The Brazilian pavilion at EXPO Milano 2015 and the shadow of illegal logging from deforested Amazon

The Brazilian pavilion in the Italian Expo was made of wood supplied by a company allegedly linked with illegal logging in the Brazilian Amazon Forest. A paradoxical story, exposing weaknesses in the EU law against illegal timber.

(read the original article on Corriere TV – video/story, ITA)

In summer 2015 the Brazilian pavilion was one of the more successful attractions of EXPO Milano 2015, the universal exposition in Italy committed to the ambitious target “feeding the planet, energy for the life”. In the same year a report published by an environmental NGO accused the company that supplied wood for that pavilion of being involved in illegal logging. The paradox is that, allegedly, that illegal wood was coming from the Brazilian Amazon Forest.


The Brazilian Pavillion at EXPO 2015, Milan

The wood pavilion – For the whole 2015, people from all over the world spent hours in queue to walk few minutes through the astonishing suspended rope canopy of the Brazilian pavilion, one of the more appreciated attractions in the 2015 EXPO in Milan. The pavilion was mostly made of wood, supplied by the Italian company Ravaioli Legnami. This is a family-run company based near Ravenna and its port, one of the largest in the Adriatic sea.

The Italian companies tied to Amazon deforestation according to Greenpeace Report “Licence to launder”

Ravaioli Legnami is one of the three Italian companies listed in the report “Licence to Launder”, published by Greenpeace Brazil in the same 2015. The report was an update of the investigation “The Amazon’s Silent Crisis”, began in 2013, exposing weaknesses in Brazilian regulatory system, permitting to “launder” illegally logged timber for the global market. To produce evidences, Greenpeace activists placed hidden GPS devices in trucks, transporting wood from illegal areas to sawmills. They also exposed implausible certificates of legality attached to wood leaving Brazilian ports. In the 2015 update, Greenpeace provided a list of companies that bought timber supplied by Santa Efigênia Ltda, a Brazilian company at the centre of the investigation. Three companies where from Italy: Tropical Wood S.A.S., Arnosti Alessandro Legnami and Ravaioli Legnami.

“In years of activity, especially when the Timber Regulation entered into force”, said Ravaioli Legnami in a statement, trying to decline the accuses, “with the help of the monitoring organization Conlegno (…) Ravaioli Legnami Srl adopted measures to have continuous and detailed knowledge of the products, with the intent to defeat illegal wood, usually supplied by South America”.

Limits of monitoring organizations – Ravaioli refers to “Conlegno” that is a “monitoring organization”, one of the EU-recognised organizations introduced by the European law against illegal timber (EUTR), providing companies with instruments to satisfy the “due diligence” principle to import wood from EU or non-EU countries.

“We provide companies with instruments”, said Cristiano Clerici, from Conlegno technical board. “But the companies remain in charge to make choices, because they still have the complete responsibility of their operations”. In many cases, like Ravaioli Legnami, that means that a family-run company has to deal with the global market of timber, usually supplied by many steps of intermediaries: “The more the supply chain is complex, the higher is the risk, since the company struggles to trace the origin of timber”, said Clerici. The expert exposes frequent “triangulation transactions, where wood from South America or other tropical areas is imported in European countries through non-EU countries, like China, or through EU-countries as well, like Romania”, taking advantage of weaker laws or controls.

We cannot know” – Alessandro Arnosti is the owner of another company listed by the Greenpeace report, Arnosti Alessandro Legnami. From his narrow office near Treviso, in the heart of the Italian North East district of furnitures, the young manager explains the difficulties he met: “We deal with countries where there is a lot of instability. In general, I cannot say that I’m completely guarantee that the wood that I’m buying really matches with the attached documents. If someone in Europe assesses that, probably he’s a liar”, said Arnosti. “I always tried to make the right things, but in the past I trusted people that were not cautious like I am now”, said the young manager. After the accuses from Greenpeace, Arnosti changed his approach to the import of wood, but this made his company less competitive: “I put in place more controls”, he said, “but I had to get rid of some suppliers. Of course, they were the suppliers with the lowest fares”.

The fight against deforestation – In 2015 a report by the EU’s court of auditors warned European authorities about the ineffectiveness of EU scheme to tackle illegal timber. In late 2016 Brazilian Government announced in a report a 29 per cent rise in annual deforestation in 2016.

“Illegal logging is not the first cause of deforestation”, said Martina Borghi, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Italy. “But usually, in order to reach trees that will be cut down and to transport trunks, they have to create new roads. These roads are opened along rivers or into the forest, and are used afterwards to expand cultivations and areas to breed cattle”, said Borghi.


(read the original article on Corriere TV – video/story, ITA)

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