Media Release: Global NGOs 'Appalled' by Massive Use of High Risk Rainforest Wood for Tokyo 2020 Olympics Construction

New disclosures confirm worst concerns of environmental and social impacts tied to irresponsible wood sourcing for iconic Olympic facilities


Tokyo - As the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games capture the attention of audiences around the world, new information affirms long-standing concerns regarding the sustainability of the Tokyo 2020 Games. Over a year after the information was originally requested by 44 NGOs in December 2016, Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers have finally responded to sustained campaign pressure with a public release documenting extensive use of wood sourced from tropical rainforests to construct the New National Stadium and other Tokyo 2020 related facilities.

“We are appalled by the substantial volume of tropical wood that has been used thus far and by the glaring lack of due diligence exercised to ensure the sustainability and legality of the wood being used,” said Peg Putt with Markets For Change. “While we welcome the recent disclosure of the tropical plywood used to construct the Tokyo 2020 Olympic facilities, the new information affirms our worst concerns regarding the environmental and social impacts of Tokyo 2020’s irresponsible wood sourcing.”


The disclosure revealed that as of November 2017, at least 87% of the plywood panels used to construct the New National Stadium derived from the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia.


“The overwhelming majority of wood used was uncertified plywood extracted from tropical rainforests in Indonesia, an epicentre of biodiversity that is suffering from one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world,” said Hana Heineken with Rainforest Action Network


While 3% was certified plywood from Malaysia, there are significant questions over its sustainability. NGO investigations found habitual use of Malaysian plywood supplied by a notorious logging company called Shin Yang that has been linked to the destruction of a biodiversity hotspot in Borneo and Indigenous Rights abuses, and previously to illegal logging.


The announcement also revealed that additional Olympic construction projects - namely, the Olympic Aquatics Center, Ariake Arena, and the Sea Forest Waterway - are similarly exploiting Malaysian and Indonesian rainforests.


Despite the critical importance of protecting rainforests to combat climate change, preserve global biodiversity, and support the livelihoods of millions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, Japan continues to be the largest global consumer of tropical plywood, importing nearly 2 million m3 of plywood from Indonesia and Malaysia in 2016 alone.


“Tokyo 2020’s unsustainable use of tropical plywood to construct the Olympic facilities undermines the Olympic commitment to sustainability. Olympic organizers are sacrificing sustainability in favor of Japan’s construction industry and its notorious ‘business as usual’ practices,” said Heineken.


Global forest loss hit the highest level on record in 2016, with the loss of 29.7 million ha of tree cover (an area the size of New Zealand), largely due to forest fires, agriculture, logging, and mining. Indonesia and Malaysia were among the top 10 countries that suffered loss of dense tree cover in 2016, much of it linked to industrial plantation development for oil palm and pulp & paper. Rapid deforestation has continued in 2017.


“In light of the high risks of sourcing timber products from Indonesia and Malaysia, the
information disclosed by Tokyo 2020 organizers fails to provide meaningful assurance that
the timber used for Olympics construction was harvested legally and sustainably. It exposes
the massive extent of irresponsible procurement,” said Putt.


“The Tokyo 2020 Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber is ‘sustainable’ in name, but not in its sourcing practices. The Code must be strengthened to prohibit sourcing plywood from companies destroying tropical rainforests and end its reliance on weak legality and certification systems. Tokyo 2020 will lack credibility until it improves its transparency and accountability, establishes robust due diligence systems, and proactively uses sustainable Japanese wood,” said Junichi Mishiba of Friends of the Earth Japan.


Read NGO Briefing Here.

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