Although it has the CEO of the iconic guitar maker Gibson Guitar Corp. singing the blues, a U.S. law aimed at limiting deforestation has attracted calls for strict enforcement from other affected companies.
The Lacey Act, a 112-year-old import restrictions law Gibson acknowledged breaking in early August, was amended in 2008 to reduce illegal logging in Asia and other tropical countries. It requires any U.S. company importing exotic wood products to take extra care in documenting sources and confirming they aren't in violation of global sustainable forestry practices.
A settlement reached with Gibson Guitar this month is held up as the first instance of action taken to enforce the Lacey Act's provision for wood sourcing.
"The criminal enforcement agreement should be a wake-up call for companies thinking about importing illegally logged wood that the government is going to take violations of the Lacey Act very seriously," said Jameson French, CEO of Northland Forest Products and a board member of the Hardwood Federation, which joined forces with the likes of Rainforest Network and United Steelworkers to get the tough amendment passed in 2008.
Makers of hardwood floors, musical instruments and other wood products interviewed for this story said they're taking a rigorous approach to compliance.
Armstrong World Industries, for instance, requires all its wood suppliers to document their compliance with the Lacey Act for each shipment Armstrong imports, according to Milton Goodwin, vice president of wood product management for the giant floor and cabinet company based in Lancaster, Pa. "This is a standard part of our procurement practice and ensures that we responsibly manage our wood supply chain."
It's worth noting that Armstrong does this even though "97 square feet out of 100 square feet" of the wood products it sells are sourced from managed U.S. forests.
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