5 July 2011 – Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey has threatened to sue GetUP! and Markets for Change after the lobbyists launched a strong attack on his company’s use of old growth native timber in a strongly worded campaign and spoof of its advertising slogan.
The lobbyists say the campaign follows “a year-long undercover investigation into the chain of custody tracking old-growth timber to China and back into Australian stores.
“Harvey Norman is claiming to be environmentally friendly but we know that they are currently retailing large volumes of wood that has come from the destruction of precious native forests in Australia, including the habitat of endangered species and old growth forests,” Markets for Change chief executive officer Tim Birch said.
Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey angrily defended his company’s track record on ABC radio yesterday
“Well, I wish I could sue GetUp! Now GetUp! have got themselves in a very fortunate position and the Government should look at this,” Mr Harvey said.
“They can go out there and make these outlandish claims and statements and we can’t sue them. I mean, they’re getting out there and saying that we’re doing things, and I would love the opportunity to sue them, but I can’t.
“If you run an ad that defames Harvey Norman, me, or defames anyone – if you go out and run those ads deliberately defaming someone, knowingly defaming them, why wouldn’t you expect to be sued?”
Mr Harvey told the ABC: “Well we’ve got a very strong program in force where we’re constantly on to all other furniture manufacturers saying that we want to you use timber that’s certified.
“That means it comes from either native forests or it comes from plantations. And we’re constantly on to them about that and we also keep on to our overseas suppliers to say to them, ‘We’d rather you use Australian timbers than timbers from China or some other country,’ because we know that these timbers are certified, we know that they won’t split, there’s good-quality timber and that sort of thing and it helps sustain the Australian industry.
Markets for Change chief executive officer Tim Birch said he was not convinced.
“I don’t buy that Harvey Norman is an environmentally friendly company, nor trying hard to change,” Mr Birch said.
“Harvey Norman has a direct line to China and is buying the furniture manufactured in China, instead of supporting Australian furniture manufacturers producing plantation timber products and this is clearly proved by the chain of custody in our report.”
A “win/win” scenario was possible “if Harvey Norman and all retailers currently selling native forest products shift to Australian plantation and recycled timber,” Mr Birch said.
“By implementing these procurement policies Harvey Norman can shift its business wholly to focus on plantations that do not contribute to the loss of our forests or the many species that rely on them for survival.
“If they are already stocking plantation products then this begs the question why all the products they sell are not coming from plantations.
“It is not acceptable for Harvey Norman to still be selling products coming from native forests.”