Monday, 19 October 2015 08:25

Oak Furniture Land keeps timber supply chain a mystery

2015-10-19 082722

Oak Furniture Land customers cannot be sure of where the wood in the furniture they’re buying is coming from, due to a lack of publicly available information on sustainable sourcing.

Since finding oak from the Russian Far East (an area which experiences high levels of illegal logging) in one of Oak Furniture Land’s products, WWF has been trying to gain evidence from the company on whether the wood for its furniture comes from legal and sustainable sources.

Despite repeated approaches from WWF, direct action from almost 7,500 members of the public and a “zero” score in WWF’s first Timber Scorecard in July 2015,  the company has not shown that it has taken any steps towards publishing either a policy on where it sources its timber, or figures that indicate timber is coming from well managed forests.

WWF’s Timber Scorecard has now been reviewed to take account of progress, but Oak Furniture Land still scored ‘zero trees’.

The aim of the Timber Scorecard is to encourage companies to commit to robust sourcing standards that ensure their products do not contribute to deforestation, and improve transparency on the source of their timber. This in turn would help customers choose sustainably, in the same way that labelling on the provenance of eggs and chicken is now commonplace and expected.

The ‘zero trees’ score is given to those companies that are failing to tell customers if their products are made from sustainable timber, and therefore could be at risk of selling products that are contributing to deforestation. Like Oak Furniture Land, another 41 companies also still scored ‘zero trees’, particularly within the furniture, musical instrument and toy retailing sectors.

The furniture sector was highlighted in the original Timber Scorecard report release as performing poorly on its policies on timber sourcing. Since the Scorecard’s release, Debenhams and House of Fraser (which both scored only ‘one tree’) have also not taken any steps to become more transparent.

Julia Young, Manager of WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network programme in the UK, said “Lack of transparency is unacceptable in an age of ongoing forest loss. How can companies think it is fine to continue like this, telling customers they are responsible and should be trusted, but not sharing any policy or performance information to back it up? It seems Oak Furniture Land, for example, is disregarding timber sustainability, despite relying on timber for their business success. Right now, we don’t know if the wood it uses is sourced from well managed forests or not – and nor do its millions of customers.

“We have tried to engage with the company, and others that use wood in their products, to help them address this, as consumers tell us they expect companies to lead the way on this issue. Oak Furniture Land’s lack of progress is hugely disappointing, and ten others in the furniture sector so far are equally slow to improve. They could follow the lead of Furniture Village or Dunelm, both of whom confirmed the need to do more to demonstrate sourcing policy and performance, and have made progress since the Scorecard was first published”.

WWF’s Timber Scorecard is part of its forest campaign which has successfully galvanised business action on responsible forest trade. The update, issued today, shows that 23 companies have taken action to improve their ranking since July, for example by revisiting their policies on sustainable timber, making them clearer and publicly available, and releasing figures on the proportion of timber sourced from certified sources, for example those with FSC certification.

The WWF-UK’s #SaveForests campaign aims to get UK businesses to pledge to buy timber products from sustainable sources by 2020, and to support a move to a 100 per cent sustainable timber market in the same time frame. It also calls for the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) loopholes to be closed by making it apply to such products as books, chairs, musical instruments and toys, currently not included in the regulations. This means they can be imported and sold legally in the EU even if they are not shown to be made from legally logged wood.

The campaign is designed to show that businesses can be part of the solution rather than part of the problems facing our global forests today, by publishing clear policies and stating how well they are doing in sustainable sourcing.

The updated scores are available here (wwf.org.uk/timberscorecard).

The timber scorecard measures the quality of publicly available information on companies’ responsible timber procurement policy, and progress on achieving them.  As indicated when the original scorecard was published, during September 2015 we undertook a review of any new or additional information sent by companies since the scorecard was published in July 2015. 36 companies sent information for this review, of which 19 had not previously been in contact with WWF regarding the Timber Scorecard.

  • Of the 36 companies which submitted information, 23 have increased their scores:Over a quarter of the companies  (34 of 128) have received the “three tree” score; just under half of all companies scored “two trees” or “three trees”, an increase of 12 companies from when the Scorecard was first published in July.
    • Three companies   moved from 0 to 1 tree
    • Six companies moved from 1 to 2 trees
    • Nine companies moved from 2 to 3 trees
    • Five that moved up by 2 trees, Cambridge University Press, Little Brown Book Group and Brooks Timber, Danzer UK, and Dunelm.(For further details on their new scores, see table 2.
  • By category, the construction sector continued to have the highest scores, with all companies scoring either “two trees” or “three trees”
  • Some furniture companies have made improvements to their scores, for example, Dunelm and Furniture Village, both of whom engaged with WWF on their policy and performance reporting prior to the Scorecard review process. However, 10 furniture companies remained at zero, including Oak Furniture Land.
  • Four poor-scoring publishing companies improved their scores
  • More than a third of companies still scored zero trees. A high proportion (83%) of the musical instrument companies were in this category. It is interesting to note that this sector is currently excluded from the EU Timber Regulation, which is something the Forest Campaign aims to change, when this is reviewed later this year.

