The code devised by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organising committee around the sustainable sourcing of timber is being reviewed, amid suggestions that plywood being used to build venues could come from “illegal” sources.

Since July 2018, Games organisers have been holding discussions with NGOs, timber experts and certification scheme owners to explore how the Tokyo 2020 Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber could be strengthened.

Accusations that timber being supplied for Games infrastructure comes from “high-risk” tropical rainforests were made last year by 47 environmental organisations, who urged the International Olympic Committee and Games organisers to investigate further.

But a report produced by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) earlier this month has claimed that as of May 2018, 134,400 sheets of tropical plywood from Malaysia have been used to construct venues.

Furthermore, RAN has also alleged that the company manufacturing plywood for the Ariake Arena volleyball venue, Korindo, had been “implicated in illegal logging” and “human rights abuses, indicating a high risk that wood supplied to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was tainted and illegal.”

Despite seeking to strengthen its Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber (which was first devised in 2016), Tokyo 2020 organisers have consistently stated that “only timber meeting the sustainability criteria specified in the code” is being used for construction work.

To meet the code’s criteria, timber has to be harvested legally, from forests maintained based on mid- or long-term plans and in a way that is “considerate towards conservation of the ecosystem”. The rights of indigenous people and appropriate safety measures also have to be taken into consideration.

“The Tokyo 2020 Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber incorporates feedback from various stakeholders. Prior to formulating the code, Tokyo 2020 held extensive discussions with working groups comprising experts in human rights, environmental matters, corporate social responsibility and other fields,” a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson told SSJ.

“In order to enhance the sourcing code further, Tokyo 2020 has established a grievance mechanism allowing members of the public to file reports or claims of non-compliance with the Sustainability Sourcing Code.”

Within its report, RAN has made some recommendations for improving the code, including the introduction of a due diligence process that requires “full traceability” of the wood and “third party legality and sustainability verification”. The NGO has also asked Tokyo 2020 organisers to commit to protecting high conservation value (HCV) areas by “significantly reducing the use of tropical wood”.

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