Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gibson in the jungle

A couple of years back, Gibson was caught using Rosewood illegally sourced in Madagascar.

The wood was discovered in a 2009 raid by the Environmental Investigation Agency in the US. Because Gibson had previously worked with environmental groups - and because Gibson's chair and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz was on the board of the Rainforest Alliance at the time - the company got cut a surprising amount of slack over the illegal wood:

“I think that the first statement on all of this is that Gibson has shown an awful lot of leadership historically on environmental issues,” said Scott Paul, director of forest campaigns for Greenpeace USA.
Gibson denied knowing that the wood was dodgy:
[O]n the company’s Internet message boards, general counsel Bruce Mitchell said in July that any wood Gibson purchased from Madagascar was legal and that suppliers “provided assurances” as such.

“Gibson affirmatively believes that any wood we have obtained from Madagascar is in fact from legal sourcing,” Mitchell said.
This would seem hugely unlikely, but - hey - Gibson were working with environmental groups, right?

Juszkiewicz took a "leave of absence" from the Rainforest Alliance board, but generally it appeared everything was going to blow over. Be forgotten.

Trouble is, Gibson decided they wanted the seized wood back. A case for forfeiture has been filed by the Department Of Justice which Gibson are resisting.

As part of the DOJ response to Gibson, it appears that some internal Gibson emails have made it into the public domain which, if genuine, prove that not only did Gibson import illegal wood, but it knew the wood was illegal when it imported it:
"[A] Gibson employee…wrote that '[t]he true Ebony species preferred by Gibson Musical Instruments is found only in Madagascar (Diospryos perrieri). This is a slow-growing tree species with very little conservation protection and supplies are considered to be highly threatened in its native environment due to over exploitation.' In fact, [he] 'spent two and a half weeks in Madagascar this June [2008],’ writing on his return, 'I represented our company along with two other guitar manufacturers.... All legal timber and wood exports are prohibited because of wide spread corruption and theft of valuable woods like rosewood and ebony.'
Guitars are brilliant things. But they're not worth despoiling a unique environment for; they're not more brilliant than the lemurs whose habitat is being slowly munched away by illegal logging. If the allegations against Gibson are proven, the company deserves to have the book thrown at it, very hard indeed.

If it was pretending to be ecologically aware while turning a blind eye to where some of its wood was coming from, it deserves to be ostracised.

When your midlife crisis hits, maybe you should consider a Les Paul?