A new report by Global Witness, Stained Trade, has revealed how companies along wood product supply chains leading through China are failing to screen out illegal timber”. The report cites that “the risks this creates for U.S. companies, and the devastating impacts the trade is having on people in PNG”, are cause for serious concern.

The report found exotic wood products sold in American stores may be driving the theft of indigenous people’s land and deforestation in PNG, as well as potentially violating U.S. law.

People throughout PNG are being illegally stripped of their land by their own government. Widespread abuse of a land-leasing scheme has seen 12% of the country given away to mostly foreign-owned logging and agribusiness interests for up to 99 years. 

The government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has been promising for years to cancel illegal leases, after an independent inquiry documented widespread violations of indigenous land rights, but has failed to follow through. Clear-cutting of forests under the leases is destroying sources of food, water and medicine on which indigenous communities rely.
Our investigation shows how the global timber trade is driving deforestation and abuses of indigenous communities’ rights in PNG.

In the U.S. and Europe there are laws that explicitly prohibit imports of illegal wood. But the reports cites there could be a loophole, namely how: “the lack of equivalent measures in China creates risks for American and European importers of wood products made in China, as demonstrated by a recent criminal case involving U.S. flooring giant Lumber Liquidators. Last year the company agreed to pay US$13 million in penalties after U.S. authorities caught it importing Chinese-made flooring linked to illegal logging in Russia, in violation of the U.S. Lacey Act”.

For more information and a summary of the findings, see here.

We suggest that, in the example of furniture, you review the latest ethical index ratings and ensure your purchases are based on informed decisions.

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