Jewson takes suspect timber off the shelves

Building materials supplier Jewson and wood merchants International Timber have agreed to stop selling garden decking from the Amazon and to launch independent reviews of their supply chains in Brazil.

The announcement, made earlier today (13 June), comes off the back of a Greenpeace investigation that revealed vast amounts of illegal logging in the Brazilian jungle and the widespread use of fraudulent documents to disguise illegal timber.

Jewson sources its wood from International Timber, with both companies owned by French multinational Saint Gobain. Greenpeace’s investigation revealed that Jewson had been selling garden decking made from ipe – an Amazonian hardwood originating in areas where illegal logging and timber laundering are rife. The organisation used this as an example of the legal risk in importing Amazonian timber.

The building materials supplier initially hit back, revealing their Brazilian suppliers, Solimad Madeiras and Condor Florestas, as they had legal paperwork covering all of their ipe. But Greenpeace then discovered that those suppliers had been fined over £2m for forest crimes in the past five years, including the illegal destruction of over 1,000 hectares of a national park and using fraudulent legal paperwork.

Tread carefully

Speaking of today’s announcement, Greenpeace forests campaigner Richard George said ‘it’s great to see Jewson responding positively and taking this suspect timber off the shelves’, but he points out that ‘this wasn’t an isolated incident’. 

“Illegal logging is the norm in the Amazon, and with so much timber laundering going on, companies need to tread very carefully to stay on the right side of the law,” said George. “If you’re not checking the provenance of your timber, someone else will.

“Illegal logging has reached endemic levels. In January, the former head of the Brazilian National Forest Service said that over half of logging in the Brazilian Amazon is illegal. In the state of Pará, which provides half of the Amazon timber that comes to Europe, 78% of logging is estimated to be illegal.

“The Federal Prosecutor in the state of Pará has brought three separate lawsuits so far this year in an effort to stop timber laundering and illegal logging.”

The UK’s timber regulator, the National Measurements Office, has confirmed that as a result of Greenpeace’s investigation it will be investigating timber coming into the UK from Brazil. Similar investigations are occurring in other European countries, including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, as the widespread corruption in the Brazilian timber industry comes to light.

Luke Nicholls

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie