Conservation charity the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found in a survey that just 50% of those who shop for timber, wooden furniture or paper products are aware it could be coming from illegal or unsustainable sources.
Most people claimed that they had heard of Fairtrade coffee, fish stocks or other goods, but had no awareness of the issues surrounding wood production and deforestation. Half of those surveyed said that they assumed that if it was purchased in the UK it must be from a legal source. Just 28% of people had heard of the Forestry Stewardship Council which guarantees wood is from a sustainable source.
The WWF said that £700m worth of goods produced from illegally sourced wood are sold in the UK each year; making the UK the fourth largest importer of such goods. They estimate that this accounts for 10% of all wood products which could include laminate flooring or flatpack furniture.
WWF point out that deforestation is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gases and affects the communities and animals which live in these areas.
The survey was conducted as part of an overall campaign to raise awareness of the issue. B&Q has supported it by agreeing to only buy certified tropical plywood and Argos now has a Fairtrade kitchen range. However just 25 out of 333 councils in England have agreed to a timber procurement policy to avoid illegal products.
Legislation banning illegal wood will be coming into force from 2012 and all companies will have to supply evidence of where their wood has come from.