Many people, even within the lumber industry, had not been too concerned about Lacey Act compliance until the infamous Gibson Guitar case. In 2011, the well known guitar maker’s Tennessee headquarters was raided, under the premise that its Madagascar ebony could have been illegally sourced. As unfortunate as it was, one positive result of this case was a clarification of precisely what the Lacey Act means when it requires “due diligence” or “due care.” One of the requirements of the settlement with Gibson Guitars was an establishment of their own “Lacey Act Compliance Program.”
J. Gibson McIlvain has always made conservation and sustainability important factors in considering any lumber source. As such, we already had our own policy in place before any of these issues came up. We did not alter any of our practices upon hearing from the settlement between the DOJ and Gibson Guitars; however, we find the similarities interesting.
We’ll take a look at just two of the seven points in the Gibson Guitar Lacey Act Compliance Program and compare them with our own policies. Here’s the first Gibson Guitar policy: “Communicate with suppliers about Gibson Guitar’s policies to determine any challenges the supplier may have in implementing the policies and work with the supplier to solve the issue.”
In similar form, J. Gibson McIlvain has formed relationships with suppliers and agents on the ground to inform us of any changes in local law or possible issues relating to Lacey Act compliance. (In addition, we discuss any such changes with local businesses at the port of origin.) Our international agents know that we will refuse any lumber that lacks the proper export and source documentation, so they will not risk sending us any questionable material.
The second Gibson Guitar policy is this: “Ask questions to find as much information as possible regarding the supplier and where wood based products are originating, using ‘Gibson’s Legal Compliance Procurement Checklist’ to determine whether the product meets Gibson Guitar’s minimum requirements for known/legal wood products.”
Compare that policy with that of J. Gibson McIlvain. We fully vet each new supplier not only in consideration of the initial lumber order but also for consistency, and we work with only those who maintain high standards of lumber quality as well as provision of documentation regarding lumber source, land concessions, forestry management plans, and export details. We respond to any unusual fluctuations in availability, grade, or pricing with thorough investigation — which, in turn, typically results in a change.
Even if you don’t choose to purchase your imported lumber from J. Gibson McIlvain, we hope you’ll consider the importance of buying only from a supplier who takes due diligence in evaluating the sources of the lumber it sells. In order to evaluate any lumber supplier’s level of caution, you’ll need to ask plenty of questions. And if you notice that a particular supplier has lower prices than anyone else, see that as major red flag, indicating potential problems with legality.