WWF: Luxury brands failing to source sustainable timber

Major luxury retailers such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges are failing to take sufficient action to ensure the timber of wood products they sell are not contributing to deforestation, according to new research from WWF.

The WWF 2017 Timber Scorecard measures biennial progress on sustainable timber sourcing by 128 UK retail companies. The report found that 30 businesses have shown little or no progress on sustainable timber and wood products, and provide inadequate communication about their purchasing policies.

WWF has warned that by ignoring calls to make their supply chains sustainable, some of the UK’s most luxurious brands are potentially playing a role in deforestation.

“With luxury brands you are paying a premium price – and this report shows that there is a risk when it comes to timber products that this price tag could also come with a high environmental cost,” WWF global forest and trade network manager Julia Young said.

Customers of luxury brands should not assume that in paying a premium price, social and environmental responsibilities have been met; as luxury companies could be unwittingly destroying forests, due to their lack of clear commitments to sustainable sourcing of timber for their products, like many other businesses in the UK.”

The UK is the third largest importer of forest products in the world. Of the 30 British retailers to score 0 in WWF’s 2017 Scorecard – 15 of these had also scored 0 in the 2015 edition – showing they have “kept their heads in the sand” over their responsibilities in this area, according to WWF.

Retail giants such as B&Q, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Sainsbury’s are among the best performers. The NGO has said this shows that it is possible for big names in diverse sectors to promote sustainable timber practices.  

Responsible sourcing

The latest report forms part of WWF’s wider responsible forest management research. WWF has previously warned that ‘primary’ forest areas are being depleted at an alarming rate in many forested countries. Nigeria and Vietnam, for instance, have reputedly lost 99% and 80% of primary forest respectively – almost two million hectares – since 1990. 

The greatest challenge regarding responsible sourcing concerns finished furniture imports from countries outside of EU Timber Regulation jurisdictions, WWF claims. Almost 60% of €4.1bn UK furniture imports originate from outside the EU, while total imports from “high risk” countries with recognised illegal logging and trade issues – such as China, Vietnam, and Malaysia – are valued at €1.9bn.

A previous report from WWF found that retailers that place a strong emphasis on sourcing polices that promote sustainable forestry are building better relationships with both consumers and employees.

George Ogleby

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