Wood Sourcing in Myanmar – Critical for TDS & Myanmar Citizens
Wood sourcing is a critical function for Teakdecking Systems (TDS), the premier supplier of teak decking and interior flooring for the maritime industry. So, the political strife in Myanmar can significantly affect the company’s sourcing of legal Burmese teak. TDS closely watches the situation, especially by Dan Paver, Sourcing and Sustainability Coordinator. Holding a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and employed the last 19 years by TDS, Dan has sourced wood and personally visited Myanmar at least six times, selecting vendors, inspecting wood, and visiting sawmills. He also analyzes teak alternatives, looking for suitable substitutes, and is doing coursework in Sustainability Management. So, we asked him to provide his well-qualified observations and thoughts about the current situation in Myanmar.
The Next Right Thing by Dan Paver
I read a catchy phrase recently, and versions of it have been attributed to Mother Theresa, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Theodore Roosevelt, among others:
“Don’t just do the next thing right but do the next right thing.”
The news reports about Myanmar compel me to consider what is the next right thing? Our principle raw material [teak] for our main production product is sourced almost exclusively from Myanmar. TDS employees have visited Myanmar at least a dozen times. We walked streets that now seem to be battlefields. We met people who now seem to be defenders of freedom. Some of our suppliers are saying, “Buy more teak now while you still can,” and some of the world’s environmental groups are saying, “Stop buying teak – you are just funding the military.”
So, what is the next right thing?
Several years ago, TDS began communicating with leaders of a movement to rebuild and restore the working forests of Myanmar. This group of experts is led by The Nature Conservancy and the RECOFTC – Center for People and Forests, and RAFT – Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade partnership. This group produced a report entitled, Stabilizing and Rebuilding Myanmar’s Working Forests: Multiple Stakeholders and Multiple Choices.
Teakdecking Systems uses the information in the abovementioned report, as well as our relationship with The Nature Conservancy staff in Myanmar, to guide our actions in wood sourcing, or teak procurement, a product that is the livelihood for many Myanmar residents. From the report:
“Myanmar is one of the most biologically diverse and ecologically productive nations on Earth. Its forests support the livelihoods of more than 36 million people, while the forestry sector employs more than 500,000 people and is one of seven sectors promoted under Myanmar’s National Export Strategy. Yet, after decades of unsustainable exploitation, driven by arbitrary revenue targets, mismanagement, illegal logging, and, more recently, large-scale conversion to agricultural crops, Myanmar’s forests are badly damaged. There is, however, optimism that this loss and degradation can be slowed and eventually reversed.”Stabilizing and Rebuilding Myanmar’s Working Forests: Multiple Stakeholders and Multiple Choices, Cho et al, p 7
TDS legally sources teak and more information about our well-document process is on our company’s website: Legal Teak for Decking
Teak at our Factory Today
Receiving a teak order into our facility in Sarasota is lengthy. It is not uncommon for a custom order of yacht quality teak to take 9 to 12 months from initial order to delivery at our factory. The profits from the sale of the logs into the local sawmills in Myanmar would have been paid to the government many months ago for any order we have made – even those that have not yet arrived here. At the time, these payments would have been collected by the democratically elected government. Current orders that are almost finished will generate revenues for the sawmills – who employ hundreds of workers, and many of them not only work at the sawmill but also live there on site. A job loss might also mean a housing loss for these workers.
What is the next right thing? A teak alternative?
At Teakdecking Systems, we have spent the last ten years looking for suitable real wood alternatives to teak for yacht decking. A truly inspiring solution is very hard to find. It is no wonder that teak is sometimes called the “King of Woods.”
The research and development work is ongoing in the field of teak alternatives, and we collaborate with many of the developers. Further, TDS developed and perfected a composite yacht decking product line that is sought after by many of our customers.
Our average teak procurement levels dropped steadily. Ten years ago, we may have brought in 12 to 15 containers of teak every year; this year, we may bring in 4 or 5. We continue to seek out sustainable solutions so that we can move the market toward ecologically sound decisions.
Is this the next right thing?
As a student of Environmental Economics at a major university here in the US, I recently read the following statements:
“The pursuit of economic development today can so harm the natural environment as to leave future generations unable to continue that progress.”
“On the other hand, restricting the pursuit of economic gains to protect the environment deprives today’s society as well as future generations of a higher standard of living.”Environmental Economics and Management, Callan and Thomas, p. 507
Similarly, the report from the previously mentioned team in Myanmar concludes the following:
“The authors and the informal advisory group think Myanmar’s forests still hold immense potential for economic development, environmental and biodiversity protection and poverty alleviation. The recommendations offered in this report, if acted upon, would stabilize and restore the production forestry sector, allowing for this potential to be realized.”Stabilizing and Rebuilding Myanmar’s Working Forests: Multiple Stakeholders and Multiple Choices, Cho et al, p 7
However, on February 1st, everything changed in Myanmar. TDS admires the courage and pleads for the safety of the people of Myanmar, as do many others in the free world.
Let peace prevail – that is ultimately the next right thing.
Callan, S.J. and Thomas, J.K. (2013) Environmental Economics & Management: Theory, Policy, and Applications 6th ed., Boston, Cengage
Cho, B., Naing, A.K., Sapkota, L.M., Than, M.M., Gritten, D., Stephen, P., Lewin, A., and Thaung, T.L. (2017) Stabilizing and Rebuilding Myanmar’s Working Forests: Multiple Stakeholders and Multiple Choices,, The Nature Conservancy and RECOFTC-The Center for People and Forests
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