Over more than six months, Markets for Change has followed timber from the ancient forests of Tasmania to the University of East London’s newly constructed Sports Dock which will be used by Team USA before and during the Olympic Games of 2012
Tasmania’s tall, wet eucalypt forests are not only unique in Australia, they are globally significant. They are home to the largest hardwood trees and tallest flowering plants in the world as well as a range of ancient, endemic flora. They are among the most carbon dense forests on earth, storing up to 1500 tonnes of carbon per hectare.1 Tasmania’s forests provide important habitat for iconic endangered species such as the Tasmanian Devil, Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle and Spotted-tailed Quoll.2
Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles, Tasmania Photo: Kymberly Fergusson
The chain of custody linking these forests to the Olympic Games begins in the Huon Valley and Circular Head regions of Tasmania, where Malaysian company Ta Ann Holdings operates a subsidiary company that produces veneer in two rotary veneer peeler mills. In 2006, the company was able to acquire a contract with Tasmania’s State-owned forest management agency (Forestry Tasmania) for the supply of 265,000m3/y of timber from native forests.3 Ta Ann Tasmania has a 20-year log supply agreement and approximately 135,000 cubic metres of veneer is shipped annually to the Ta Ann plywood production facility in Sarawak on the island of Borneo.4
Weld Valley, Tasmania. Photo: Rob Blakers
Logging coupe in the Upper Florentine Valley. Ta Ann recieved timber from this old growth forest. Photo: Alan Lesheim
Ta Ann Holdings is one of Malaysia’s largest logging and forest product companies.5 Its Malaysian operations are in the state of Sarawak, home to some of the world’s most endangered rainforests. The company’s principle activities are in palm oil production, forest logging and management, plantation establishment as well as the sale of sawn timber and plywood products.6 The company’s plywood operations account for 48% of its revenue.7 Most of the plywood is shipped to Japan but a smaller percentage is also sent to the United Kingdom.8 Ta Ann is a very controversial company in Tasmania as well as in Borneo itself. In Tasmania, recent investigations have found that the company is processing timber that originates from the logging of old growth forests, high conservation value forests and forests with recognised world heritage values.9 Ta Ann’s wood supply deal and its two veneer mills have become major drivers for the destruction of Tasmania’s precious old growth and high conservation value forests. The company has received timber from at least 88 logging operations conducted in old growth or high conservation value forests in the 2008-2011 period.10 In addition, local Tasmanian conservation NGOs have reported that new roads and clearfells are infiltrating remote and sensitive tracts of tall eucalypt forest in order to supply timber to Ta Ann’s mills.11
Ta Ann Holdings has also been implicated in the logging of Sarawak’s endangered rainforests12 destruction of orang-utan habitat and the degradation and burning of vegetation on valuable peat lands.13
Wild Orangutang, Sarawak. Photo: Tim Laman
A recent investigation by Global Witness found that the company is clearing large areas of rainforest to establish plantations. An area over twice the size of Singapore will eventually be logged, amounting to nearly 20 football pitches a day. These forests provide habitat for some of Borneo’s key endangered species including orang-utans, clouded leopards and Bornean gibbons which are all present in some of Ta Ann’s logging concessions.14
Picton Valley, Tasmania. September 2011. This forest was earmarked for protection but has since been logged. Ta Ann recieved timber from this old-growth forest. Photo: Laura Minnebo
Ta Ann’s 20 year wood supply contract has emerged as a key stumbling block in recent negotiations regarding the protection of Tasmania’s native forests. Despite commitments from industry, environmental groups and governments to implement a moratorium in areas with outstanding conservation values, Tasmania’s state-owned forest management agency, Forestry Tasmania, has refused to rule out logging, in order to satisfy Ta Ann’s timber demands. 68% percent of the logging operations planned to occur within the areas nominated for protection in the next year have been identified as ‘critical to the supply of logs to Ta Ann’.15 Australian environmental groups have identified Ta Ann’s operations as a major threat to Tasmania’s natural environment. Logging continues in areas that have been identified by environmental groups as high conservation value forests, in need of protection and on the ground investigations clearly shows that timber from these areas is being acquired by Ta Ann.
