5/23 UPDATE: Greenpeace says it is blocking the entrance to Lumber Liquidators' headquarters in Toano as the company holds its annual shareholder meeting. The group says this is the company's first shareholder meeting since they were raided last year by federal agents for an alleged connection to illegal timber from the Russian Far East. We'll bring you updates on 13News Now.
Police are on scene.
An international nonprofit organization is making new accusations against Toano-based Lumber Liquidators, saying the company of purchased illegally-cut wood from Brazil.
The new claims, announced by Greenpeace on Thursday, come as the company is already under investigation by federal investigators and is the subject of at least two lawsuits over allegations the company purchased wood from Chinese mills it knew to be illegally harvested from far western Russia, Greenpeace said.
Greenpeace is making its accusations after a two-year undercover investigation in which the organization sent investigators into the Amazon Rain Forest in Brazil to track illegal lumber from the time it was cut until it hit store shelves in the US.
The Greenpeace investigation found Lumber Liquidators was purchasing wood from mills that knowingly process wood that was illegally logged.
When Lumber Liquidators purchases the lumber, though, it comes with proper paperwork. Daniel Brindis, a Senior Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace who worked on the undercover investigation, said although the paperwork was seemingly valid, it was clear it did not apply to the wood Lumber Liquidators and other companies purchased.
'Lumber Liquidators is buying wood in the same manner that a store owner might sell alcohol to a teenager using his older brother's ID,' Brindis explained. 'They are seeing legal documentation but ignoring the fact that the official documents are often used fraudulently to hide the crime of illegal logging.'
The new claims from Greenpeace come at a time when Lumber Liquidators is already under investigation by federal investigators and is the subject of at least two lawsuits over allegations the company purchased wood from Chinese mills it knew to be illegally harvested from far western Russia.
One lawsuit, filed in January, claimed the Chinese wood was tainted with formaldehyde and caused illness for some customers who installed it in their homes.
To date, Lumber Liquidators has denied violating the law or any wrongdoing. The company is expected to release a statement late Thursday in response to the new allegations announced by Greenpeace.
Statement from Lumber Liquidators
At Lumber Liquidators, we take environmental compliance very seriously and we back our commitment to responsible sourcing with real action. The policies and procedures that we have in place for the sourcing, harvesting and manufacturing of all of our products are designed to meet or exceed legal requirements. Lumber Liquidators operates in a manner intended to ensure our company is a superior corporate citizen that seeks to adhere to all applicable laws, rules and regulations wherever we do business. As such, we demand that our business partners, suppliers and distributors meet our standards and operate in an ethical, legal and sustainable manner. In addition, we commit resources around the world to monitor our processes and compliance with environmental chain of custody regulations at each step of the way until the products reach our stores. Lumber Liquidators is committed to uncompromising integrity in how we conduct ourselves individually and as a company.
Steps Lumber Liquidators says it has taken in South America:
- Lumber Liquidators has devoted resources to enhance sourcing, quality, and compliance efforts throughout South America.
- Lumber Liquidators conducts reviews of new suppliers in the region that are intended to validate compliance to Lumber Liquidators and regulatory requirements. These reviews include evaluating supplier compliance to applicable manufacturing, quality, social, and environmental requirements including legal harvest and trade of wood products.
- Prior to purchase, Lumber Liquidators requires suppliers to provide evidence of legal sourcing and chain of custody of raw materials to be used to manufacture products for Lumber Liquidators. Documentation is reviewed to confirm completeness and authenticity as required.
- Lumber Liquidators conducts quality inspections of products at the factory to verify compliance to applicable technical and quality specifications prior to accepting shipments.
- Lumber Liquidators periodically conducts reviews of existing suppliers to validate ongoing compliance to requirements including manufacturing, quality, social, and environmental requirements including legal harvest and trade of wood products.
- Prior to accepting a shipment, suppliers are also required to provide complete documentation to substantiate legal harvest, sale, and chain of custody. Documentation is reviewed to confirm completeness and authenticity as required.