By Morten Rønning,
Regnskogsfondet (The Rainforest Fund), Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in Our Hands), Miljøheimevernet (The Environmental Home Guard), Naturvernforbundet (Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature), Verdens Naturfond (The World Wildlife Fund), and Foreningen for Internasjonale vann- og skogstudier (The Association of International Water and Forest Studies) heavily criticize the Norwegian furniture business. The consumers are encouraged to avoid the following shops: Skeidar, Norsk Sengetøylager, Bohus, the IdŠ chain, SmartClub, Maxbo, and Det norske møbelsenter. All, or parts of, their garden furniture collection this year consists of furniture made by rainforest timber. The six organisations urge both consumers and distributors to ask for furniture which has been approved by the independent licensing body Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
In the past years, the import of garden furniture made by rainforest timber has increased enormously. The import is hundred times higher than in the early 1990s. Some years ago, a lot of attention was paid to Burmese teak, and this made it difficult to sell this in Norway. Burmese teak is not totally out of the market, but some of the teak comes from plantations in Java, Indonesia, which were established by the Dutch in the last century. These state-run plantations are starting to become FSC-approved, which is a long process. Furniture from this timber will hopefully appear on the Norwegian market next year.
New types of wood
Some teak has been replaced by other types of hardwood, such as Shorea/Meranti, Keruing, Yellow Balau, Xoan Dao and Nyatoh. This timber often originates from Malaysia, Indonesia or Kampuchea. Much of the production takes place in Vietnam. The country has prohibited the export of garden furniture made by Vietnamese wood. Unfortunately, the country imports a lot of illegally felled timber from the neighbouring country Kampuchea, which also has export restrictions. Burmese teak is also exported to, among other countries, Thailand, Vietnam and China, where it is used for garden furniture production.
In spite of the fact that the shops make their purchases already in the autumn, among other places at a major exhibition in Cologne, Germany, it is very difficult for the environmental organisations to get access to information on the different importers' collections. The organisations are often met by closed doors and hung-up telephones. Only a few of the major chains have been willing to enter into a dialogue with the organisations. This has led to some smaller changes in these chains' collection.
With regard to garden furniture, there are also shops which only exist during a few summer months, such as summer-closed sports stadiums. It is difficult to trace the people behind these shops. Consumer information is an important part of the work against rainforest timber garden furniture.
Norwatch Newsletter 7/99