Being Australia's leading retailer of home improvement and outdoor living products and a major supplier of building materials carries certain responsibilities. With reach and influence across timber supply chains, it also provided a major opportunity to help drive sustainable forest management all over the world.
Bunnings adopted a zero tolerance approach to illegal logging in 2001, and in 2007 was a founding participant of WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN) in Australia. The GFTN was established by WWF to provide technical advice and foster links between companies committed to responsible forestry and trade; independent forest certification being a key part of this process. Over a ten year partnership, to June 2017, WWF worked with the company to help carry out risk assessments and supplier surveys, as part of the journey towards responsible sourcing.
Bunnings has been committed to responsible timber sourcing for well over a decade. We understand our responsibility to ensure that communities where we source timber derive direct and long-term benefit from well-managed forestry operations.
Bunnings Chief Operating Officer
In 2009 the company was a signatory to a joint industry, community and conservation group statement calling for an Australian ban on the importation of illegally logged timber, which ultimately resulted in the passage of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012. Driving responsible forest management was not as simple as walking away from high-risk sources. More challenging, but ultimately more rewarding, was to work with suppliers to ensure their operations are not linked to deforestation, biodiversity loss or social conflict. Simply dropping a supplier might have left the forest to markets that demand no such safeguards. Ironically, a well-managed, profitable timber industry can be one of the most effective ways to conserve tropical forests. Beginning in 2010, Bunnings engaged closely with PT Sinar Wijaya Plywood Industries (SWPI), operating in Indonesia’s West Papua Province, which supplied much of the company’s merbau timber decking. Merbau is a timber species historically linked to illegal logging and over-exploitation. In January 2016, SWPI’s Wijaya Sentosa concession became the first supplier of merbau certified as sustainably managed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). By providing a secure and ethical market for responsibly produced merbau, Bunnings helped the local community to benefit from this resource in a sustainable and legal way. WWF-Australia and WWF-Indonesia supported both Bunnings and SWPI through the certification process.
The bottom line
The responsible sourcing of timber was not only the right thing to do. It was also good for business, good for forests, and good for the communities living in and around them. Bunnings’ experience with merbau epitomised this. As a quality and hardwearing timber, it is still in high demand all over the world, which made it a vulnerable species due to illegal and unregulated logging practices. By securing a consumer market for sustainably managed merbau, Bunnings provided the local population with an alternative to illegal logging or conversion of the forest to other land uses. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards are independently audited, globally recognised, and scientifically sound. They provide a framework for achieving sustainable management practices, and for verifying these practices, even from thousands of miles away on the retail shop floor. WWF recommends FSC as the most credible forest certification scheme at present.