Lowe’s is one of the biggest home centers in the U.S. It is consistently listed as the no. 2 chain. Anyone walking through a Lowe’s store will notice most of the forest products sport a sustainability sticker of one kind or another. Lowe’s has a web page devoted to how it sources lumber products from around the world.
Lowe’s gives preference to certified forest products, but obviously doesn’t sell only certified forest products. They seem to prefer FSC over SFI, which isn’t even mentioned. Here is a quote from their standpoint on using certified wood products:
Independent third party forest certification is the cornerstone of our wood procurement policy. Forest certification is the process of evaluating forests or woodlands to determine if they are being managed according to a defined set of standards. Our goal is to source all wood products from certified forests.
In the thirteen years since forest certification began, the industry has seen great improvement in both the development of the various certification systems and in on-the-ground forest management. Our own data indicates certified product volume has increased by 41% from 2003 to 2005. We expect the volume of our wood product sales from certified forests to increase as a percentage of total wood product sales in the future.
It was interesting to see how Lowe’s treats tropical forest products. They are trying to move to certified sources of tropical forests. They describe efforts they have made with luan and other tropical woods:
Forests in the tropics are particularly vulnerable to the adverse consequences of certain harvesting practices due to intense rainy seasons, increased incidents of illegal logging and poor soil fertility. For those reasons, we treat tropical sources with particular care. In 2005, volume from the tropics accounted for 1.3% of our total wood product purchases.
Our focus in tropical regions is to either shift our supply to more responsible or certified sources such as FSC certified or to eliminate the product from our supply chain. We have been successful on both counts. Our data indicates that from 2003-2005, total volume of FSC certified products has increased by 26% with the greatest increase coming from developing countries. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of FSC certified products available for sale. In 2003, Lowe’s had almost 1,200 FSC certified item numbers. By 2005 that number had increased by 36% to over 1,600 FSC certified item numbers.
One example of a product transition is �” lauan (meranti) plywood. Lauan plywood available to suppliers was traditionally sourced almost exclusively from the tropical forests of Indonesia and Malaysia. Today, our supply of this product is now primarily certified to the FSC standard and comes from a number of other countries including China, Guyana and New Zealand. In addition, dowels that most commonly came from tropical species (ramin) are now sourced domestically and made from domestically-sourced poplar (liriodendron tulipifera).
An example in 2005 of a product eliminated from our supply chain was Merbau flooring from Indonesia. Upon Lowe’s independently discovering the product that was not in compliance with our sourcing policy, shipments were immediately halted and a sell-through process began. An alternative product compliant with our policy was identified for the 2007 year.