Is that good wood?

forest protected from logging in Wellington National Park, near Bunbury south of Perth by Andy Graham Last month Go Greener blogged about the GetUp’s campaign to convince ANZ to pull out of financing Gunns’ pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, north of Launceston, Tasmania. Gunns do most of the logging of old growth forests in Tasmania, but until recently I didn’t know that Gunns also logs in WA forests. Gunns’ three WA sawmills were previously owned by Bunnings – the hardware store who would like to take over the world. There was a boycott of Bunnings (Buy-Pass Bunnings) a few years ago over their logging of old growth forests. Campaigning against the current mill owners might prove problematic, Gunns likes SLAPPs (strategic lawsuits against public participation).

understorey of jarrah forest near Mungalup, south west of Collie by Andy Graham In 2001 the WA government ended clearing in old growth forests, but this only saved 331,373 hectares of the 2.5 million hectares of total forested land in WA. The way land was chosen to be set aside was secretive and in some cases, farcical. Jarrah/marri forests continue to be logged, and Gunns mills the timber. These forests are a mix of mature trees and regrowth and have been logged sometime in the past. This may have been more than a hundred years ago and these areas currently provide refuge for a diverse range of plants and animals, some of them endangered species.

I was surprised to discover that Gunns WA has an environmental policy, but of course they would in this era of greenwashing. They say,

Gunns is committed to the United Nations definition of sustainable development; that is ‘development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

Gunns explains exactly how this is achieved,

To demonstrate a commitment to operating its business in a responsible manner by adopting environmentally sound and sustainable practices, Gunns began implementing an EMS [Environmental Management System] in 1999…The FPC’s [Forest Products Commission of the WA government] system, which incorporates its native forest and plantation operations, is an essential part of demonstrating that Gunns products have been produced from environmentally responsible operations.

pine plantation harvested and the scraps burnt near Beela, north east of Bunbury by Andy Graham I think I’m about to faint from shock. I never heard such an oxymoron as Gunns has environmentally responsible operations. (Logging Tasmania’s old growth forests is environmentally responsible?) Gunns proudly proclaims ISO 14001 compliance. This international standard specifies requirements for an EMS and is basically self-certification. The credibility of ISO 14001 has been criticised and some see it as a way for companies to enhance their public image ie. more greenwashing. This is what happens when “certification” is undertaken by those who have a vested interest in the outcome.

A house in my street has been doing some renovation and the other week they had a load of wood delivered, wrapped in plastic. I thought the plastic wrapping was a bit excessive and wasteful, but what did I expect when the word Gunns was emblazoned all over the wrapping. I told my dad about it and he said Gunns have a distribution yard in the Perth suburb of Welshpool, with a huge sign promoting their name to all who drive past. Obviously Perth people don’t see anything wrong with the company or the timber they sell.

Greenpeace produces the Good Wood Guide so you can check if the wood you buy is from a sustainable source. Suppliers are only included if their wood:

  • is produced with minimal harm to forests;
  • protects people’s livelihoods in the forest;
  • is verified as coming from a well-managed forest or plantation or is certified by a credible certification system such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) [this is an independent certification system].

This discounts Gunns. The guide is Australia wide and I don’t think you can easily get a list of WA suppliers. While most suppliers deliver Australia-wide, buying locally will reduce transport emissions (of course if you’re buying wood grown somewhere else that no longer makes a difference). I found one WA supplier which is FSC certified, Treeco Timber.


Credit: all photos by Andy Graham
Forest protected from logging in Wellington National Park on Flickr
Understorey of jarrah forest on Flickr
Pine plantation harvested and the scraps burnt on Flickr

2 thoughts on “Is that good wood?

  1. Thanks for this excellent detail on Gunns in WA, Clare. They really are appalling. Thanks also for the link to Treeco, I hadn’t heard of them and they look pretty good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s