Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tigers, Wood and Wal-Mart

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire
Investigation Agency (EIA -- http://www.eia-global.org/) has today released a report
and undercover video evidence that global retail giant Wal-Mart is selling wood products
made from illegally logged timber which is in turn threatening the habitat of the highly
endangered Siberian tiger. This new evidence comes as Wal-Mart continues to publicly
tout its "Sustainability 360" initiative, which asserts the importance of "first and
foremost" avoiding illegally harvested wood.
Highlights of the EIA report show that Wal-Mart's "no questions asked" sourcing
policy, which prizes low-price above all, is having particularly dangerous consequences
for the high conservation value forests of the Russian Far East, and in turn the
world's largest cat, the Siberian tiger, of which only 500 are thought to remain
in the wild.
EIA's investigators found Wal-Mart's footprints around the globe, but nowhere more
so than in China, which ranks Wal-Mart as its eighth-largest trading partner -- and
which produces 84 percent of Wal-Mart's wood products. China's manufacturing sector
relies on large quantities of high-risk timber imported from the world's illegal
logging hotspots --including Russia's Far East.
"Everybody in Russia from President Vladimir Putin down to local
officials has openly acknowledged that much of the wood flowing from
Russia to China is illegal," said Alexander von Bismarck, EIA's Executive
Director. "But Chinese manufacturers told EIA investigators again and again
that Wal-Mart doesn't ask where the wood comes from, only if it's cheap
–disputing Wal-Mart's claims that it avoids sourcing illegally logged wood."
The EIA undercover team traveled to the Chinese factories and spoke with
staff there to investigate Wal-Mart's business practices. The findings include
evidence of 200,000 baby cribs made from high-risk Russian wood by Chinese
manufacturers for Wal-Mart. Investigators tracked the wood supply back to the
Russian forest and found the Russian company logging in tiger habitat and
making illegal cash payments to Russian police to move their timber. These were
the same cribs recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission due to
baby deaths. The cribs now continue to be sold in the U.S. with revised assembly
instructions.
"Cutting costs should not be an excuse for damaging the environment by accepting
illegal wood or threatening endangered species -- especially not for the biggest
company in the world," said von Bismarck.
"EIA is calling on Wal-Mart to stand by its CEO's goal to sell products that 
sustain our natural resources and the environment, and to remove illegally
sourced wood from its supply chain," added von Bismarck. EIA is a non-profit
organization that has been working around the globe since 1984 to investigate,
expose and campaign against the illegal trade in wildlife and the destruction
of our natural environment.

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