In November 2009, federal agents raided a Gibson Guitar manufacturing facility in Tennessee as part of an investigation under the Lacey Act. Agents were investigating the alleged use of illegally sourced wood from Madagascar in some of Gibson’s well-known musical instruments. If proven, import or use of such wood can constitute a serious felony punishable with large fines for the company and possible jail terms for any executives involved.
Before the raid, Gibson had a reputation as a progressive company and a proponent of forest certification. The company had taken steps to make its business more sustainable through the use of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification system, yet is alleged to have bought valuable wood stolen from Madagascar’s national parks. How could this happen, and what does it have to do with the certification process? This document answers these and other questions.