Despite the reality of its timber supply and forest destruction in Tasmania and Borneo, Ta Ann is promoting plywood products made from Tasmanian eucalypt veneer as ‘eco wood’ sourced from plantations and sustainably managed regrowth forests.16 The promotion of these ‘eco products’ has become a core strategic objective of the company in order to access emerging lucrative markets in Asia and Europe.17 The use of Tasmanian eucalyptus allows Ta Ann to greenwash its plywood product by capitalising on the state’s forest certification. Tasmania’s forest management regime is endorsed under the Australian Forestry Standard, which is recognised by the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Ta Ann claims that this PEFC endorsement guarantees the environmental credentials of their product, however PEFC schemes have been consistently criticised and a recent report by nine leading global Environmental NGOs criticises PEFC schemes for using misleading language and greenwash to claim environmental credentials while failing to protect forest biodiversity and ecological values.18 Ta Ann claims that its operations are environmentally friendly because it only processes “regrowth logs”. The reality is that these logs are often sourced from logging operations conducted in old growth forests. Ta Ann may chose not to use the old growth logs in its machinery but its demand for the straight young trees that flourish in Tasmania’s dynamic tall eucalypt forests is driving logging operations in which the whole forest is destroyed. In 2008 the world’s tallest hardwood tree, 101 metres high and many hundred of years old, was discovered in an area of forests mapped as ‘regrowth’.
Examples of promotional materials used by Eidai, a customer of Ta Ann
Ta Ann reports that 6% of its total plywood production is exported to the UK.19 A company called International Plywood in the UK receives plywood timber products from Ta Ann that contain the Tasmanian veneer. One of the companies that is supplied with this plywood by International Plywood is Avon Plywood in Bristol. This company has, in turn, been selling the Tasmanian plywood produced by Ta Ann to Dynamik Sport Surfaces for several years. Investigators have confirmed that one of sport halls at the new Sports Dock of the University of East London will use Ta Ann plywood made with Tasmanian veneer.
In September 2011, Markets for Change investigators identified large crates clearly marked as Ta Ann on the Sports dock construction site. The crates also carried the PEFC logo and the PEFC logo usage licence number 01-31-20 which corresponds to Ta Ann and the associated product passport states: ‘Plywood (Floor Base) is made of Eucalyptus hard wood’.20 As Ta Ann sells a range of plywood products that incorporate ‘mixed tropical hardwood’ with Tasmanian Eucalyptus veneer, it is possible that the plywood used at the University of East London also contains timber sourced from the clearing of Borneo’s endangered rainforests.21
The Sports Dock facility is a 20 million pound facility which will have two multi-purpose sports halls. The facility is funded mostly by the University with grants also coming from other entities such as the London Marathon Trust, Mayor’s Legacy fund and England Basketball.22 The sports dock will have two multi purpose sport halls and the subfloor of one of these (sports hall 2) is believed to be using the plywood from Ta Ann. Ta Ann plywood crates with PEFC logo at UEL construction site
In early 2010 the UEL and the US Olympic Committee (USOC) signed a memorandum of understanding about the use of the facility and UEL was chosen as the main partner of US Olympics team in preparation for and during the London Olympics in 2012. In October 2010 the two parties completed the signing of their legal agreement. It has been estimated that over 1,000 athletes, coaches scientists and support staff will be using the UEL Dockland and Stratford campuses for athlete training, performance services, staff and training partner accommodation, catering, media, and logistical operations.23 24 Basketball, taekwondo, judo, wrestling, badminton, and fencing will be the main sports based at the Sports Dock.
Laying of plywood subflooring in Sports Hall 2 of the UEL Sports Dock
According to the university, USOC and UEL have a wider contract for usage of the UEL campuses, including the Sports Dock and some accommodation. This contract also involves an unknown fee for the usage of the facilities paid by USOC. According to UEL, all US athletes may at any time use the facility especially for specialist fitness and strength and conditioning rooms
Floor plan of the Sports Dock. The red circle indicates sport hall 2, the likely location of the plywood
This means that the key training facility of Team USA at the Olympics is partly made from the destruction of Tasmania’s ancient forests and potentially also from the destruction of Borneo’s rainforests. Some of the biggest names in sports may be using this facility in the run up to and during the London Olympic Games. New roading & logging into the Esperance Valley, Tasmania 2011
The companies involved in this scandal do in some cases have limited procurement policies on their web sites but these are either too weak or have not been properly implemented to ensure that they are not trading products from high conservation value forests and intact native forests. International Plywood claims that it regularly appraises its suppliers to ensure their products and service meet the ‘exacting standards demanded by the Company’ and that it will asses all of its suppliers to ensure that the purchase of their products does not breach its purchasing policy.25 The company has committed not to procure forest products from suppliers who source products from forest areas that have high conservation value, unless the forests are progressing towards credible forest certification in a time-bound, stepwise and transparent manner.26 The University of East London has committed to encourage and persuade suppliers to operate in a way that reduces or eliminates environmental risks and impacts as well as to ‘periodically review the sustainable risk and impact of the products and services procured.’ Avon Plywood and Dynamic Sports Surfaces do not list any sustainability or procurement policies on their company websites.27
• International Plywood brings an end to using Ta Ann timber products from Tasmania until Ta Ann are no longer sourcing timber products from the logging of all high conservation native forests, as identified by environmental groups, and are taking concrete steps towards a transition out of native forests and into responsibly managed plantations. International Plywood also needs to end the use of timber products coming from all intact natural rainforests and timber products from the habitat of endangered species. • All companies involved in this chain immediately develop and fully implement procurement policies that rule out the use of wood products from Tasmania’s high conservation value forests and intact natural forests. • The University of East London removes the timber products from its sports halls that have come from high conservation value forests and intact natural forests and replaces them with timber products sourced from responsibly managed plantations. Preference should be given to plantation products with full Forest Stewardship Council certification, • Ta Ann brings to an immediate end the sourcing of timber products coming from all high conservation value forest areas in Tasmania, as identified by environmental groups and begins negotiations to implement a rapid transition out of native forests into responsibly managed plantations. In addition Ta Ann bring to an immediate end the logging and sourcing of timber products from all intact natural rainforests of Borneo and timber products from the habitat of endangered species.
