By Harald Eraker
- We're glad to hear that Skeidar DnM will no longer import teak furniture from Burma, and that the reason for this is that the company doesn't want to support the military regime and the destruction of the Burmese teak forest, says director of The Future in Our Hands Norway (FIVH) Tor Traasdahl.
In spring 1997 "English teak garden furniture" was heavily advertised in Norwegian newspapers. But in April NorWatch learned that the ads were misleading: One of the industry's largest player on the market, Det norske Møbelsenter (DnM), was selling garden furniture originating in Burma.
Out of Burma
In 1997 Id‚ Skeidar bought into DnM, and for the 1998 season Skeidar DnM Engros is the supplier for both furniture chains. In the wake of the disclosures concerning Burmese teak, Skeidar DnM Engros has decided not to do business with Varleite's factory.
- We don't want to have anything to do with Burma. The information you have provided has made us reconsider our suppliers, also in terms of the product's environmental friendliness. For us it is important that our sales staff can sell our teak furniture with a clear conscience, says purchasing manager Tom Levorstad of Skeidar.
Levorstad has in several recent meetings with FIVH and the Rain Forest Foundation presented Skeidar's new purchasing policy. For the 1998 season Skeidar has ordered garden furniture made of plantation teak from Java, Indonesia worth about NOK 3 million through the Danish company Da'core A/S.
- Skeidar has taken an important first step. Now at least we can tell people that if they insist on buying garden furniture made of tropical wood, they should buy teak furniture - and teak only - from Skeidar's furniture chains, says head of the Rain Forest Foundation Lars Løvold.
Skeidar wanted to go a step further than just cutting out Burma and told Da'core A/S that they wanted teak furniture environmentally certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the most recognized body for environmental certification on an international level, headquartered in Mexico.
At a meeting with FIVH, Tom Levorstad and Claus Winter of Da'core submitted an environmental certificate issued by Smart Wood (recognized by the FSC) for the ordered Java furniture. But environmental certification turned out to be uncharted waters for DnM.
- We checked with Smart Wood in the US as to whether Skeidar's information was correct. Then we learned that Smart Wood had canceled the certification because the state-owned plantation company Perum Perhutani, Indonesia had misused it, says Lars Løvold.
According to head of Smart Wood, Richard Donovan, Perum Perhutani has used environmental certification for wood from plantations and areas in Java not inspected and approved by Smart Wood.
Donovan has reprimanded the Indonesian company for the misuse of the certificate, but says that Smart Wood soon will carry out inspections and probably issue new environmental certificates for some of Perum Perhutani's activities.
Lars Løvold of the Rain Forest Foundation says Danish Da'core A/S has done a lousy job for Skeidar.
- Skeidar DnM has not received the goods they ordered, which was environmentally certified garden furniture. Da'core could easily have found this out by making a phone call to Smart Wood, says Løvold.
- We regret that we cannot offer our customers environmentally certified teak furniture this year. We thought everything was OK, and now the products are on their way to Norway. But at least we have learned to double-check information from our suppliers, says Levorstad.
"We don't want to have anything to do with Burma. For us it is important that our sales staff can sell our teak furniture with a clear conscience."
Purchase manager Tom Levorstad of Skeidar DnM Engros A/S
Last summer NorWatch sent letters to six other Norwegian furniture distributors concerning teak furniture from Burma.
Only Skeidar DnM has restructured its purchase policy; the others have barely responded to the letter.
Smart Club AS (not to be confused with previously mentioned Smart Wood) guarantees in its reply that "So far we have bought, and we will continue to buy our teak furniture from recognized importers and manufactures."
- "Guarantees" of this nature have repeatedly turned out to be of no value. If Smart Club wants to convince us that they don't do business with the military regime in Burma, they have to show proof, says the director of FIVH, who applauds Skeidar DnM for taking action in response to FIVH's challenge.
Skeidar has, as for the 1997 season, also ordered garden furniture made of the tropical wood meranti for the coming season. Tom Levorstad tells NorWatch that they have purchased meranti furniture worth approximately NOK 7 million, and that this type of garden furniture is popular because it is much cheaper than teak furniture.
- We also tried to get environmentally certified meranti furniture, but this was not possible, says Levorstad.
Skeidar's meranti furniture also comes from Indonesia, but unlike the plantation teak furniture, meranti comes from the rain forest.
Deforestation is a serious problem in Indonesia, and consequently the Rain Forest Foundation and FIVH cannot accept meranti furniture.
Both organizations ask Skeidar DnM to keep reviewing its purchase policy in order to be able to offer only environmentally friendly furniture for the 1999 season.
Skeidar DnM out of Burma
Skeidar DnM Engros A/S is owned by the furniture chain Ide Skeidar, which again owns 40% of Norges Kooperative Landsforening (NKL). NKL owns the furniture chain Det norske Møbelsenter. Both furniture chains buy their products from Skeidar DnM Engros A/S.
Last year Det norske Møbelsenter bought its teak furniture from the garden furniture manufacturer Scansia Myanmar in Burma, owned 70% by the Norwegian Arve Varleite. For the 1998 season Skeidar is buying teak furniture from the Indonesian company Perum Perhutani through the Danish importer Da'Core A/S.
Norwatch Newsletter 1/98