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Planet Ark World Environment News Home Depot adopts new wood purchasing policy

Date: 06-Jan-03
Country: USA
Author: Karen Jacobs

The move expands a policy adopted by the largest U.S. lumber retailer in 1999 to quit selling wood from endangered forests.

Home Depot hopes to use its purchasing power to encourage wood suppliers to follow good forestry practices, said Ron Jarvis, vice president of merchandising for lumber and building materials. "It's an important message to send," he said.

The retailer sells about $5 billion of wood products each year, accounting for about 9 percent of its annual revenues.

Since 1999, Home Depot has bought more certified wood products and reduced sales of lumber from areas with questionable forestry practices, it said in a report prepared for environmental and government groups.

The number of vendors providing Home Depot with products certified by an accrediting group, the Forest Stewardship Council, has grown to 40 in 2002 from five in 1999. The Atlanta-based company's purchases of such products soared to over $200 million last year from $20 million in 1999.

Moreover, Home Depot said, nearly all of the cedar it now buys comes from second-and third-generation forests instead of older forests that are most at risk of extinction. It has also cut purchases of Indonesian lauan wood by 70 percent, reflecting concerns about illegal logging in the Asian nation.

"We're really impressed with the forward steps Home Depot has taken on its responsible wood supply," said Jennifer Krill of the Rainforest Action Network, a San Francisco group that held protests at Home Depot stores a few years ago in a bid to force it to stop selling wood from endangered forests.

"But Home Depot has not yet catalyzed a broad shift in global logging in the industry," said Krill, noting that Home Depot should put more pressure on suppliers that are laggards on the issue.

Gary Donnelly, president of the National Lumber and Building Materials Dealer Association, said the report was good publicity during a trying time for Home Depot. The company is revamping its business and grappling with weak sales as its chief rival, Lowe's Cos. (LOW.N), expands to lucrative U.S. markets such as New York.

Home Depot late on Thursday lowered its earnings outlook for fiscal 2002 ending in February, citing sales weakness in December.

In 2000 Lowe's unveiled a wood purchasing policy to avoid buying wood from endangered forests. Krill said her group works with Lowe's to monitor its practices.

Donnelly said his Washington-based trade group encourages its 8,000 members to obtain products through agencies that have certified lumber. "We think it's extremely important to have sustainable managed forests," he said.

On the New York Stock Exchange, Home Depot shares rose 3.8 percent, or 92 cents, to close at $24.88, while Lowe's rose 4.9 percent, or $1.85, to $39.35.

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