Table 1 - to show the results of the Timber Scorecard which assessed 128 companies and was published in July and the review in September 2015

Tree Score

July Timber Scorecard

September Review

0

48

42

1

30 (including 1+)

25

2

28 (including 2+)

27

3

22

34

   

Table 2 The companies that have improved their scores through the review.

Company Name

Tree score- July 2015

New Tree score-

Sept 2015

Cambridge University Press*

0

2

Dunelm*

0

2

Feather & Black

0

1

Furniture Village

0

1

Simon & Schuster

0

1

Danzer*

1

3

John Lewis Partnership

1

2

Little Brown Book Company*

1

3

Antalis

1+

2

Brooks Timber*

1+

3

Network Rail

1

2

UK Greetings

1

2

International Greetings

1+

2

Tesco

1+

2

Boots

2

3

Lend Lease

2

3

Penguin Random House

2

3

Redrow

2

3

Williams Lea

2

3

Immediate Media Co

2+

3

James Latham

2+

3

Steinbeis

2+

3

Willmott Dixon

2+

3

   

Total no. companies whose scores increased

23

 

*Note, these companies increased their score by two trees

Table 3. The companies scoring Zero Tree

Company

Category

Tree Score

A. Share & Sons Ltd (SCS)

Retailer

0

Brissi London Ltd

Retailer

0

Cath Kidston Ltd

Retailer

0

Clinton Cards PLC

Paper print & publishing

0

Dreams PLC

Retailer

0

Fender Musical Instruments GBI

Musical instruments

0

Finnish Fibreboard (UK) Ltd

Timber

0

Foyles

Retailer

0

Hamleys of London

Retailer

0

Harrods

Retailer

0

Hearst

Paper, print & publishing

0

Jansen International UK Ltd

Retailer

0

Liberty's

Retailer

0

Muji

Retailer

0

Oak Furniture Land

Retailer

0

Oxford University Press

Paper, print & publishing

0

Paperchase Products Ltd

Paper, print & publishing

0

Roset (UK) Ltd

Retailer

0

Sportswift Ltd (Card Factory)

Paper, print & publishing

0

Tanglewood Guitars

Musical instruments

0

The Sofa Workshop Ltd

Retailer

0

Waterstones

Paper, print & publishing

0

   

Total number of companies in this category = 42(There are also 19 anonymised companies included in this category)

What the score tells us about company performance

3 trees

WWF found that these companies responded well to almost all of the requests WWF has made regarding the purchasing of timber and timber products. Most have made public commitments to using FSC and recycled timber and timber products, and to EUTR compliance, and have set up policies and control systems. They report quantities openly and accurately and have a good understanding of the source of all their timber and timber products. They are probably sourcing over 70% certified material, with high proportions of FSC and recycled timber and timber products. These companies are showing their competitors that it is possible to act responsibly when it comes to forest trade - but even they will need to find ways to do more to fulfil their targets by 2020.

2 trees

Companies in this category have all made a start on the journey to sustainable timber and timber products - and in some cases they have made good progress. Those scoring at the top of this range are the companies that have made commitments to sourcing FSC and recycled products and who have established control mechanisms over their use of timber and timber products. They are likely to be sourcing between 20 & 60% material from a mix of certified (& recycled) sources, and will have begun to report on quantities, and the source of their timber products.

1 tree:

The companies in this range are only just starting to address the sustainability of their timber and timber products. None of them are yet using an appropriate level of certified or recycled timber and timber products. Some have the bare bones of policies and systems in place but they have yet to put in the work needed to transform their businesses. They will have limited publically available information on their actual purchasing practices or quantities sourced. Given that FSC, recycled material and other certified timber and timber products are available in the market, WWF is expecting these companies to engage much more actively with the issue than they have to date – and quickly.

0 trees:

These companies have shown no progress on sustainable timber and timber products, yet. These companies will have communicated very little if any information as to their purchasing policies, quantities purchased or the source of their timber products. These companies need to urgently change their timber and timber product sourcing and reporting practices, if they are going to keep up with their competitors and become responsible companies. There is no excuse for any company not to act responsibly

Timber testing

In May 2015 WWF-UK published its report: Do Timber Products in the UK Stack Up? – the results of a study to see if companies selling products not covered  by the EU Timber Regulation had done sufficient checks to ensure they were at least from legal sources.

Among other findings, the study found seven companies were selling products made from timber from areas where there is a high risk of illegal logging (for example, oak from the Russian Far East was found in a mirror frame sold by Oak Furniture Land), but none of them were either able or prepared to say where the wood in their products came from.

More information at www.wwf.org.uk/timbertesting

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