Greenpeace applauds B&Q’s initiative to clean up timber trade in China

Corporate commitment shows breakthroughs are possible, environmental group says

Press release - 2007-06-12
At a press conference today in Beijing, Greenpeace applauded the initiative shown by B&Q - one of China’s largest home improvement retail chains - to guarantee that the timber products it sells in all its 60 stores across China come from legal sources. Within three years, the company also committed to ensure that all product lines it sells in China come from certified ecologically responsible forestry operations.

At a press conference today in Beijing, Greenpeace applauded the initiative shown by B&Q to guarantee that the timber products it sells in all its 60 stores across China come from legal sources.

"This is very good news for the world's ancient forests," Greenpeace Campaign and Communications Director Lo Sze Ping said. "The home improvement sector in China is expanding at such a phenomenal rate that it is increasingly having a direct impact on our remaining forests. Unless companies make concerted efforts to ensure that their wood comes from legal and ecologically responsible sources, they will inadvertently contribute to global deforestation."

The world has already lost 80 per cent of its original forests and keeping what remains as intact forests is critically important to protect species and to combat climate change[i], particularly since tropical forest deforestation is currently contributing up to 25 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions[ii]. China is now the second largest manufacturing center globally and the world's largest trader in tropical species and China's home improvement sector is experiencing a growth rate of 12 per cent annually. However, many timber species commonly sold in China's home improvement stores come from countries where illegal and destructive logging is rampant, at times estimated to be as much as 80 per cent of the timber harvested [iii].

A Greenpeace survey conducted in April found that home improvement companies in China are selling many tropical hardwood species, including merbau from New Guinea, teak from Burma, jatoba from the Amazon and sapelli from Africa: illegal and destructive logging is common in each of these regions. Few of the home improvement chains, Greenpeace's survey concluded, are implementing policies that strongly prioritize purchasing FSC-certified timber products and eliminate timber products coming from illegal operations or those utilizing vulnerable species.

Speaking at the press conference, B&Q Asia's Chief Executive Officer Steve Gilman said that after Greenpeace raised concerns about timber sourcing B&Q recognized that this was a problem that needed to be addressed. "Certainly the supply chain challenges in China are not unique to B&Q," said Mr Gilman. "However, despite the challenges and the additional costs, B&Q is committed to implement measures to ensure we are part of the solution to deforestation, not part of the problem. It isn't easy, but it's part of our commitment to corporate responsibility, and we're prepared to take this on."

The plan announced by B&Q today included specific milestones and goals for each business quarter for the next three years, to ensure implementation stays on track. One milestone which has already been met is that B&Q has stopped selling flooring made from merbau, a tropical species almost exclusively coming from New Guinea that is regarded as highly susceptible to extinction in the wild.

"Despite the best efforts of B&Q and a company we contracted to assess the sources of our merbau flooring, we were unable to gain sufficient assurance that it was coming from legal operations," Mr Gilman said. "As a result, the only responsible choice we can make right now is to stop buying or selling this product, even though it has historically been one of our top sellers."

Added Lo Sze Ping, "Greenpeace is happy to see corporations recognize the importance of our environment and take steps to be environmentally friendly. Action plans such as those announced by B&Q today can help protect the world's forests. We now hope that other home improvement chains will be inspired to take action to clean up the timber trade, and we look forward to similar announcements from them in the near future."

Other contacts:

Sarah Liang, Greenpeace China Media Officer:(86) 139 1115 2514
Lo Sze Ping, Greenpeace Campaigns Director: (86) 139 1146 0873
Liu Bing, Greenpeace Forests Campaigner: (86) 139 1129 1510

B&Q contact person, Sarah Hu: (86) 21 5059 1331 E-mail : sarah.hu@b-and-qchina.com

Notes:

[i] World Resources Institute, The Last Frontier Forests, 1997

[ii] Houghton, RA (2003). Revised estimates of the annual net flux of carbon to the atmosphere from changes in land use and land management 1850-2000. Tellus 55B: 378-90; & Houghton, RA (2005a) Tropical Deforestation as a Source of Greenhouse Emissions.

[iii] A Greenpeace report found that home improvement companies in China are selling many tropical hardwood species, including merbau from the Island of New Guinea, teak from Burma, jatoba from the Amazon and sapelli from Africa: illegal and destructive logging is common in each of these regions. Few hom improvement chains in China, the survey concluded, are implementing timber purchasing policies aimed at protecting the world’s ancient forests. Copies of the report are available upon request.

Other contacts:

Sarah Liang, Greenpeace China Media Officer:(86) 139 1115 2514
Lo Sze Ping, Greenpeace Campaigns Director: (86) 139 1146 0873
Liu Bing, Greenpeace Forests Campaigner: (86) 139 1129 1510

B&Q contact person, Sarah Hu: (86) 21 5059 1331 E-mail : sarah.hu@b-and-qchina.com

Notes:

[i] World Resources Institute, The Last Frontier Forests, 1997

[ii] Houghton, RA (2003). Revised estimates of the annual net flux of carbon to the atmosphere from changes in land use and land management 1850-2000. Tellus 55B: 378-90; & Houghton, RA (2005a) Tropical Deforestation as a Source of Greenhouse Emissions.

[iii] A Greenpeace report found that home improvement companies in China are selling many tropical hardwood species, including merbau from the Island of New Guinea, teak from Burma, jatoba from the Amazon and sapelli from Africa: illegal and destructive logging is common in each of these regions. Few hom improvement chains in China, the survey concluded, are implementing timber purchasing policies aimed at protecting the world’s ancient forests. Copies of the report are available upon request.

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