Last week, Global Witness’ report Pandering to the Loggers exposed significant failings in WWF’s flagship sustainable timber scheme, the Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN). Global Witness is concerned that WWF’s responses to the report have so far failed to address the specific issues raised.
WWF has not addressed concerns over Danzer Group’s membership of the scheme, despite investigations into human rights abuses involving a Danzer subsidiary.
- WWF has evaded Global Witness’ concerns about whether it is appropriate for WWF to continue providing full GFTN membership status to Swiss-German timber company the Danzer Group, while one of its subsidiaries and suppliers, Siforco, is under investigation for its involvement relating to human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The abuses, including rapes, beatings and one death, are alleged to have been carried out by state security forces after the company requested help from local authorities to resolve community protests over the company’s failure to deliver agreed social projects.
- WWF has stated it has ceased all engagement with the subsidiary concerned, but continues to defend the parent company and a second Danzer subsidiary, IFO.
Recommendation: Global Witness reiterates its recommendation that WWF should publicly dissociate itself from the Danzer Group, including its suspension from GFTN, pending the outcome of investigations into Siforco or any companies in the Danzer Group
WWF has denied Global Witness’ assertion that Malaysian GFTN member Ta Ann Holdings Berhad was once a ‘forest’ member of GFTN. However, this denial has not been substantiated.
- WWF continues to insist that Ta Ann, which is clear cutting orang-utan habitat in the Heart of Borneo, was at no time a ‘forest’ member of GFTN, and that Global Witness has been misleading in this regard.
- Global Witness stands by its assertion that Ta Ann joined GFTN as a forest member, and cites three independent pieces of evidence in its report, including correspondence with WWF Malaysia.
- Global Witness believes any engagement with a company that is clear cutting orang-utan habitat should not be a member of GFTN, regardless of whether they are ‘trade’ or ‘forest’ members.
- Global Witness also notes that a rebuttal statement made by Ta Ann to Global Witness has since been brought into question by the Tropical Forest Trust, one of the independent third parties Ta Ann identifies as vouching for its legality of timber, who have published a clarification on their website.
Recommendation: In order to clarify the exact nature of Ta Ann’s membership of GFTN at that time, Global Witness requests that WWF publishes the Memorandum of Understanding signed by WWF and Ta Ann in December 2009.
WWF has failed to respond adequately to the charge that GFTN tolerates illegal timber within its supply chain.
- WWF’s statement that GFTN does not sanction “illegal behaviour from within its network” is an evasive response to the major finding that GFTN tolerates illegal timber in its supply chain. GFTN’s own participation rules allow ‘trade’ member companies to trade in wood from unwanted sources (including illegally-sourced timber) for up to five years; in practice the report found that companies have done so even past the five year grace period.
Recommendation: Global Witness reiterates its demand that GFTN should immediately eliminate illegal logging from its supply chains, and disassociate itself from any company found to be responsible for such behaviour.
WWF’s suggestion that it was not sufficiently consulted by Global Witness prior to publication is inaccurate.
- Global Witness began detailed correspondence with WWF more than three months before publication (on separate occasions in April and May 2011). This was in addition to final due diligence procedures Global Witness instigated in June 2011 which provided WWF with a final one week period to respond to all allegations in full.
- All relevant responses from WWF were published in the report itself following this opportunity for comment; while WWF’s full response has been available on Global Witness’ website since publication at www.globalwitness.org/GFTNresponse
We are running out of time to save the world’s forests. If we are to avoid this, it is vitally important that flagship schemes like GFTN deliver on their conservation pledges.
Working to improve sustainability in the forest sector is notoriously difficult, and doing so in an effective way requires getting the balance right between engaging those actors responsible for forest destruction, and holding them to account. Global Witness is deeply concerned the current operation of GFTN, which is financed significantly by public funds, appears to have got that balance wrong. We hope a constructive dialogue will follow in order to improve the operation of GFTN itself and to help address any limitations in the approach GFTN takes. We believe this would be the most constructive way to address the issues detailed above and make progress towards saving the world’s forests before it is too late.