January 31, 2019 / 2:19 PM / 3 months ago

NGOs say Tokyo 2020 falling short on timber sustainability

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Seven environmental non-government organizations (NGOs), including the Rainforest Action Network, have accused Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers of failing to end the use of timber associated with rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the construction site of Athletes' Village for Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, which will serve as residential apartments after the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

In a statement released on Wednesday, the NGOs said they had been left “deeply disappointed” by a recent revision of Tokyo 2020’s timber sourcing policy.

Games organizers announced amendments to their previous policy on Jan. 18.

“Regrettably, the new policy announced on January 18th of this year makes minimal improvements and fails to ensure the sustainability or even legality of the timber being procured,” the NGOs said.

“By allowing Tokyo 2020 suppliers to continue sourcing high-risk timber from controversial companies, without meaningful due diligence, the Olympics will be leaving a bitter legacy for Japan.”

The key principles of Tokyo 2020’s Sustainable Sourcing Code center on the origin of products used in preparation for the Olympics.

In the code, organizers state they will only “use raw materials collected or cultivated in consideration of resource conservation including the perspective of mitigating deforestation and forest degradation.”

However, in their report from November 2018, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) alleged at least 134,400 sheets of tropical plywood, sourced from rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia have been used in the construction of Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues.

Tokyo 2020 organizers deny that, say their sourcing protocol has improved and that they are leading approaches to sustainability in Japan.

“With the support of a working group of experts, we discussed revisions to the timber sourcing code with various stakeholders, including NGOs, and summarized the results of these discussions,” Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya told Reuters via email on Thursday.

“Tokyo 2020 is making maximum efforts to step up activities to help realize a sustainable society through the Tokyo 2020 Games and become a model for addressing sustainability issues both in Japan and other countries,” he added.

“Applying sustainability criteria to the supply of timber and plywood panels used for concrete construction purposes is a very new approach in Japan, so we believe the Tokyo 2020 Games will help increase the sustainability of timber supplied here.”

Tokyo 2020 also says it consulted with RAN and its feedback was incorporated in the revised sourcing code.

This is the latest development in a long-running saga.

In 2017, 47 NGOs filed an open letter to the International Olympic Committee saying there was mounting evidence the Tokyo Games was using timber supplied by companies associated with illegal logging and human and labor rights violations.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Mark Potter

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