Current loopholes in EU legislation mean that only about 50 percent of the timber products exported into Europe is proven to come from legal sources.
The companies have pledged that by 2020 all wood and paper products will be sustainably sourced, after a campaign led by the environmental group WWF.
This latest agreement has been welcomed by some campaigners but others say it is too little too late and that high street brands should already be able to guarantee ethical and environmental standards.
Scott Poynton, founder of the Forest Trust told VoR:
“Deforestation is a hugely complex problem – it takes five minutes to chop down a forest but it takes, it seems, a lifetime to save one. This is the frustration for all of us working on it. There are economic and political interests calling for forests to be cut down but at the same time there are people who say it is not good for global climate change, species last and for the people who depend on the forests.
“And these parties spend their life clashing,” Poyton says.
Less than 10 percent of the world’s forests are certified under the Forest Stewardship Council Scheme but it doesn’t really help bring people to gather to discuss challenging implementation problems, says Poyton.
“We ask people to commit themselves to no deforestation and say we don’t want to cause deforestation in the products that we buy. But we don’t call for a solution by certification. We say you got to get down in the supply chain and talk with all the people that are affected by your business. We have a big progamme with palm oil companies. We have been working in the wood industry for a long time.”
In places like Africa, where people do need jobs in development, there is a challenge, says Poyton.
“We can’t stand in their way and say ‘no, you can’t chop down a single tree’. But the answer is, which trees, which areas could be developed for forests and for agricultural commodities and which areas should be protected. That’s the grappling we are challenged with.”