Rainforest timber, "the worst thing that money can buy"

Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Concerns about climate change and about the future of the planet were given the most weight by the readers of Helsingin Sanomat (HS), a Finnish newspaper, when they voted on what they considered to be the most unethical product in the world.

“The findings [of the survey] indicate that people are aware of the problems related to these products and are following debates on these issues,” said Mika Railo, from the Finnish Service Centre for Development Cooperation (KEPA, focal point of Social Watch in Finland).

The online questionnaire received almost 9,000 responses in the course of two weeks. The list of suggested responses included 12 alternatives, and in addition, respondents could name products that were not listed.

As many as 14 per cent of the respondents regarded “a boat made of endangered rainforest timber” as the most unethical product. When it comes to building a boat, the most popular tropical tree species are teak and mahogany from Honduras, as well as their African substitutes khaya and iroko.

“The logging of rain forests eats up carbon sinks, while also snatching living space from plants and animals,” argued a reader, who called himself Pekka, explaining his choice.

Blood diamonds mined in war zones by slave labour were considered nearly as bad by HS readers. “Buying blood diamonds is difficult to defend, as diamonds are useless luxury items, at least if used as jewellery”, explained another reader, who chose the pseudonym Mka.

The respondents often said that diamonds, fur coats, flying in private jets and other luxury products are unethical, as they are ultimately unnecessary and vain. However, one in ten readers named the everyday plastic bag as the most dangerous vanity item.

“Not everyone needs or can afford a fur coat, but when it comes to plastic bags, everyone can make choices which have an impact on the environment”, one of the readers charged. “In terms of quantities they are the worst, and yet so easy to substitute”, wrote Huolestunut (pseudonym that means ”Concerned” in Finnish).

The third item on the list was intensive produced poultry meat, as it is also an ordinary everyday meal. In fact, broiler production was considered even worse than fur farming, because of the number of victimized animals.

According to expert estimates, it is difficult to choose the worst from among a bunch of bad alternatives on the basis of any rational explanation.

“I started to think which alternative I would tick myself. The correct answer is all of them,” noted KEPA’s Railo. But “as the father of two sons I have to admit that a mat produced by child labour bothers me a lot", he said.

More information

Finnish Service Centre for Development Cooperation (KEPA): http://bit.ly/rtxV8A