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Rainforest Alliance On Gibson Investigation

24 November 2009 Leave a comment

rfAIf you’re one of the few who are unfamiliar with the beginning of the ‘Gibson raided by the Feds for alleged issues with their sourcing tonewoods’ story can read about it here and here.

Gibson’s CEO, Henry E. Juszkiewicz, has been serving on the board of the Rainforest Alliance (who aren’t exactly keen on non-sustainable forestry) and, until this issue is resolved, he has stepped down from his position with the RFA.

The Rainforest Alliance has released the following statement:

Statement in Response to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service’s Investigation of Gibson Guitar Corporation

The Rainforest Alliance is aware that Gibson Guitar’s Nashville plant is being investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for allegedly violating the Lacey Act.

The Rainforest Alliance fully supports the Lacey Act, which requires that all wood products and plants imported into the United States come from legal sources. The Rainforest Alliance became a pioneer for forestry certification with the founding of its SmartWood program in 1989 and also helped to found the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in 1993. Currently we are a leading certifying body to FSC standards and have been working with Gibson guitar for 13 years.

Gibson Guitar sources mahogany from community-managed forests in the Rio Plátano and Maya Biosphere Reserves, where tropical forest areas have been set aside by the Honduran and Guatemalan governments, respectively, to conserve their unique natural and cultural heritage. In the Rio Plátano Reserve, illegal harvesting has been greatly reduced. There are now five community cooperatives in process of FSC certification and another 12 are collaborating with Rainforest Alliance and Honduran authorities to pilot a Verified Legal Origin system for timber from the Rio Plátano.

The cooperatives selling sustainably harvested, high-grade mahogany to Gibson have dramatically increased their profits while conserving the forest around them. In the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Gibson and other FSC-certified buyers have helped support almost 2,500 forest-sector jobs in poor, indigenous communities, as sales of FSC-certified timber have surpassed $5 million. A Rainforest Alliance study showed that certification led to improved control over illegal logging, deforestation and forest fires in the region.

The Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program has issued FSC Chain-of-Custody certificates to three Gibson manufacturing facilities. The Nashville facility under investigation, Gibson Musical Instruments, currently holds a Chain-of-Custody certificate, first issued in 1996, and received its last annual audit in September 19, 2008. Rainforest Alliance SmartWood auditors were scheduled to visit the facility again this coming Monday, November 23. The audit has been postponed until December.

The wood under investigation is not FSC-certified nor is it allowed in any FSC-certified product. The FSC Chain-of-Custody audit conducted in 2008 verified that Gibson has purchased hard maple, mahogany and muira piranga from FSC-certified forests. These woods are used in the manufacturing of the company’s Les Paul SmartWood and Raw Power guitars, which are sold as FSC-Pure with a certificate of authenticity from Gibson. Under the current scope of their certificate, they also have the ability to purchase swamp ash and poplar from FSC-certified suppliers. No other species are authorized to be sold with a FSC-certified claim under Gibson’s Chain-of-Custody certificate. The certificate does not cover wood from Madagascar.

Until the investigation has been concluded, Henry E. Juszkiewicz, CEO and Chairman of Gibson Guitar Corporation, has taken a leave of absence as a board member of the Rainforest Alliance.


The Rainforest Alliance has been working with Gibson since 1996, when the company introduced the first guitar ever to use FSC-certified wood: the Les Paul SmartWood Standard. Forestry operations that follow FSC standards take steps to conserve ecosystems, wildlife habitat, soils and waterways while respecting the rights and contributing to the well-being of forest workers and neighboring communities.

In 2002, the Rainforest Alliance began working with Gibson to increase the amount of FSC-certified mahogany and domestic hardwoods purchased by one of Gibson’s four major divisions — Gibson USA/Gibson Musical Instruments, which produces electric guitars.

In 2007, Gibson pledged to maximize its purchases of FSC-certified wood over the following five years as part of their commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative. Another of the company’s four major divisions, Gibson Montana, also now uses FSC- certified wood — which includes not only mahogany but such domestic species as hard maple, basswood and swamp ash.

The Rainforest Alliance’s SmartSource program is helping to identify and improve the sources of the tropical hardwood species that comprise the bulk of Gibson manufacturing, such as mahogany from Latin America and nyatoh from Indonesia.


Thank you to Abby from the Rainforest Alliance for taking the time to let us know about this.

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Written by: Gerry Hayes
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