Jensen Leisure Furniture to Benefit Bolivian Forests and Communities with New Line of FSC-Certified Outdoor Furniture

July 10, 2008

Jensen Leisure Furniture, an Australia-based manufacturer of high-end outdoor furniture, is launching a new line of furniture made from the tropical hardwood Ipe that comes from forestlands in Bolivia certified by the Rainforest Alliance to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The new furniture line will be displayed for the first time at the Summer and Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association premarket at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago from July 9 - 11.

"The Rainforest Alliance is excited to be working with Jensen on raising awareness among furniture buyers in the United States about responsibly sourced wood and why their choice makes a difference," said Mark Comolli, senior marketing manager in the Rainforest Alliance's forestry program. "Although we see an increasing availability of outdoor FSC-certified furniture at large retailers in the US, Jensen's new line will be the first to focus on the high end specialty market, which usually specifies teak."

The wood used in Jensen's furniture comes from FSC-certified forestlands managed by CIMAL/IMR, a Bolivia-based timber company that was the first in Bolivia to earn FSC certification back in 1997. That move sparked a greening of the forestry industry there that has led to the certification of 4.3 million acres (1.7 million hectares) of forestland in Bolivia, putting the country second only to Brazil in the area of FSC-certified forestland in Latin America.

Jaguar

FSC-certified forestry operations manage their lands to ensure their long-term viability and meet environmental, social and economic criteria that protect wildlife habitat and workers. Consumers who buy wood products -- such as furniture and paper -- that bear the FSC logo know they are contributing to the conservation of biodiversity and the rights and welfare of workers and communities.

Most of the land CIMAL/IMR manages is located in the Chiquitano forest, one of the most biodiverse dry forests in the world. The region is home to giant armadillos, puma, marsh deer, endangered caiman and several species of threatened birds.

Certification was the impetus for CIMAL/IMR's focus on improving its forest management methods more than 10 years ago, putting new emphasis on mapping trees and establishing trails and roads, according to the company.

While many mills in the region dispose of waste improperly and offer workers poor living conditions, inadequate sanitary facilities and no drinking water, certified operations such as CIMAL/IMR's are investing in decent worker housing, wells for drinking water and other infrastructure improvements.

CIMAL/IMR has established medical posts in indigenous communities that are home to about 70 percent of its employees and pays for doctors to visit them regularly. It offers scholarships to workers and allows them to work flexible hours so they can study and work at the same time. In addition, the company has created textbooks for local schools that include environmental themes to educate children about the benefits of the forest and make it relevant to their lives.

Jensen Leisure Furniture Bench

"Our employees really believe in certification, are proud of what we've accomplished and are continuously looking for ways to improve," said Francisco Roda, president of CIMAL/IMR. "However, to make this work in the long-run, there has to be a market for wood products that come from responsibly managed forests. If there's no economic incentive to leave the forest standing, it will be cleared for other uses. That's why we're trying to educate clients and consumers about what certification means."

Jensen will be the only company in the United States to sell furniture that comes from CIMAL/IMR's FSC-certified forestlands when the new line becomes available to consumers in early 2009. Jensen recently converted all its furniture designs to Ipe due to supply constraints with the Australian hardwood Jarrah that the company had been using since 1991.

Jensen is also a member of the Sustainable Furniture Council (SFC), a nonprofit organization created to promote sustainable practices in the furniture industry. Founded in 2006, the SFC now has more than 200 members.

About 39 percent of Americans claim to prefer "environmentally friendly" products, according to a 2008 survey conducted by the communications agency Cone LLC and the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. In addition, 80 percent of those surveyed believe certification by third-party organizations can play an important oversight role to make sure environmental messaging on products is accurate.

Furniture manufactured with wood from FSC-certified forestlands is becoming more widely available in the United States. Major retailers including Crate & Barrel, Pier 1, Home Depot, ABC Carpet and Home, Target, Pottery Barn and Lowe's carry FSC-certified garden furniture.

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