MAC: Mines and Communities

WWF come under renewed pressure to end deal with Superquarry company

Published by MAC on 2003-08-04

WWF come under renewed pressure to end deal with Superquarry company

News Release from Friends of the Earth-Scotland

4 August 2003

Global conservation group, WWF, today (Monday 4 August) came under renewed pressure to end its £3.5 million deal with the company trying to establish a superquarry at Lingerbay on Harris. The call by environment group, Friends of the Earth, follows WWF's decision to eject Tesco from the group's prestigious 95+ Forestry Group for using 'illegal' timber. [1] Despite recent fines for operating illegal price-fixing cartels WWF continues to take money from French aggregates giant, Lafarge. [2]

WWF's decision to eject Tesco from its 95+ Group followed an investigation by Friends of the Earth that revealed that Tesco, the UK's biggest retailer and self-proclaimed leader in Corporate Social Responsibility, was selling garden furniture made from illegally sourced Indonesian timber.

The furniture is manufactured in Vietnam but made from logs imported from Indonesia. It has been illegal to export Indonesian logs since October 2001, when the Indonesian Government introduced a log export ban in a desperate attempt to control escalating levels of illegal logging.

Friends of the Earth's Chief Executive, Duncan McLaren said:

If the public is to trust an initiative, such as the 95+ Group, corporations that fail to live up to their commitments cannot be allowed to remain involved. Tesco's so-called "Corporate Social Responsibility" has been exposed as greenwash, and its ejection from this scheme was long overdue.

Friends of the Earth welcomes this decision by WWF. However, WWF must apply the same ethical standards to all its partnerships with companies. Tesco's use of illegal timber is put in the shade by the illegal activities of Lafarge which remains one of WWF's 'Conservation Partners', despite its record of convictions. In the last 12 months Lafarge has twice been fined by the European Commission for operating illegal international price-fixing cartels.

That Lafarge supports WWF to the tune of £3.5million must not distort the picture. WWF should be helping call irresponsible companies like Tesco and Lafarge to account however much they are prepared to pay to exploit its good name and reputation. The next move for WWF must be to cut out other "dead wood" companies such as Lafarge from its partnerships.


[1] 'Tesco membership of responsible timber group terminated', WWF press release. Details from: Sue Windebank on 01483 412388; (m )07771 818709

[2] Lafarge is the world's largest aggregates company with an annual turnover of £5.4 billion. Lafarge also owns the UK's Blue Circle Cement. Lafarge is attempting to establish a massive superquarry on Harris in the Western isles. If permission is granted it will mean the extraction of 10 million tonnes of rock for 60 years from Roineabhal mountain at Lingerbay. The rock will largely be for export to England for road building projects. Despite having had the project rejected by the government, Lafarge is currently appealing the decision through the courts.

Lafarge is a company with a chequered history. It makes much of being one of WWF's Conservation Partners, yet it has received not one but two fines from the European Commission. On 14 April 2003, Lafarge was fined £64 million by the European Commission for its part in running an illegal price-fixing cartel. Only a few months after Lafarge was found guilty by the Commission of operating a similar multi-million pound scheme. The fine that time was £187 million - the third largest penalty ever levied on a single company.

[3] As one of WWF's Conservation Partners, Lafarge has agreed to contribute £3.5 million (£700,000 a year for five years) to WWF.

WWF's Conservation Partners are "multinational companies which contribute major funding to sponsor WWF's global conservation work". According to WWF companies which become Partners are guaranteed "a unique relationship that will enhance your brand image and add value to your marketing and communications strategy."

[4] Lafarge's influence over WWF:

In February 2003 Friends of the Earth sent a strongly worded letter to WWF's Executive director Dr Claude Martin. In the letter Friends of the Earth called for the "partnership" to be ended and also expressed concern at the "assistance" provided to Lafarge in response to the challenge coming from those opposed to the superquarry. This included the passing of draft letters from Lafarge to WWF for comment and advice on how best Lafarge should handle criticism in Scotland.

More information: email:

WWF Press Release - Tesco membership of responsible timber group terminated

Tesco's membership of the WWF 95+ Group has been terminated said WWF - the global environment network today.

The Group, which works with business to promote responsible management of the world's forests, has ended its partnership with the supermarket because of a continuing lack of commitment to its aims. This has been demonstrated by Tesco's selling of garden furniture made from illegally logged Indonesian hardwood.

"Tesco's actions have shown that it clearly does not take the issue of buying wood products from legal and responsibly managed sources seriously," said Rachel Hembery, Manager of the WWF 95+ Group. "The 95+ Group has endeavoured to work with Tesco to help overcome the problems it faces when buying wood products, but the supermarket's uncooperative behaviour leaves WWF no choice but to terminate its membership."

WWF is disappointed that it has been forced to take this action which was taken only after numerous attempts to get satisfactory responses from Tesco. If Tesco is able to make the kind of serious commitment expected of 95+ Group members in the future then WWF would be happy to re-open discussions with the supermarket.

"The 95+ Group is not a hiding place for companies that are not seriously committed to phasing out timber from illegal and irresponsibly managed sources," said Hembery.

The WWF 95+ Group is currently asking all members to re-commit to phasing out illegal timber and to implement an action plan that shows how this will be done. Members also commit to increase the amount of timber and wood products traded that come from credibly certified sources.

Sue Windebank, WWF

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