Great guitars rely on great woods to produce great sound, and no one does it better than Gibson.

I play a Martin myself, but have wet dreams about a vintage Gibson Hummingbird. But some of the great woods that go into classic guitars come from old-growth or tropical rainforests like maple, mahogany, rosewood, ebony, Sitka spruce, nyatoh and various other species. These woods come from Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the U.S. Some of these woods are harvested illegally or come from regions that are being heavily deforested.

So Gibson is working with the Rainforest Alliance to be sure that the wood in its guitars is sustainably sourced. Now that’s a sweet note.

Gibson's efforts towards sustainable sourcing began almost ten years ago when they began to work toward Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of its wood supply. But just like there’s no such thing as “a little pregnant,” Gibson knows that any amount of illegal wood in their products will strike a sour chord.

Gibson is stressing 6 critical elements in its sustainable wood sourcing:

  1. Eliminating risk in its supply chain by identifying potentially illegal or unsustainable sources, banning future purchases of ebony or rosewood from Madagascar, and requiring all future purchases are from documented legal sources.
  2. Establishing a baseline of its entire supply chain to determine which woods come from known or unknown, legally verified or sustainably certified sources.
  3. Gibson will source FSC-certified or Verified Legal wood and progress will be independently audited by the Rainforest Alliance and formally reviewed by Gibson's Chairman and CEO each year.
  4. Gibson will continue to invest in the sustainability of its supply chain, providing support community, indigenous and small and medium-sized enterprises working toward FSC certification to help build more FSC-certified supply.
  5. The company is looking at alternative sources to reduce the need for rare woods, including composite materials, recycled woods and sourcing from FSC-certified forests whenever possible.
  6. Gibson's Chairman and CEO has put a person on point to lead Gibson's global wood sourcing, and assigned people in each division and mill to track wood and make improvements.

Gibson's already made real progress over the last few years. Their managers have visited forests in Guatemala, Indonesia, Mexico, as well as parts of the U.S. and Canada to expand the sustainable harvested and FSC-certified supply. They are supporting independent verification of legality for wood sources in India.

Through the Gibson Foundation they’ve given grants totaling $240,000 to support community, indigenous and smaller enterprises in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru and Bolivia. Investments for 2010 alone will total around $170,000. And Gibson is testing new composite materials and alternative species for use in electric and acoustic guitar fret boards.


With production facilities located in Nashville, TN, and Bozeman, MT, as well as China, Gibson realizes that a global company has global responsibility. With its commitment to leave an environmental legacy as rich and long as the legacy of their guitars, Gibson is ensuring that the forests and their guitars will be making sweet sounds for generations to come.

Editor's note 1: As reported at WoodworkingNetwork.com on July 28, Gibson Guitar is working closely with the Rainforest Alliance to assist in the guitar manufacturer's efforts to strengthen its commitment and support of sustainability in its wood supply chain. In November of 2009, Gibson's operations in Nashville were raided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as part of an ongoing investigation for allegedly violating the Lacey Act.

Editor's note 2: Joe Laur is senior manager, Community Engagement and Development for Greenopolis. Greenopolis' mission to provide information and tools to:

  • Help you to recycle easily
  • Help to save our natural resources for our children’s children
  • Track conservation through recycling and re-use
  • Educate and reward conservation

Learn more at greenopolis.com.

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