Lowe’s remains engaged in the protection of the world’s forest resources, a consistent commitment since first publishing our wood policy in 2000. An important aspect of the policy is determining which forests require protection – forests we’ve designated as “endangered.” The challenge is there is no single definition of an “endangered” forest though terms such as “threatened” and “high conservation value” have been used interchangeably with “endangered.” To help guide the application of our policy, we consider the following to be characteristics of endangered forests:
- Forest types that cannot regenerate either with or without human intervention
- Forests in areas experiencing high rates of illegal logging (harvesting taking place in violation of local laws or regulations, or where traditional land rights are not yet settled)
- Forests in countries experiencing political or social unrest and where forest resources are used to fund armed conflict
- Forests where harvesting leads to the extirpation of indigenous species
Lowe’s relies on the following methods to help inform and control sourcing:
- Lowe’s buyers consider where the wood in products comes from before offering those products for sale in our stores.
- At the end of each year, suppliers report product-sourcing information, including wood species, volume, forest location and sustainable forest certification status (if available). We review that information for compliance with our policy. Lowe’s pays special attention to products with high volume and those sourced from tropical areas.
- As issues are identified, Lowe’s engages with environmental groups, including The Nature Conservancy, ForestEthics and Greenpeace.
If we find sourcing in violation of our policy, Lowe’s works directly with suppliers to transition the product to an alternate source. If suppliers are unable to redirect sourcing, the product is shifted to alternate suppliers. For example in 2000, Lowe’s transitioned from dowel rods commonly made using ramin, a tropical wood (genus – Gonystylus, multiple species), to a domestically sourced poplar. We continue to use that alternate source today.
The Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia provides an early example of Lowe’s public engagement. After longstanding disagreements between the forest industry and environmental groups, Lowe’s and other forest products buyers engaged with industry, environmentalists, First Nations and provincial governments to address regional conservation issues. Following extensive negotiations, all parties agreed to a management program that respects traditional land rights, needs of forest-dependent species and economic interests of local communities.
Lowe’s buyers consider where the wood in products comes from before offering those products for sale in our stores.
Lowe’s is also an active participant in the Boreal Business Forum, a group of forest products customers engaged with producers and environmental groups to encourage management of Canada’s forests at a landscape-scale with a focus on habitats and species. The extended interest groups include First Nations bands and Canadian provincial governments. The broader group attempts to influence policy and practice at a scale never before attempted.
Supplier Engagement and Progress Indicators
Since 2003, Lowe’s suppliers have reported sourcing information, including where the wood was harvested, sustainable forest certification, wood species and volume. This information enables Lowe’s to evaluate supplier adherence to our wood policy and allows us to change sourcing profiles that don’t meet our expectations. Suppliers self-report information that is not verified by external third parties.
Sourcing by Country – The top 10 countries by volume account for more than 99 percent of all volume supplied to Lowe’s stores. Most of the volume of product we have purchased has come from North America, with 70 percent from the United States and 24 percent from Canada. Since establishing our supplier database in 2003, the volume from North America has ranged from 85 percent to 94 percent. The volume of product coming from individual countries other than the top 10 represents less than 1 percent of Lowe’s total volume.
Sourcing by Certification – Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) helps provide assurance that trees are grown and harvested responsibly. Certification to an SFM standard is our goal for all products sold in our stores.
Arriving at full certification has been a challenge due to land ownership patterns and available volume of certified product. For instance, of the total volume of reported uncertified product, 69 percent comes from the southeastern United States, where the majority of land is owned by small, non-industrial private landowners owning 50 acres or less. Certification costs become financially difficult for small landowners struggling with increasing taxes and processing costs. It is also difficult to coordinate certification with such a fragmented ownership base.
The second-largest volume of uncertified product comes from China (3 percent). While China has vast forest resources ranging from tropical to temperate, not many of these forests are certified.
Finally, it is important to note that while 32 percent of the wood product volume is not certified, nearly 90 percent of that volume comes from the U.S. and Canada, and we’ve received legal harvesting documentation on the 3 percent sourced from China.
“Other” certification systems represent less than 2 percent of the total volume.
Wood Sourcing Report
Guided by our wood policy, we work with our partners and suppliers to protect endangered forests.
Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy
Seventy percent of the wood we’ve purchased has come from the United States and 24 percent from Canada.
Since 2003, we’ve held our suppliers responsible for reporting sourcing information. Sustainable Forest Management certification standards help provide assurance that trees are grown and harvested responsibly.
Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy
Responsible Wood Sourcing