Now, a handful of Indonesian companies are working with environmental groups to harvest timber more sustainably. Eager to avoid a boycott of their wood, they believe that by cooperating with activists they can ensure continued access to export markets. These companies plan to tag their logs with bar codes that allow the tracing of a piece of wood from stump to store shelf. But they should be given a boost by the creation of a "Good Wood" label that would be trusted worldwide. Products bearing such a label might cost a bit more, but consumers would have the comfort of knowing their purchases are rewarding responsible loggers and helping to save the rainforests. One precedent would be the dolphin-free label on tuna, which had a powerful impact on consumer buying and sparked radical improvements in fishing practices.
Boycotts and bar codes, though, won't be enough. Banks need to make sure they're not fueling the problem by making loans that fund illicit or unsustainable logging. Multilateral institutions such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank should accelerate their efforts to fund environmentally benign projects. And Asian governments and consumers must help out, too. Much of Indonesia's timber is smuggled to mills in Malaysia and China, and then sent to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, or Singapore. Consumers there, too, need to make sure their money isn't fueling the destruction.
Logging is going to continue. Indonesia's poverty ensures that. But by taking an interest in what happens in Indonesia's rainforests, consumers and companies in the West can use the power of globalization to pressure timber companies there to act responsibly.