logging away

Forests Under Threat

As global demand for products like wood, paper, beef and palm oil continues to rise, companies are encroaching ever deeper into the world’s dwindling forests. Read more

All of us need forests. Millions of people live in and depend on them for almost everything, from food to medicine to shelter. Forests also absorb the carbon dioxide we emit from cars, planes and power plants, making them critical in the global fight against climate change. Yet every single minute an area of forest the size of fifty soccer fields is cut down...

Global Witness is working to change the forest economy so that trees are kept standing - to promote development without destruction rather than destruction without development. 

We do this by uncovering the vested interests that conspire to do the opposite – the corrupt governments that pocket the proceeds of deforestation, the companies that strike secretive deals for forested land and turf communities off it, the institutions that bankroll them, and the international agencies that provide the political cover.

Across continents we investigate and expose the cast of characters at the helm of forest destruction. Here are just a few examples:

Illegal logging

Illegal logging is the rule rather than the exception in many forest-rich countries – it is big business, and often reliant on collusion between companies and the state. Our exposé in Cambodia, for example, showed how China’s craze for chic rosewood furniture is fuelling a multi-million dollar timber smuggling operation in Cambodia. At its helm is a close acquaintance of the Prime Minister and renowned tycoon, Okhna Try Pheap, whose illegal logging network relies on the complicity of officials from government, the military, police and customs. 

Conflict timber

Global Witness has also shown how logging bankrolls murderous regimes. We first exposed how Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor – currently serving a 50 year sentence for war crimes – sold off Liberia's forests to logging companies, using the proceeds to buy arms and maintain his regime. Two of the world’s biggest tropical timber traders, DLH and Danzer, bought Liberian timber in full knowledge that this trade was funding a conflict that claimed a quarter of a million lives.  

Forest finance

Forest destruction is hardwired into the global financial system. Every year, banks and institutional investors pump tens of millions of dollars into tropical deforestation, propping up the corrupt tycoons and companies that profit from it. We showed how HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank, had made around £100 million by providing loans and services to some of the most destructive logging companies in the world, often in violation of its own policies. HSBC has made efforts to improve, whilst the activities of other banks are shieded by opacity.