June 7, 2014

Greenpeace goes after Lumber Liquidators

By Mark Wachtler

June 7, 2014. Brazil. (ONN) Greenpeace, the worldwide organization known for taking on Japanese whalers, Russian arctic oil drillers, American GMO’s, Canadian fracking and other environmental issues, has set its sights on Lumber Liquidators, the discount hardwood flooring company rapidly opening stores across America. Greenpeace says the corporation is knowingly buying illegal Brazilian rainforest wood. The company says it relies on its suppliers to abide by the law.

Greenpeace activists block the parking lot of Lumber Liquidators’ corporate HQ two weeks ago. Image courtesy of Greenpeace.

The controversy isn’t old, just with new players. Corporations believe that it’s not their responsibility to insure the foreign sub-contractors they buy from aren’t committing criminal acts in the process. De Beers was accused of buying blood diamonds from slavers in Africa. Wal-Mart buys billions worth of merchandise also allegedly made by slaves in China. Same for Nike in Indonesia. The latest war is between Greenpeace and Lumber Liquidators and the environmental activists have turned up their pressure.



Turning a blind eye

“The Amazon rainforest, home to a quarter of known land species on earth, is under siege,” said Greenpeace’s Daniel Brindis, “Illegal timber operations in Brazil are hacking apart this iconic forest. But to American companies that import and sell Amazon wood, this forest crime is out of sight, out of mind. American flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators even buys timber from a Brazilian state where 78% of the wood is illegally harvested.”

Brindis explains that it’s not just the jaguar, spider monkey and three-toed sloth that are being wiped out by logging in the Brazilian rainforest, but local residents are also facing death. Between corrupt politicians and greedy local contractors, the indigenous peoples and environmental activists there are routine recipients of death threats and acts of terror just to silence them. Profiting the most however are the multi-national corporations that buy the illegal Brazilian wood and then resell it in stores across countries like the United States.

“Illegal logging is possible because companies like Lumber Liquidators don’t really know where their lumber comes from,” the Greenpeace spokesman said, “Greenpeace’s investigation, published today, demonstrates how criminals are able to launder illegal timber and disguise it as legal for the market using official Brazilian government documents. To stop Amazon destruction, we must stop US companies from buying into Amazon crime. That begins with Lumber Liquidators - and your voice today.”

Taking to the streets - Brazil

In a coordinated effort three weeks ago, Greenpeace did what Greenpeace does best. Their members and supporters put themselves in harm’s way to shut down lumber manufacturing and bring a spotlight to their cause. In Brazil, the group’s members invaded one of Lumber Liquidator’s biggest suppliers there, a company already fined for illegal logging practices.

“This morning, Greenpeace activists from all over Brazil and the US halted the operations of a Brazilian timber exporter, Pampa Exportacoes, in Belém, Para,” a Greenpeace announcement began, “Pampa Exportacoes’s primary international customer is Lumber Liquidators, the largest national flooring retailer. This happened today, after Greenpeace published a two year investigation on illegal logging in the Amazon.”

The demonstrators called on Lumber Liquidators to stop buying wood from companies like Pampa Exportacoes that have already been caught and fined for illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest. The last time the Brazilian government took action against the exporter, it cost the company $1 million in fines. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the global market for wood products. All together, the group says that Brazil has issued $80 million in fines over the past five years to such companies, with little or no results.



Taking to the streets - Virginia

Only days after Brazilian Greenpeace activists shut down a criminal lumber mill there, American Greenpeace activists paid a surprise visit to the Lumber Liquidators corporate headquarters in Toano, Virginia. They blocked the corporation’s parking lot with two vehicles and then chained themselves to the cars as they sat on the concrete. The PR assault was timed to disrupt a corporate investor meeting scheduled to take place at the same location.

As reported by WAVY 10 TV, the blockade lasted for a couple hours and police were on the scene to monitor the situation. There were no arrests. Wealthy investors who couldn’t enter the Lumber Liquidators’ corporate parking lot were forced to park across the street. In a somewhat surprise move, the US Greenpeace activists abruptly took down their barricade and banners and declared at least a partial victory.

Unlike most confrontations of these types, Lumber Liquidators executives invited a Greenpeace representative inside the corporate headquarters to discuss the problem. The two sides reportedly met for roughly two hours. By 11:00am, the activists announced that they believed their voices had been heard and they left the premises. But that hasn’t stopped their campaign to force the company to change its purchasing habits.

Greenpeace has set up a website where supporters can send a message directly to Lumber Liquidators. Their appeal states, ‘Lumber Liquidators, already in 46 states and growing fast, is looking to become the household name for bargain so-called “sustainable” flooring. If we don’t demand it change its practices now, Lumber Liquidator’s growth will support even more forest destruction.

For more information, visit the Greenpeace Blog.

 

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