Amazon is investigating the working practices of one of its key suppliers in China - Hengyang Foxconn factory after they were found to have illegally recruited hundreds of student interns aged 16-18, many of whom were also working overtime. These students worked long hours to meet production targets. Those working overtime were only paid the normal hourly rate instead of time-and-a-half which is required by Chinese law and by Amazon’s own supplier code of conduct.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
An 18-month investigation conducted by Transparentem unearthed serious abuses at five apparel factories in Malaysia – hundreds of migrant workers had paid illegal recruitment fees that sometimes exceeded a year’s pay, while four of the factories retained the workers’ passports. The findings were presented to 23 western companies, fifteen of whom agreed to help remediate the five factories by defining specific resolutions. In addition, the American Apparel and Footwear Association – which includes Nike, Gap, Ralph Lauren and 120 other companies – announced a new policy on “responsible recruitment” that requires “supply chain partners” to make sure no workers pay recruitment fees and “workers retain control of their travel documents and have full freedom of movement”.
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.
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.
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 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.
Earlier this year Vietnam initialled a timber trade agreement with the EU that will see Vietnam implement legislation to address imports of illegally harvested and traded timber in return for timber exports to the EU. According to a recent EIA investigation, Vietnam continues its role as a serial offender in the illegal timber trade, with large volumes of illegal timber still flowing across the Cambodian border unhindered. EIA have identified three main areas within Cambodia where substantial illegal logging operations continue. EIA tracked timber from these sites is being smuggled out of Cambodia and into Vietnam across informal crossings.
In an EU/EEA-wide project of ECHA’s Enforcement Forum, inspectors found hundreds of consumer products with illegal amounts of restricted chemicals. Every fifth toy inspected contained high levels of restricted phthalates.
Printing company Tat Seng Packaging Group (Singapore) pleaded guilty to three counts under the Sewerage and Drainage (Trade Effluent) Regulations and was fined in January $4,000 on each count. Another charge was taken into consideration during sentencing.
It had been caught four times for polluting Singapore's sewers with toxic industrial used water. But that did not stop printing company Tat Seng Packaging Group from illegally discharging copper-tainted water yet again in September 2016.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says decking on luxury yachts made in the UK have illegal wood on them. EU rules dictate that point of origin in the chain of sale must be legally-sourced teak from Myanmar. Princess Yachts International and Sunseeker International, both singled out by the EIA in their statement, will be at the London Boat Show this week.
Long known as a hotspot for rapid and largely illegal deforestation, Cambodia was singled out in a May 2017 EIA report. The report was the result of months of undercover investigations which found that from November 2016, more than 300,000 cubic metres (nearly 10.6 million cubic feet) of timber have been illegally felled in a wildlife sanctuary and two protected areas in Cambodia. Most of the timber was sold to Vietnam and generated $13 million in payments from Vietnamese timber traders. Environmental experts believe that a much-publicized crackdown on illegal logging launched in Cambodia in early 2016 had very little effect.
EU and Vietnam complete negotiations on a deal to combat illegal logging and promote trade in legal timber
The EU and Vietnam conclude negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The agreement will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU, and other markets.
The yearlong ban on logging across all of Myanmar since April 2016 was lifted at the end of March 2017, and now the Myanmar government says it is on its way to bringing verifiably legal timber to the international market. Although a number of illegal activities were prevented by the government, illegal logging continued during the ban due to insufficiently collaboration. International buyers and local NGOs are concerned that Myanmar is not doing enough to keep its forests safe.
Vietnam has largely succeeded in reforestation within its border. Started in the 1980s, accompanying the transition to a market-driven economy, forestry management moved to a multi-sector approach with NGOs, businesses, local communities and management boards involved from originally government control. In 2008, Vietnam become a REDD pilot country, and both Forest Trends and FAO have recorded the increase in forest cover in Vietnam. However, challenge still exits. The demand for wood products in Vietnam is high, and now the country imports much from Cambodia, where illegal and unsustainable loggings happen frequently.
Interpol has released a purple notice on 30 August about an illegal timber trading operation involving four companies in Brazil, which stems from an investigation by the Brazilian Federal Police that uncovered a technique employed by illegal timber traders in the country. The method in question involves obtaining fraudulent forest management plans that declare a higher density of a high-value timber species within a timber concession than actually exists on the ground, allowing criminals to harvest timber from unauthorized areas and report it as if it was legal. These false forest management plans are obtained through bribery or by the operators who forge them.
Myanmar’s National League for Democracy-led Government announced a national logging ban, effective immediately, which will run until the end of March 2017. Satellite data shows the tree cover in Myanmar has lost nearly 5 percent (2 million hectares) from 2001 through 2014. In 2014, Myanmar enacted a ban on raw timber exports. A driving force of Myanmar’s illegal timber trade is demand from China, and Myanmar was once China’s biggest supplier of rosewood in 2013. The demand from china declined in 2015 since China’s economy slowed, and currently, China’s timber trade with Myanmar is officially suspended.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resource of Australia has decided that certified businesses are required to maintain an equivalent due diligence system under PEFC Chain of Custody standard, and also AFS (Australia’s PEFC-endorsed national forest certification system), which means that PEFC-certified companies in Australia are now recognized as automatically meeting the due diligence requirements in the illegal logging regulation of Australia, and no separate due diligence system prepared for the illegal logging regulation specifically is not required.
Fern have produced a report outlining China’s efforts in combatting the trade of illegally sourced timber. The report covers the forest policies and timber trade trends in China as well as the engagement from national and international bodies. Strategies for China-EU efforts in tackling illegal logging and forest governance failure and other drivers of deforestation are also shared. One recommendation includes a robust enforcement of the EUTR in imports from China.
More than 30 environmental groups have signed a statement against the renewal of regional forest agreements (RFAs) for the logging of Australian native forests. A report shared last week by the National Park Association of NSW showed that the logging has resulted in an increase of threatened species. It also noted that the agreements designed in 1990 didn’t acknowledge how the loss of forests would contribute to climate change. The environmental groups stand firm and will not accept any extensions, rollovers or renewals.