Last week I received an urgent call from Westminster to ask me if I would support a ten minute rule bill in Parliament to outlaw illegally logged timber. Intuitively I agreed. Actually I wasn't in the mood to think too much about the question because I was rather tired having just stepped off a plane from a business trip to India.
Reflecting on the call since then I can't help but contrast the high moral ground which politicians and NGO's so naturally favour to the actual world I trade in. There could be no better destination than India to illustrate the point. There I heard about plenty of European companies who are blatantly flouting European laws banning the importation of certain species; very frustrating for those of us trying to do the right thing.
Many Indian traders have absolutely no respect for environmental protection. To them logs are available, they are perfectly tradable and Western regulations are just an artificial obstacle that can easily be circumvented. The traders' response to any accusation of illegality is surprised bewilderment that anyone could pass up a good deal. Disappointing - to me personally and no doubt to our politicians - after so many years of trying to do the right thing.
Now before any reader starts to think my problem is with the Indians lets think about the other side of this story. The only real reason illegal timbers are still traded into Europe is that us Europeans (including British) ultimately still buy them.
I expect that in their hearts our politicians know that no amount of legislation can actually halt illegal trading. That's down to each and every one of us as consumers. The truth is plain...there are enough markets that don't care to still carry on destroying the world's remaining precious forests.
Whilst this is the case then those of us that do care - and there are plenty - must keep up the pressure in every way we can to stop illegal timber from entering our markets, and to educate those who still buy them that they are making a big mistake.