEF Act (The Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Fairness Enforcement Act) which would significantly weaken the use of the Lacey Act to regulate against illegal logging by allowing manufacturers to keep illegal wood and limiting the species and country declaration requirements to solid wood (i.e. pulp and paper would be excluded). The article points to World Bank estimates which suggest that government and businesses suffer more than $10 billion in lost revenue each year due to illegal logging, $1 billion of which is lost by the US.
Verso Paper is in talks with the debt holders of NewPage to acquire the company. NewPage management have stated that they do not support the deal. Both companies have been struggling with falling demand and rising costs. Verso hope the deal would enable them to combine forces and reduce costs as both companies own mills located on the East Coast and in the Midwest of the United States.
Press release for a report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists called ‘Logging and the Law: How the U.S. Lacey Act Helps Reduce Illegal Logging in the Tropics’. The report draws attention to how illegally harvested wood distorts prices of legal wood and has a negative impact on the US wood industry.