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Wal-Mart getting tough on illegal lumber


October 1, 2008
By Pulp & Paper Canada

The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, says it plans to phase out use of illegal timber in its products and increase the proportion of sustainably certified wood products that it sources. The announc…

The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, says it plans to phase out use of illegal timber in its products and increase the proportion of sustainably certified wood products that it sources. The announcement came as the retail giant confirmed it has joined the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s Global Forest and Trade Network, an initiative designed to help protect threatened forests.

The illegal timber trade, fuelled by poverty and corruption, is rife in much of Asia, where 78% of forests are state-owned and often managed by the armed forces, and not the people who live in or near them, experts point out.

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The move is the latest in a series of programs from Wal-Mart designed to help reduce the environmental effect of its supply chain. The company last year launched a program requiring many of its largest suppliers to report on their environmental performance. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart announced it was extending the program to include many of its Chinese suppliers.

“One of our goals at Wal-Mart is to sell products that sustain and protect our resources,” said Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of sustainability. “By joining the GFTN, we can further this goal by providing our customers with a reliable supply of wood products that come from responsibly managed forests.”

WWF said Wal-Mart sources wood from some of the most biologically diverse regions, including the Amazon, Russian far east, northern China, Indonesia and the Mekong region of Southeast Asia, and, as such, the move represents a major breakthrough.

Under the terms of its membership, Wal-Mart has agreed to undertake a complete assessment of where its wood furniture is sourced and whether the timber is legally felled from well-managed forests. Once the assessment -scheduled to take a year -is completed, the company has committed to eliminating the purchase of wood from illegal and unknown sources within five years.

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