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An ICIJ Investigation

Deforestation Inc.

An ICIJ-led cross-border investigation exposes how a lightly regulated sustainability industry overlooks forest destruction and human rights violations when granting environmental certifications.

  • Environmental auditing and certification programs intended to promote responsible forestry and other social goals worldwide frequently validate products linked to deforestation, logging in conflict zones and other harmful activity.
  • In the last two decades, dozens of environmental auditors certified as “sustainable” the products and operations of more than 340 forest-product companies that were later accused of environmental crimes or other wrongdoing by local communities, advocates and government agencies.
  • Western governments’ efforts to stop the trade of wood logged in conflict zones such as Myanmar are failing, allowing authoritarian regimes to finance their violent rule.
  • At the same time, certification firms allow companies at the center of such trade to hold sustainability certificates, providing the public with misleading assurances as to a product’s origins.
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