Sarawak’s logging industry is documented as one of the most environmentally destructive and corrupt industries in the region. The environmental impacts of continued logging and plantation conversion have a devastating effect on the natural environment and the local Indigenous population whilst also being a major contributor to climate change.
Japan imports more plywood from tropical forests than any other country, primarily this feeds its huge construction and housing industries. Half of this comes from the rainforests of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. Sarawak is losing its tropical rainforests faster than anywhere else on earth, driven by a timber industry riddled with corruption, irreversible environmental damage and illegality. Nearly all timber production in Sarawak has been from natural forest.
Japan is the largest importer of plywood from Sarawak, accounting for a 55% share of all plywood exports from that state. 95% of imported plywood is used in the building industry for either concrete formwork or flooring. Industry sources report that 90% of plywood used in Japan is used in the housing sector. A handful of major housing and condominium construction companies build a substantial proportion of new housing, which may contain plywood flooring originating from Sarawak in addition to the use of plywood formwork in construction.
Many companies in this supply chain claim environmental credentials and an ongoing commitment to ethical environmental practice, whilst simultaneously being a major driving factor behind logging in Sarawak. These claims are clearly problematic considering the well documented issues with logging in Sarawak and it is clear that Japan’s construction industry, including house and condominium building companies need to stop buying timber originally sourced from Sarawak.
Our research into the procurement practices of Japanese companies uncovered that none of the companies contacted had sufficient procurement policies in place to address the issues associated with timber from Sarawak. While some companies were performing better than others and were beginning to implement procurement policies which will address some environmental, legality and human rights concerns, many had no appropriate procurement policies in place at all.