Sustainable Tropical Timber mostly a mirage, says new report

MEDIA RELEASE Date October 25, 2013

Deforestation of Southeast Asian rainforests and logging-related human rights violations are major problems compounded by global over-consumption of tropical timber products and by inadequate laws and purchasing policies, according to a new Friends of the Earth International report released today. [1]

The 151-page report, ‘Sustainable’ tropical timber production, trade and procurement', questions forestry governance in South East Asia, especially in relation to indigenous peoples’ customary land rights, as well as ineffective timber   regulatory measures in Japan, South Korea and Australia.

“We are witnessing a global depletion of natural timber resources and sustainable tropical timber remains essentially a mirage. Current laws and policies regulating timber production, export and import are often inadequate. They ignore the reality on the ground. For instance they ignore systemic corruption, violations of human rights, and unsustainable production and consumption patterns,” said said Cam Walker of Friends of the Earth.

“The Australian Government spent over $32 billion in 2010–11 on contracted goods and services. A strong and proactive approach to environmental sustainable purchasing can be achieved through simple changes to the Australian Government’s Procurement Policy and Guidance, in particular the Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPRs).”

“In 2012 the Australian Government introduced the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act to protect Australian forestry sector jobs and to curb the flow of illegal-logging timber products into Australia. Now is the time for the Australian Government to adopt the policy measures outlined in the 2013 Sustainable Procurement Guide published by the Department of Environment.”

“Environmentally sustainable purchasing of this magnitude will support retail market reforms, leading to broader mainstreaming of sustainable products, and provide consumers with the ability to make informed decisions about the environmental sustainability of their purchase” said Mr Walker.

The main findings of the report include:

1. The sustainability of the international tropical timber trade is still largely questionable. It took only around three decades for log production and export to rise, peak and fall in Malaysia. There are indications that the country’s natural timber resources have been largely depleted.

2. Policy efforts on timber importation and procurement in the public or private sector in consumer countries tend to require that timber legality and sustainability be accepted on faith. They lack adequate understanding of the flaws of timber production systems and the realities on the ground for affected communities.

3. Key timber importer countries such as Japan and South Korea and, to a lesser degree, Australia have failed to reduce their consumption of tropical timber products and have been unable to revive their domestic timber sector as an alternative source to tropical timber. This has resulted in a high reliance on cheap timber imports and associated deforestation.


Derec Davies, International Liaison Officer, Friends of the Earth Australia
Tel: +61 421 835 587

Shamila Ariffin, Research and Media Officer, Sahabat Alam Malaysia / Friends of the Earth Malaysia  Tel: +60 4 228 6930  

Junichi Mishiba, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth Japan
Tel: + 81 3 6907 7217  

Hyun Ji Kim, International Coordinator, Korean Federation for Environmental Movement / Friends of the Earth  Korea  Tel: + 82 2 735 7000


[1] The report is online at