Nation's top home-builders vow to end endangered wood use

Huge win for environmentalists as pressure brings dramatic turnabout

provided by Rainforest Action Network

Centex Homes commitment letter to Rainforest Action Network














eralding a major shift in the conscience of the US construction in- dustry, two of the nation's largest home-builders Centex Homes and Kaufman & Broad agreed to stop using wood from endangered old growth forests in new home construction, making them the first in the nation to do so.

"These agreements signal a trend that is irreversible," declared Michael Brune, Old Growth Campaign director for Rainforest Action Network (RAN). "A new ethic is emerging in which old growth logging is no longer acceptable. The entire home construction industry will be compelled to meet or beat this new market standard."

The revolutionary promises by Centex and Kaufman & Broad made in letters dated March 30 and March 29 respectively are the result of lengthy negotiations and pressure from RAN, the Coastal Rainforest Coalition, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups. Nationwide protests against the two builders had been scheduled for April 1, but were called off after the companies, last-minute capitulations.

"Loggers operating in endangered forests from British Columbia to the Southeastern US and from Alaska to Indonesia will be forced to transform their logging practices or they will find their markets will quickly disappear," said Brune.

Centex Homes pulls in some $5 billion in annual sales and boasts more than 400 developments nationwide, and Kaufman & Broad builds some 22,000 homes annually, making the two the largest volume home-builders in the nation.

The US home-building industry is the country's largest user of wood products, using a whopping 72 percent of the lumber consumed nationwide to build an estimated 1.2 million new homes annually. The average new home in the United States uses well over 16,000 board-feet of lumber.

Most homes built today contain dozens of wood components that originate in the world's last remaining old growth forests: cedar for tongue-and-groove planking and shingles; Douglas fir for dimensional lumber; hemlock for molding and trim; lauan/meranti for hollow-core doors, plywood and paneling; mahogany for decorative exterior doors.

Old growth forests are home to some of the planet's oldest and largest trees, some as old as 4,000 years. These forests are also home to more than 200 million indigenous people worldwide, provide habitat for a majority of the Earth's plant and animal species, and are critical to moderating the effects of climate change. In the United States, less than 4 percent of our original ancient forests are still standing, and worldwide logging and other causes of deforestation have fragmented all but 20 percent.

The announcements from Centex and Kaufman & Broad are the latest in a wave of corporate commitments against the use of old growth wood. RAN worked with a coalition of grass-roots groups, including American Lands Alliance, Free-The-Planet, Student Environmental Action Coalition, Sierra Student Coalition, Rainforest Relief, Earth Culture, Action Resource Center, and dozens of other organizations in a two-year campaign to convince retail giant Home Depot to phase out endangered forest products. Following Home Depot's compliance last August, other major retailers, from Ikea to Wickes Lumber, have followed suit.

Building on that success, RAN launched its campaign with home-builders Jan. 14 at the National Association of Homebuilders convention in Dallas, Texas, where activists inflated a giant balloon shaped like a chainsaw during opening remarks by Newt Gingrich, hung two giant banners from convention center rafters, and projected giant slide messages onto the sides of buildings.

"Just as Home Depot shook the foundations of the home improvement industry by vowing to eliminate products from endangered forests last summer, this commitment by Centex and Kaufman & Broad brings us one step closer to a permanent end for old growth logging," Brune said.

Rainforest Action Network works to protect the Earth's rainforests and support the rights of their inhabitants through education, grass-roots organizing and nonviolent direct action. Rainforest Action Network, PO Box 199000, Dallas, Texas 75219-9000; (214) 981-5000.

Centex Homes commitment letter to Rainforest Action Network


March 30, 2000
Mr. Michael Brune
Rainforest Action Network
Pine Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94104

Dear Michael:

Thank you for your March 29 letter regarding our policy to eliminate wood and wood products from endangered forests.

We recognize and agree that certain forests are threatened. We want to help solve that problem. I hope our policy clearly communicated this by stating Centex Homes will eliminate use of wood from endangered forests. Centex Homes has long recognized, and embraced, its commitment to sound environmental stewardship. The elimination of wood and wood products from endangered forests is an extension, and validation, of such commitment. Preservation of sensitive lands and habitats are priorities for Centex Homes, which is why we have supported and continue to support The Nature Conservancy.

Centex Homes is a leader in wood-use efficiency practices and shares the desire for efficient wood use. A number of alternative materials are used in Centex Homes, operations. We remain committed to our efficient wood-use practices, and the evaluation and use of alternative materials where practical. Home design improvement is not a static process. We continually look for ways to reduce consumption of materials and promote environmentally efficient construction.

As an industry leader committed to saving the world's endangered forests, Centex Homes will, by the end of 2002, eliminate from our product mix wood from endangered forests including certain lauan, redwood and cedar products. We will notify our vendors of this policy by April 15 and demand their compliance. Centex Homes will conduct an audit to determine the source of all existing wood products that could originate in endangered forests. We will work with our suppliers to document sources of wood products used in our operations.

To ensure progress, the company has formed the Environmentally Responsible Construction Task Force to manage the process and report to management on areas for Mr. Michael Brune

This task force will evaluate the results of our preliminary survey, recently completed, that provided summary information about our wood purchases. The task force has responsibility to complete a more detailed audit so that we may state with an acceptable level of certainty that the wood supplied to us by lumber yards, distributors and framers is not coming from endangered forests. Independently verified certification systems, with appropriate sensitivity to economic, ecological and social concerns, will be part of the program.

The task force will be charged with identifying alternatives to wood. Serving on the task force will be our senior officers responsible for technology and purchasing.

Centex Homes is recognized for its leadership in providing quality and affordable housing for first-time and move-up homebuyers. For years, we have helped Habitat for Humanity provide housing to needy Americans. Concurrent with committing to a system to eliminate wood from endangered forests, we must also ensure that we are not unreasonably adding to the costs and availability of affordable homes for American families.

We believe this captures the substance and spirit of your requests and hope that they meet with your support, as indicated in your letter and our phone conversations. We appreciate your hard work on this and wish you the best of luck in your mission. It is important that we all work toward preserving sensitive lands and ecological habitats. We are committed to that goal.