Lumber Liquidators Importing Illegal Hardwood Flooring, EIA Says


by | Oct 14, 2013

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loggingLumber Liquidators is purchasing illegal wood, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

The largest retailer of hardwood flooring in the US is under investigation by federal authorities for possible violations of the Lacey Act — a law banning the illegal harvest and trade of wood and timber products — the report says. The Lacey Act requires companies to take prudential measures to exclude illegally cut wood from their supply chains. China, however, has yet to enact a comparable prohibition on illegal timber imports.

Lumber Liquidators says it is cooperating with federal authorities in the investigation and that it takes its sourcing and compliance very seriously. The company says it has policies and procedures in place for the sourcing, harvesting and manufacturing of its products designed to comply with federal and other regulations related to the importation of wood flooring products.

Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Flooring, Organized Crime, and the World’s Last Siberian Tigers, says since the US passed amendments to the Lacey Act in 2008, Lumber Liquidators has continued to purchase, through a Chinese supplier, millions of square feet of illegal wood originating in the Russian Far East, which provides the habitat for the last 450 Siberian tigers in the world.

The report says demand for hardwood flooring and furniture in the US, European Union, Japan and China is fueling corruption and making the world’s last temperate hardwood forests into a major epicenter for illegal logging. As much as 80 percent of all timber exported annually from the region is illegal, according to EIA. In addition to destroying the Siberian tiger habitat, this activity deprives the Russian state of tens of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue and threatens the livelihoods of more than 100,000 indigenous people. Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of EIA, says the same types of wood are available around the world from legal and sustainable sources.

Posing as timber buyers, EIA investigators went undercover and found that a company called Suifenhe Xingjia Group admitted to illegal logging and paying bribes. The company said its single biggest trading partner was Lumber Liquidators.

The report says several of Xingjia’s suppliers are under investigation by Russian authorities for illegal logging and organized crime. EIA investigators recorded Xingjia officials saying that Lumber Liquidators knew where the wood came from.

In June, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative called on more than 10,000 stakeholders to provide input on its current standard, as well as its standard for 2015-2019.  The launch came just days after environmental group ForestEthics filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, saying the SFI’s standards are developed “by timber industry personnel in a closed process.”

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