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In its latest effort to address environmental sustainability, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. said yesterday it has joined the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) initiative to save the world's most valuable and threatened forests.
By joining the GFTN, Wal-Mart said it has committed to phasing out illegal and unwanted wood sources from its supply chain and increasing its proportion of wood products originating from credibly certified sources -- for Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs in the United States.
"With nearly half of the world's forests already gone, action is urgently needed," said Suzanne Apple, WWF's v.p. for business & industry. "Wal-Mart's commitment to support responsible forestry answers that call to action. WWF welcomes the company to a global community committed to healthy business and healthy forests."
The United States is the largest consumer of industrial timber, pulp, and paper in the world, according to the WWF. The U.S. is also among the top destinations for imports of wood from areas where illegal logging and trade are common, such as Indonesia, China, and Brazil.
Wal-Mart said its commitment includes the importation and sale of all wood-based products, with an initial focus on wood-based furniture. Wal-Mart sources furniture from the Amazon, Russian Far East, northern China, Indonesia, and the Mekong region of southeast Asia. These areas include some of the most biologically diverse places on earth, places that WWF is working to protect.
Within one year, Wal-Mart said it will complete an assessment of where its wood furniture is coming from and whether the wood is legal and well-managed. Once the assessment is completed, Wal-Mart has committed to eliminating wood from illegal and unknown sources within five years. The company will also eliminate wood from forests that are of critical importance due to their environmental, socio-economic, biodiversity, or landscape values and that aren't well-managed.
"One of our goals at Wal-Mart is to sell products that sustain and protect our resources," said Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart's s.v.p. of sustainability. "By joining the GFTN we can further this goal by providing our customers with a reliable supply of wood products that come from responsibly managed forests."
WWF works with private companies like Wal-Mart and public agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to promote responsible forest management that gives weight to social values, environmental conservation, and economic benefits.