Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister


Timber is a vital resource that is all around us. It is the house that shelters us, the furniture we relax in, the books we read, the paper we print, the disposable diapers for our babies, and the boxes that contain our cereal, detergent, and new appliances. The way we produce and consume timber, however, is changing. With international timber companies and big box discount retailers increasingly controlling through global commodity chains where and how much timber is traded, the world’s remaining old-growth forests, particularly in the developing world, are under threat of disappearing – all for the price of a consumer bargain.

This trailblazing book is the first to expose what’s happening inside corporate commodity chains with conclusions that fundamentally challenge our understanding of how and why deforestation persists. Authors Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister reveal how timber now moves through long and complex supply chains from the forests of the global South through the factories of emerging economies like China to the big box retail shelves of Europe and North America. Well-off consumers are getting unprecedented deals. But the social and environmental costs are extraordinarily high as corporations mine the world’s poorest regions and most vulnerable ecosystems.

The growing power of big retail within these commodity chains is further increasing South-North inequities and unsustainable global consumption. Yet, as this book’s highly original analysis uncovers, it is also creating some intriguing opportunities to promote more responsible business practices and better global forest governance.

About the Authors

Peter Dauvergne is Professor of Political Science, Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Politics, and Senior Advisor to the President at the University of British Columbia

Jane Lister is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia


  1. The Global Political Economy of Timber
  2. The Power of Big Retail
  3. The Northern Forest and Paper Multinationals
  4. The Rise of the Third World
  5. Consuming the South
  6. Governing Timber Consumption


Timber uncovers the dark world of commodity chains that link the wood in our lives to global deforestation, and offers rays of hope for promising change. Everyone should read this book.”

— Paul Wapner, Director of the Global Environmental Politics Program at American University, Washington DC, and author of Living through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism.

“This book speaks well beyond the subject of timber to provide a thoughtful and incisive commentary on how international commodity chains shape both the global economy and the global environment.”

— David Humphreys, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Policy, Open University

“Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister provide fascinating insights into the evolution of global markets for timber products, and the actors that are driving this trade towards or away from sustainable or legal practices. This book is an essential source of objective knowledge on the role that industry, retailers and consumers play in determining whether the world’s forests are adequately managed.”

— Michael Jenkins, President, Forest Trends