It’s easy to feel outraged at the suggestion that B&Q and Wickes are selling wood ‘felled illegally from the Borneo rainforest’ – but how much responsibility should we take for checking where our wood comes from?
Imagine you are shopping and you fall in love with a wooden table. It’s the most beautifully-crafted table you’ve ever seen, which would look amazing in your kitchen, and you decide on-the-spot that you must buy it.
Would you automatically think to check where the wood has come from? Would you expect to be able to find this information easily? And how far would you go to verify the information you found?
OK, I haven’t bought many wooden tables recently, but I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t expect I would spend a great deal of time investigating the origins of the wood. And that’s despite having travelled to Borneo and seeing the damaging effects of illegal logging first-hand.
I want to trust the shop
I’d probably have a quick check of the label and make a snap judgement about the ‘type’ of shop I’m in (trying to convince myself that they wouldn’t sell me anything bad), but that would likely to be as far as I’d get.
And – of course – if I saw a sign or label suggesting that the shop only sells products from ‘responsible sources’ then bingo – I would feel sure that I didn’t need to worry and would let the shop absolve me of any guilt.
I don’t think I’m alone – many of us may feel it’s the retailer’s job to source ethical products and we want to believe they’re doing a good job (because then we don’t have to worry about it).
Can I trust the shop?
But this latest scandal, revealed by the Daily Mail, has called this into question and suggested that we can’t necessarily trust the retailers – because they in turn can’t trust their suppliers.
I imagine B&Q and Wickes – just like us – wanted to believe that their supplier (Asia Plywood) was sourcing the wood ethically. And as the company was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) they had no reason to question that this was not the case.
I don’t know what they could have done to avoid this. But the interesting question now – to which the two companies have responded quite differently – is what to do with this illegally-felled wood?
What to do with the wood
According to the Mail, B&Q ‘suddenly began stripping the wood from its shelves’ after it was contacted by the newspaper. But Wickes has continued to sell the product, insisting it is ‘better to give it to consumers than put it in a landfill site’.
I can appreciate Wickes’ argument – it must be better to make good use of this wood (now that the damage has been done) rather than dispose of it. But if Wickes is still selling it as FSC-certified, despite this new information, then surely this could mislead consumers?
One commenter on the Mail article suggested that the companies should ‘separate this batch and give the public an opportunity to buy, providing they give all profits to a conservation charity’. I’m not sure if B&Q and Wickes will go for this, but I don’t think it’s such a crazy idea…