Losing the plot.

Sustainable timber allowed firms to greenwash

Published:  29 July, 2011

LONDON: Conservation group WWF allowed timber companies to use its panda brand logo while they were razing some of the world's most biologically rich rainforests or trading in potentially illegally sourced timber, according to investigative group, Global Witness.

The WWF's flagship Global forest and trade network (Gftn), which is part subsidised by the US government and the EU, promotes sustainable timber, bringing together logging companies and timber sellers.

But membership requirements are too low and poorly policed, says Global Witness. UK building supplier, Jewson, which is a member of the scheme failed to ensure all its timber came from legal sources for nearly 10 years after joining. WWF said Jewson had changed its timber sourcing practices after problems had been found.

"Gftn rules are less stringent than US and EU laws prohibiting the import of illegal timber," said Tom Picken, a forest campaigner at Global Witness in a press release. "When a landmark scheme created in the name of conservation tolerates one of its member companies destroying orangutan habitat, something is going seriously wrong."

WWF said many of the allegations were misleading. "Gftn has made a major contribution to conservation through its ability to engage with industry.

Participants make clear commitments that demonstrate they reject illegal or suspicious timber.Trade participants report on an annual basis, and sites are inspected on an annual basis where appropriate."

WWF, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, makes about $500m a year from donations and corporate endorsements but has been criticised by other environment groups and NGOs for its links to forestry, mining, tobacco, banks, palm oil, bio fuel and other companies.

Global Witness has called on WWF to rigorously evaluate the scheme with a comprehensive independent audit. "Donor governments using public-sector funds to finance Gftn should make further support conditional on such an evaluation being carried out, along with the implementation of any resulting recommendations being realised," said Mr Picken.

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