1. Brendan G. Mackey, Heather Keith, Sandra L. Berry and David B. Lindenmayer. 2008. Green Carbon- The role of natural forests in carbon storage. Part 1. A green carbon account of Australia’s south-eastern Eucalypt forests, and policy implications. Australian National University Press. 2. Warman, Russel. 2011. Tasmania’s Native Forests- places for protection. Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania. 3. Forestry Tasmania. 2011. Wood Supply, Contractual requirements and Conservation targets. http://www.forestrytas.com.au/news-room/media-releases/wood-supply-arrangements-not-yet-negotiated 4.Ta Ann Group, 2011. Annual Report 2010. 5. Brand Tasmania Newsletter, December 2008. Issue 90. ‘Ta Ann Wins National Export Award’ (website viewed 15 May 2011) http://www.brandtasmania.com/newsletter.php?ACT=story&issue=90&story=1 6. Ta Ann Group, 2011. Annual Report 2010 7.Ta Ann Group, 2011. Annual Report 2010. 8. Ta Ann Group, 2011. Annual Report 2010. 9. Behind the Veneer- Forest Destruction and Ta Ann Tasmania’s Lies.2011. Huon Valley Environment Centre. Tasmania. 10.Behind the Veneer- Forest Destruction and Ta Ann Tasmania’s Lies.2011. Huon Valley Environment Centre. Tasmania. 11. Huon Valley Environment Centre. 2011. Media Release, ‘Logging halted by protest in West Wellington forests, Southern Tasmania’. http://www.huon.org/node/1165 (accessed 24 October 2011) 12. Global Witness. 2011. Pandering to the Loggers-Why WWF’s Global Trade and Forest Network isn’t working. http://www.globalwitness.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/Pandering_to_the_loggers.pdf 13. Friends of the Earth. 2008. Malaysian palm oil -green gold or green wash? http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2008/malaysian-palm-oil-report.pdf 14. Global Witness. 2011. Pandering to the loggers Why WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network isn’t working. http://www.globalwitness.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/Pandering_to_the_loggers.pdf 15. Forestry Tasmania 2011. Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement. Media Release 31/8/2011. http://www.forestrytas.com.au/topics/2011/08/tasmanian-forests-intergovernmental-agreement viewed 20/10/2011. 16. Ta Ann. 2011. Environmental Management. http://www.taann.com.my/social-environment.html. Accessed October 22, 2011. 17. Ta Ann Group. 2010. Ann Annual Report 2009. 18. Ford, Jim and Jenkins, Anna (eds). 2011. On the Ground- the controversies of PEFC and SFI. 19. Ta Ann Holdings, 2010 Annual Report 20. PEFC. 2011. Logo usage licence 01-31-20 21. Ta Ann. 20011. Plywood range. http://www.taann.com.my/products-plywood.html. Accessed October 24, 2011. 22. Information provided by UEL. 23. UEL. 2010. Official agreement cements Team USA’s stay at UEL. http://www.uel.ac.uk/news/press_releases/TeamUSAAgreement.htm 24. UEL. 2010. Team USA to Use University of East London Campuses as Performance Services Centres During the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. http://www.uel.ac.uk/news/press_releases/usoc.htm 25. International Plywood. 2010. Environmental policy. http://www.plywooduk.com/envPolicy.pdf 26. International Plywood. 2008 Responsible Forest Products Purchasing Policy, http://www.plywooduk.com/IPrespPur.pdf 27. University of East London. 2011. Sustainable Procurement Policy. http://www.uel.ac.uk/greenthing/procurement.htm