Press Release: July 27, 2011
US Companies Dealing Plywood from Illegally Logged Malaysian Forests:
New report describes Australian links; U.S. companies importing from same source
Andrea Johnson, +1 (202) 483-6621 email@example.com
Washington, D.C. -- A report released today in Australia describes how a major Australian wood products company imports plywood made from forests in Malaysia where systematic illegal logging has taken place. New data revealed by the Environmental Investigation Agency show that the same source is also a significant supplier to the United States market, where a recently amended law called the Lacey Act creates strong penalties for trade in illegally sourced wood.
Greenpeace Australia’s new exposé describes the supply chain from a subsidiary of Malaysian logging giant Samling to the company Australian Wood Panels (AWP), which then sells the plywood onwards to various retailers and at least one prominent construction project in Sydney. Activists this morning scaled a crane at the development site and dropped a banner reading “Stop Illegal Timber."
Samling has a long track record of legal infractions, conflict and abuse of indigenous peoples’ rights in the countries in which it operates, according to this and other reports. In mid-2010, the Norwegian government divested its national pension fund from Samling after investigations conducted by British NGO Earthsight confirmed widespread and serious illegal activities in Samling logging concessions.
These investigations documented harvest of protected species and undersized trees, cutting in an area designated as extension to a National Park, cutting too close to rivers or on overly steep terrain, and operating without a required Environmental Impact Assessment. The timber from these concessions ends up in mills in the Baramas River basin of Sarawak, on the Malaysian part of Borneo, where it is used for manufacturing plywood and veneer by Samling Plywood (Baramas), Ltd. Greenpeace has confirmed that AWP is selling several types of plywood made in the Baramas mills.
U.S. trade records show that at least three dozen American companies have sourced from Samling subsidiaries in Malaysia, China, or Guyana since 2007, and twenty-two did so in the time since the results of Norway’s investigation were made public in mid-2010. These numbers include three companies that imported plywood or lumber directly from Samling Plywood (Baramas), Ltd. Of these three, only the Houston, TX-based Holland Southwest International appears to have brought in shipments during 2011.
“It appears that some US companies are taking seriously the legal and reputational risks involved in sourcing from a company with a track record like Samling,” said Andrea Johnson of the Environmental Investigation Agency, a Washington, D.C.-based group that studies illegal timber trade. “We call upon all of Samling’s customers to ask the questions necessary to make sure they’re not buying or selling illegal wood from Malaysia’s few remaining forests.”
In 2009, according to Samling’s annual report, 13.3% of Samling Group’s plywood exports were destined for the US. Other US companies continue to import plywood and flooring from Samling mills in China. EIA was not able to ascertain what raw material is used in these mills. The majority of the company’s international log production is from natural forests in Sarawak.
Greenpeace report, “Forest Crime File: Illegal Timber Sold in Australia”, available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/
Norway divestment announcement and Earthsight report available at:
The US Lacey Act, a long-standing wildlife trafficking statute amended in 2008, now prohibits import export or other trade in illegally-sourced wood and all products.
See www.eia-global.org/lacey for more details
The Environmental Investigation Agency is an international campaigning organization, with offices in Washington D.C. and London, committed to investigating and exposing environmental crime and campaigning to protect endangered species and the natural world. www.eia-global.org
Environmental Investigation Agency
PO Box 53343, Washington, DC 20009 www.eia-global.org
Tel: +1 202 483 6621/ Fax: +1 202 986 8626