EIA: Japan driving illegal logging in Europe’s last remaining forests

It appears that Japan’s largest trading companies are fueling illegal logging in Europe’s last remaining virgin forests, according to new report, Built on Lies: New Homes in Japan Destroy Old Forests in Europe, by DC-based environmental watchdog, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

The data showed that nearly 50% of all exports from Romaninan sawmills of the Austrian company Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer) are shipped to Japan for use primarily in housing construction – a supply chain totaling ¥20 billion in 2015 (USD $165 million). As detailed in EIA’s October 2015 report Stealing the Last Forest, Schweighofer’s sourcing practices have incentivised illegal logging in Romania for years.

The report went on to highlight that illegal logging has widely been recognised as a pervasive social issue by the Romaninan media, government and civil society. The Romanian government has estimated that nearly half of all timber cut in the country is done illegally.

“This new evidence shows the large impact that Japanese buyers are having on illegal deforestation in Europe’s most pristine forests,” said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of EIA.

However, due to public and government scrutiny over the company’s market share and monopolistic control, Schweighofer has shifted its sourcing primarily to Ukraine, a country suffering from the highest level of corruption in Europe, and more recently, full scale armed conflict with its Russian neighbours. In 2015, Schweighofer imported nearly 1 million cubic metres of Spruce and Pine logs from Ukraine, totaling 33% of the timber used in its Romanian mills. This Ukrainian timber is destined in large part for the Japanese market.

EIA’s investigation revealed that Japanese companies have been Schweighofer’s main buyers for at least half a decade. Schweighofer’s exports to Japan have been relatively steady since 2010. By the end of 2013, the company has increased its exports of glulam products, and by 2015 these made up 42% of its exports to Japan, primarily used in the construction of wood-frame houses.

EIA has called on Schweighofer to publish data showing the concessions where its wood is from, which is information that under Romanian law should already accompany wood shipments as they are transported out of the forest.

“Schweighofer has assured its clients for years that its systems exclude illegal timber. Now many sources have proven this is not true,” said von Bismarck. “Today the company still refuses to publish where its wood is from. If it’s legal, why hide its origin?”

Source: Business Wire, Environmental Investigation Agency