Is WWF Selling Out Endangered Forests to Corporations?

WWF logging photo

Image: Screenshot via Pandering to the Loggers

The World Wide Fund for Nature established the Global Forest and Trade Network 20 years ago to increase and ensure sustainability in the global timber trade. But it's doing almost the opposite—allowing the same habitat-destroying practices to continue but, even worse, endorsing them with their trusted panda logo—according to a new report by Global Witness. WWF partners with companies like Coca Cola, Nike, WalMart and Johnson & Johnson, and GFTN in particular works with nearly 300 companies, including 75 loggers. But the report calls the credibility of GFTN, and the organization overall, into doubt.

Global Witness highlights cases like the following about a GFTN partner in Borneo, an area we know can't afford any more devastation:

Ta Ann's 2009 Annual Report confirmed the company's intention to clear
Bornean rainforest for timber plantations at the equivalent rate of 20 football pitches a day throughout 2010. Ta Ann has been licensed to clear-cut 156,000 hectares of
forest in Sarawak, to make way for timber plantations—an area more than twice the size of Singapore.

References to Ta Ann were also said to be removed from the WWF website after Global Witness started making enquiries. made some calls of its own: "WWF admitted to that they made a mistake and apologized 'unreservedly for the resulting confusion', but they say it is an 'isolated incidence'."

Mongabay continues:

Beyond this mistake, WWF does not deny that Ta Ann Holdings Berhad is clearing rainforests in Borneo, calling it an 'an important forest and concession operator with associated operations in the Sarawak landscape and within the Heart of Borneo'. But WWF argues that despite current practices, the logging company is looking to turn a new leaf.

The report, Pandering to the loggers [PDF], also points to Jewson, a United Kingdom building supplier that failed to eliminate illegally sourced timber even 10 years into its partnership with GFTN, and a suspicious relationship with a group that operates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Following recent conflicts between communities and Siforco (a Danzer subsidiary logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo), security forces are alleged to have violently suppressed protests and carried out heinous human rights abuses against the community, including rapes and beatings, resulting in the death of one villager. While WWF has temporarily suspended its dealings with Siforco (as a GFTN applicant), WWF confirmed that its two ongoing relationships with companies in the Danzer Group, including the parent company, continue to meet the requirements of GFTN.

Global Witness' chief complaint is that GFTN lacks transparency and accountability. "The scheme is opaque with little or no information in the public domain about the performance of individual participating companies." It adds, "Public funds via government development agencies are subsidising the operation of GFTN without sufficient assurance of the scheme's actual effectiveness."

Global Witness said it found two cases of WWF publicly announcing the departure of a partner company in the past 20 years.

More on logging and Indonesia's forests:
Orangutan Population in Borneo National Park Declines 90% in Last Five Years

Sketchy Logging Practice Threatens the Only Orangutans Successfully Reintroduced into the Wild
Google Earth Animation Reveals Sumatran Tiger Habitat Slated for Logging (Video)
Logging, Palm Oil and Human Rights in Borneo: Malaysian Government Pushes Ahead By Ousting Indigenous Leaders

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