IOC complicit in unaccountable and unsustainable Tokyo Olympic Stadium construction
International Olympic Committee accepts lack of transparency and weak standards of Tokyo Olympic authorities
Major shortcomings on the Olympic organizers’ commitment to sustainability are overshadowing today’s “Tokyo 2020 Flag Tour Festival”, which marks the start of the Tokyo 2020 Games in exactly three years from this day. For the last 6 months, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has knowingly allowed large volumes of rainforest wood of unknown or dubious origin to be used in the construction of Tokyo’s new Olympic Stadium, said Rainforest Action Network, Markets For Change, Bruno Manser Fund, Sarawak Dayak Iban Association, Rainforest Rescue, and Japan Tropical Forest Action Network today. The glaring lack of transparency about the origin of the rainforest wood and weak procurement safeguards makes it impossible to guarantee its sustainability or legality. NGOs claim that the IOC’s failure to address the obvious risk of unsustainability is a clear breach of its own commitment to “include sustainability in all aspects of the Olympic Games.”
In April this year, tropical plywood supplied by a notorious timber company in Sarawak, Malaysia, was spotted on the construction site of the new Tokyo Olympic Stadium. After exposure by several environment groups, Tokyo Olympic authorities admitted to using wood supplied by Shin Yang, but defended it on grounds that the particular sample was PEFC certified. Large volumes of tropical plywood continue to be used to construct the foundation of the new Olympic Stadium, but authorities have failed to disclose where the wood was harvested and the proportion coming from certified sources, as not all wood used on site is certified.
Sarawak is a major supplier of tropical plywood to Japan, but is also rife with corruption, highly unsustainable logging and violations of indigenous rights. Shin Yang, for example, has been implicated in systematic destruction of intact rainforests, illegal logging, and human rights violations. “Without full transparency about which company is supplying the timber, and where it’s coming from, there is no guarantee Sarawak timber is sustainable or legal,” said Annina Aeberli from the Bruno Manser Fund.
On December 6 2016, 44 NGOs sent a letter to the IOC warning them of the high risk that illegal and unsustainable rainforest wood would be used to construct Tokyo’s new Olympic National Stadium and other related facilities. The groups warned that failure to adopt additional safeguards and due diligence measures at the outset of the construction could result in complicity with human rights abuses, illegal logging, and rainforest destruction.
On May 17th, the IOC responded to NGO concerns by noting that all Tokyo Olympic authorities are complying with the “Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber.” Shockingly, the letter included an admission by the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that “the Code… [took] the actual business practice of timber trade into account to ensure feasibility,” even at the cost of sustainability.
“The Tokyo Olympic timber sourcing code legitimizes the extremely unsustainable use of tropical plywood that has been ‘actual business practice’ in Japan for decades,” said Hana Heineken of Rainforest Action Network. Japan is the largest importer of tropical plywood, and most plywood used for concrete formwork comes from the rainforests of Malaysia or Indonesia. Concrete formwork plywood is excluded from the Code’s environmental, labor, and human rights requirements under a specific exception. “It was a major giveaway to industry,” she said.
NGOs point out that the Code compounds these flaws by greenlighting all wood that has PEFC-certification, despite substantial evidence of failures in the system to assure legality and social and environmental responsibility.
Evidence shows Shin Yang’s PEFC-certified plywood is linked to human rights abuses. Matu Tugang, the headman of the Indigenous community of Long Jaik, has been battling Shin Yang for over 30 years and said in a recent statement, “[Shin Yang] destroy[s] everything in front of them before they extract logs. That is why our life in Long Jaik now is very difficult.” The forests surrounding the community currently supplies at least two of Shin Yang’s PEFC-certified plywood mills. “Shin Yang’s PEFC certification is meaningless in the face of evidence that its ‘certified’ logging practices are destroying Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods,” said Peg Putt, CEO of Markets For Change.
NGOs are calling on Olympic authorities to be fully transparent about their timber sourcing; establish full traceability and third party verification for all tropical timber in use; and ensure no timber is associated with rainforest destruction, illegal logging, or human rights violations. This should include an immediate end to the use of Shin Yang wood.
Notes to the Editor:
 The exception applies to plywood panels that have been reused. Panels are typically used two or three times and then discarded. See Tokyo 2020 Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber, para. 2, https://tokyo2020.jp/en/games/sustainability/data/sus-wcode-timber-EN.pdf
 The PEFC-endorsed system in Malaysia is the Malaysian Timber Certification Standard (MTCS). For an analysis of the weaknesses of PEFC and MTCS, see WWF Forest Certification Assessment Tool (CAT), http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?246871/WWF-Forest-Certification-Assessment-Tool-CAT; http://timbernews.org/malaysia_eu_vpa/; www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/forests/solutions/alternatives-to-forest-destruc/Weaker-Certification-Schemes/
 The community of Long Jaik is located in License for Planted Forest (LPF) 0018, which is known to supply the Shin Yang Plywood (Bintulu) mill and Shin Yang-owned Forescom Plywood mill in Bintulu. See Global Witness, Japan’s Links to Rainforest Destruction in Malaysia: Risks to a sustainable 2020 Tokyo Olympics, December 2015, www.globalwitness.org/en/reports/shinyang/, and Global Forestry Services, Chain of Custody Checklist & Assessment Report of Shin Yang Plywood (Bintulu) and Forescom Plywood, www.gfsinc.biz/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Summary-Shin-Yang-Plywood-Bintulu-Nov-2016.pdf, www.gfsinc.biz/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Summary-Forescom-Plywood-Bintulu-Nov-2016.pdf
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