The least scrutinised aspect of the long-running conflict over Australia’s native forests is that Australian retail stores are helping to drive this environmental tragedy. These stores include some of Australia’s largest and best known retail outlets.
The following types of wood used for making furniture and other products have been sourced from threatened native forest habitats and should be avoided:
- Tasmanian oak, myrtle and blackwood.
- Tasmanian tall eucalypt
- Mountain Ash from Victoria
- Wormy chestnut from the East Gippsland forests of Victoria
- Jarrah, marri or karri from Western Australia
- River Redgum
When it comes to furniture retailers, Harvey Norman, Forty Winks, Snooze, Focus on Furniture, Everyday Living, Sleep City, Domayne, Freedom Furniture, Furniture Court, Furniture One, Bedshed and OzDesign all sell products made from native forest wood.
Markets for Change (MFC) was established in 2010 to use the power of markets as a transformational approach to resolving seemingly intractable environmental problems. By investigating and exposing everyday consumer products that are driving the destruction of forests, MFC will enlist the support of retailers and consumers to protect the world’s last native forests.
The Retailing the Forests report (PDF) reveals the link between the destruction of Australia’s native forests and the everyday consumer products on the shelves and showroom floors of many of Australia’s top retailers. Consumers walking into their stores to buy furniture, flooring, wood, paper and other products are unknowingly driving the destruction of Australia’s unique native forests and the world’s primary forests.
Retailers have a vital role to play in protecting the Australian and global environment through the development of a responsible and ethical market. The consumer landscape is rapidly changing and retail brands are under greater scrutiny than ever before particularly through online media channels.
Ongoing investigations by MFC reveal that almost all major retailers of wood and paper products in Australia are complicit in the destruction of Australia’s native forests. Australia’s globally significant native forests contain the tallest hardwood trees and include forests with the highest carbon density on Earth. Rich in biodiversity, they are home to many iconic and threatened wildlife species such as the Leadbeater’s possum, the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, the black cockatoo and the koala.
Just as worrying is the strong suspicion that some of these products are related to the devastation of primary forests in countries like Indonesia, where some of the world’s most endangered forest species, such as the Orangutan, are being driven towards extinction by logging and the establishment of palm oil plantations.
As Australia has no safeguards against illegally logged timber imports, so when you buy outdoor furniture, decking or other imported timber products, you have a one in ten chance of unwittingly supporting illegal logging.
Based on recent analysis, the solution for Australian retailers is clear. There are enough plantation resources available in Australia today to practically replace all domestic and imported wood and paper products that rely on native forest destruction.
Australia’s retailers need to urgently take the initiative and embrace their vital role in helping to ensure the protection of native forests here and primary forests overseas. This is essential for protecting critical biodiversity and endangered species, and helping to mitigate dangerous climate change. They can no longer afford to turn a blind eye and hope that no-one will notice.
We recommend carefully considering your needs before purchasing anything and only then purchasing qualities pieces made to last. Ethically conscious manufacturers who are trying hard do exist but can be hard to find. An internet search can be a fantastic tool to help you see through the greenwash. Buy second hand or support local artisans who recycle and up-cycle timber to create new pieces,
Do you own research before buying even if the salesperson tells you that the timber is from 'sustainably managed plantations or forests'. Certification remains a contentious topic itself, with many rival schemes vying for pre-eminence and the FSC often challenged by watchdogs dedicated to the task.
Most of the major home improvement and flooring chains,including Bunnings, Mitre 10, Home Timber and Hardware, Hudson Building Supplies, Perfect Timber Floors, Decorug, Australian Floor Style and Embelton are also selling products that come from native forests.
Don't buy native hardwood timbers - even if the salesperson does the hard sell that the wood is from 'sustainably managed plantations or forests'. For every length of 4x2 you buy, there is 50 times that amount of the forests biomass that is logged, crushed under dozers, burnt and left lying on the ground. Not to mention the wildlife that die slowly.
Use recycled timber or genuine plantation timber. There is no application for hardwood that a plantation grown softwood, LVL, an engineered product or recycled timber can’t replace. Of course, you should thoroughly research recycled timber places, ask them how they source their timber and what it was used for before.