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Daily Mail states DIY giants Wickes and B&Q selling illegally felled wood

DIY giants Wickes and B&Q boast of their environmental credentials and commitment to using products from ‘responsible sources’. But both have been selling wood feared to have been illegally harvested from endangered rainforests harbouring the world’s dwindling orang-utan population, the Daily Mail can reveal.

Even though an official investigation found that a rogue firm had produced huge quantities of plywood in breach of rules it has remained on sale in B&Q and Wickes stores across Britain.

The Malaysian wholesaler involved, Asia Plywood, was stripped of its right to ‘green credentials’ last month, and the investigating body advised that none of its products made from late February last year onwards should be put on sale.

However, when the Daily Mail contacted ‘forest-friendly’ B&Q on Friday, the chain suddenly began stripping the wood from its shelves.

Wickes – which assures customers ‘our timber has come from a responsible source’ – continues to sell the product, insisting it is better to give it to consumers than put it in a landfill site.
The company pointed out that the Forest Stewardship Council, the timber industry-funded body that promotes ‘responsible management’ of forests, had authorised the continuing sale of Asia Plywood products supplied to UK retailers up until the day it stripped the company of certification.

Last night the FSC was unable to explain why it gave this guidance when its investigation agency, Scientific Certification Systems, said no plywood produced since February last year should have been certified.

The embarrassing debacle calls into question how committed the industry and major UK retailers are to defending the rainforests.

The Mail’s investigation centres on Asia Plywood, which boasts on its website that its operation is based in Sarawak. Pictures show huge piles of logs loaded on to a ship on Sarawak’s Rajang river.

The FSC was warned in 2010 that the products contained a high proportion of rainforest hardwood, with the low price a clue it did not come from sustainable plantations in New Zealand.

As such, it was claimed, the wood should not have been given FSC certification indicating that it was ‘responsibly sourced’. A forestry expert shopper later said analysis of Asia Plywood bought at both B&Q and Wickes in Stockport showed high proportions of hardwood likely to be from Sarawak rainforest.

The FSC eventually referred the claims to investigators at SCS last month, who reported: ‘The FSC products sold by Asia Plywood between February 25, 2011, and present are not FSC-certified... We have requested Asia Plywood remove the FSC label from any products that they have in stock and that Asia Plywood request the same of customers.’

In fact, the FSC then told UK retailers the wood it had supplied before the end of December was still suitable for sale.

Asked why it continued to sell Asia Plywood products, a B&Q spokesman said: ‘We sought and received written assurances from the FSC, as recently as January 13, that current stock is certified. As a result of new information, we have launched a further investigation ... and removed existing stocks from shelves today.’

A spokesman for Wickes, however, provided a January 13 letter from FSC which said ‘products supplied by Asia Plywood as FSC certified whilst their FSC certificate was valid (up until December 27, 2011 – including since February 25, 2011) should be considered FSC-certified and can continue to be sold as such’.

MD Jeremy Bird told the Daily Mail: ‘If we took it off sale it would end up in landfill, and someone would have to cut more trees down to replace it.’

Source : Neil Sears – Daily Mail

29 January 2012
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Thank you for the excellent presentation that you gave at Woodbury Park on Thursday morning. It was very interesting and thought-provoking for our Retail members. The feedback has been excellent.

Martin Elliott. Chief Executive - Home Hardware.

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