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WWF Allows Companies to Destroy Forests, Report Charges

A World Wildlife Fund industry partnership to protect forests is failing in its duties, according to a human rights group.

In Pandering to the Loggers (pdf) a report out yesterday, Global Witness charged that companies are destroying forests and trading in illegally sourced timber while basking in the glow of the WWF’s iconic panda brand. The group said that WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), which was created to eliminate illegal timber trading, has suffered from systemic failures.

The report said that a major Malaysian logging company, which is a paying member of the program, was destroying rainforest at the rate of 20 soccer fields a day. This destruction included orangutan habitat within the boundaries of the WWF “Heart of Borneo” project.

Another GFTN member, a UK building supplier, had failed to eliminate illegally sourced timber ten years after joining the program, Global Witness said.

The group said the systemic problems included poor monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, inadequate membership rules and a lack of transparency and accountability, with little or no information in the public domain about the performance of individual participating companies.

“When a landmark scheme created in the name of sustainability and conservation tolerates one of its member companies destroying orangutan habitat, something is going seriously wrong,” said Tom Picken, forest campaign leader at Global Witness. “Through government grants, taxpayers are footing a large part of this scheme’s annual £4m [US$ 7m] budget and they have a right to know their money isn’t being spent greenwashing bad practice.

“This investigation raises bigger questions about the underlying strategy and efficacy of such voluntary schemes. To protect the world’s remaining forests and avoid duping consumers, initiatives should focus on reducing overall demand rather than certify ever-expanding areas of forest being felled,” Picken added.

WWF’s George White, head of GFTN, responded, “Some GFTN partners have a way to go on their journey to sustainability. But these are precisely the companies that should be in GFTN, and we applaud their commitments to improving their environmental performance. Companies caught flouting the rules and spirit of GFTN will be removed from the network.”

WWF said that GFTN has played a key role in promoting transparency in supply chains, and that since 2007, GFTN members have been able to achieve certification through the Forest Stewardship Council for over 20 million hectares.

More than 50 percent of the global market for FSC material is traded by GFTN participants, WWF said, and the program now includes about 300 companies, communities and non-profits in more than 30 countries.

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11 thoughts on “WWF Allows Companies to Destroy Forests, Report Charges

  1. Interesting…I have heard WWF sold out, esp. when the new corporate board members were added and the name changed from World Wildlife Fund to WWF.

  2. Insane strategy by Global Witness – the press will jump all over this to discredit WWF and other environmental groups, further damaging the environmental movement.

  3. As long as consumers, particularly American businesses and individuals, continue wanting ever-cheaper, resource-intensive products, like paper (made from wood pulp), for copying, printing, packaging and other everyday uses of paper, this loss of a precious resource will continue.

    We at DolphinBlue.com have offered papers made in the USA, from only post consumer waste fibers, for over eighteen years. Over the years, thousands of times we’ve heard the objection, “Your paper costs too much!”

    Think about this…

    What, ultimately, is the cost of destruction of our planet, our beautiful garden, as we rape her for cheaply-priced, throw-away goods, tearing the heart out of our forests, only to build more landfills?

    We must wake up, as the time to save her is getting very late.

  4. Nothing insane about telling the truth, if it is the truth. Global Witness has a brilliant record of highly effective, truthful campaigning. Protecting the environmental movement from scrutiny will not help anyone, least of all the environment.

    Peter T. Knight
    Context America

  5. Eternal vigilance is the price of any effective certification program (as well as freedom). Mr. White, how many companies has WWF removed from GFTN? If none, how can members believe that you have meaningful standards of environmental protection?

  6. It si a shame that Global Witness has apparently chosen to focus on what appear to be bad actors in the GFTN. GFTN and other voluntary efforts like — say FSC and PEFC — all have done an enormous amount to improve forest practices world-wide. In fact I bet that GW’s ability to produce their report is due in part to the efforts of GFTN and others to make forest practices and the supply chain more transparent. Its also useful to remember that these voluntary efforts sprung up because legal constraints were (and are)too often ignored. The work of GFTN isn’t perfect, but it is making a real and important contribution to forest protection and sustainability and for that I thanks them.

  7. There is no denying the fact that forest certification schemes across the world have helped raise the forest degradation awareness and to some extent may be improvement in forest management practices. But is is also true that illegal felling and unsustainable harvesting still continue many forest areas. There are also concernes about efficay and transparaency in assessments undertaken by certification bodies as these are intormed to be indulging in cut throught competition on price in getting/retaining clinet organizations. There needs to be more transparency on working of the CBs and more information sharing about the GFTN members on their forest management/sourcing practices not only for the certified part of the procurement but also the non-certified one which at times is manifold than the former.

  8. “Companies caught flouting the rules and spirit of GFTN will be removed from the network,” says WWF’s George White. But has that ever happened?

    Nonprofits seldom voluntarily severe ties with their corporate donors. New corporate-environmentalists joint ventures, on the other hand, have become almost commonplace. The trend toward corporate sponsorship of the environmental movement — and the competition for logging, mining and oil and gas cash — has lowered the bar to the point where just about any company can find a green group willing to take its cash.

    But the environmentalist risk their credibility — particularly when they continue “applauding” corporate benefactors linked to habitat-destroying illegal logging.

    Christine MacDonald
    author, “Green Inc, An Environmental insider reveals how a good cause has gone bad,” The Lyons Press, 2008.

  9. Actually — I read that 22 GFTN members are currently sustpended, and that a material number had been asked to leave in the past for not respecting their commitments. Don’t blame the NGO — blame the companies for not honouring engagements. Global Witness has made an own goal.

  10. If you want to better understand one of the problems we face in trying to protect forest and wetlands. Read ( Silviculture ) it’s plain to see that it is a pretty well thought out smoke screen to say the least. No permits needed and you get the full protection of law by claiming Silviculture management practices.
    It simply allows anyone that wants to cut down trees to do so and avoid most if not all of the requirements to do so. It is from what I see in my area an easy way to avoid being held responsible for one’s actions. In theory it may look good but in practice it is well to say the least not what it appears to be. I can take you to areas within a stones throw of my home and show you what this so called practice is doing and if you still think it’s viable once you see the results. Well I don’t think you will once you’ve seen what I see each and everyday. Protecting wetlands may be the law but it isn’t the end result if you allow those that cut and harvest trees to use exceptions such as ” Silviculture ” to avoid the very laws themselves. Hell as a logging company in this state you can’t even be accused of being a nuisance as long as you’re logging? make no sense, well you need to read the logging requirements in the state of SC and you’ll surely see I haven’t misspoken. Keep in mind that states own most of the trees and those trees are valuable to them. It should be easy to understand why they protect their own. The sad thing is they must have forgotten that the state is us, not them!

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