2. Investigating selective harvesting in Sarawak

In 2009, Norway’s state pension fund commissioned Earthsight to investigate the activities of a large Malaysian logging company in which it owned shares. Earthsight used reference documents, satellite images and fieldwork to expose a range of different types of illegalities by the company in its licensed harvest areas (concessions) in Sarawak:

  • Analysis of reference documents: Environmental Impact Assessments for the logging in a number of the concessions stated that the company had begun re-entry logging before the Assessments had been issued, which is a breach of regulations
  • Comparing reference documents with satellite images: Detailed concession maps were obtained from the annexes of Environmental Impact Assessments. These were compared with recent satellite imagery, which was post-processed so that vegetation damage from recent selective logging could be clearly seen. Comparison of these two datasets exposed evidence of illegal logging outside concession boundaries and in prohibited areas within concessions.
  • Field observations and interviews: Evidence of illegal cutting in river buffers, logging of protected species, pollution of rivers with logging debris and illegal clearance in excess of limits along logging roads was obtained via field observations. Additional evidence of illegal harvesting of protected species, cutting of undersize logs and fraudulent log markings were obtained from interviews with loggers and logging camp employees.

The information obtained led the Norwegian pension fund to blacklist the company, and was repeatedly cited by NGOs campaigning for change in Sarawak.