Bruno Manser Fund
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association
Rainforest Action Network
Markets For Change
Japan Tropical Forest Action Network
Friends of the Earth Japan
Failure to stop exploiting rainforests overshadows pledge to improve transparency
Amid the rapid disappearance of tropical rainforests, with significant impacts on the climate, Tokyo Olympic authorities have confirmed they will continue to exploit rainforests for Olympic construction without knowing the origin of the timber being sourced. These admissions were made in response to a public letter signed by 47 NGOs, expressing grave concerns over the legality and sustainability of the Tokyo 2020 timber sourcing practices. Authorities pledged to be more transparent about the use of tropical timber for the Tokyo Olympics, but rejected demands to revise their Timber Sourcing Code, which NGOs have called “fundamentally flawed.”
“Tokyo 2020’s continued use of tropical timber and refusal to conduct any reasonable due diligence contradicts Japan’s pledge to host a sustainable Olympics,” said Hana Heineken with Rainforest Action Network, “The authorities must upgrade their Timber Sourcing Code.”
In April of this year, tropical plywood supplied by a Malaysian timber company called Shin Yang was discovered on the construction site of the new Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Shin Yang has been previously implicated in systematic destruction of intact rainforests, illegal logging, and human rights violations in Sarawak, Malaysia.
In response, 47 NGOs from across the globe delivered a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo Olympic authorities on September 11th, demanding an end to the use of tropical wood and wood from other high risk sources; disclosure of the origin and volume of tropical wood used; full traceability and third party verification for the timber supply chain; stronger timber sourcing rules; and adoption of robust sourcing requirements for all other forest-risk commodities.
On October 19th, representatives of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Japan Sports Council, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government held a meeting with NGOs in Tokyo. Despite mounting evidence of inherent weaknesses in Tokyo 2020’s Timber Sourcing Code, including a glaring exception for certain concrete formwork plywood that is predominantly sourced from tropical forests, Tokyo Olympic authorities refused to revise the flawed Code and defended their continued use of tropical wood on grounds it adhered to the Code’s requirements. Authorities further acknowledged that there was no requirement for their suppliers to know the origin of the timber they supplied, nor to prioritize the use of sustainable wood harvested in Japan in the case of concrete formwork plywood, despite the Code itself prioritizing the use of domestic wood. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic authorities have pledged to be more transparent about the use of tropical timber and have agreed to disclose the quantity of and due-diligence process conducted on the plywood used at the Olympic construction sites.
“Tokyo 2020’s decision to not prioritise responsibly produced construction plywood from Japan, despite its availability, has been extremely disappointing. It sends the wrong message to responsible companies in Japan,” said Akira Harada with Japan Tropical Forest Action Network.
Japan is the number one global importer of tropical plywood, much of it sourced from the tropical forests of Malaysia and Indonesia. Its timber sourcing practices have been widely criticized for failing to ensure legality or sustainability. “Japan had the opportunity to rise to the procurement standards of Europe and the US for the Tokyo Olympics, but it chose to compromise so as not to inconvenience actual business practice in Japan,” said Peg Putt with Markets For Change.
Recent studies have raised alarms over the degradation of tropical forests, much of which is caused by exploitive logging. Tropical forests in Asia, South America and Africa have until recently played a critical role in absorbing greenhouse gases, but their continued degradation have caused tropical forests to become a source rather than a sink of carbon emissions. Tropical deforestation and forest degradation account for roughly one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Tokyo Olympic authorities are in the process of developing a grievance mechanism, but disclosed at the meeting on October 19th that they have no intention to hold a public consultation before it is finalized. Shin Yang’s logging practices in Sarawak are threatening Indigenous livelihoods, and the lack of a grievance mechanism for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has deprived the communities’ access to remedy.
“The absence of a grievance mechanism, nearly one year into construction of Olympic facilities, and the unwillingness to publicly consult with concerned stakeholders is very worrying,” said Annina Aeberli of the Bruno Manser Fund.
NGOs assert that adoption of robust sourcing requirements for all other forest-risk commodities, including pulp and paper, palm oil and rubber, is required if Japan is to host a truly sustainable Olympics.