Japan’s ‘Green’ Olympics Exploits SE Asia Rainforests and Orangutan Habitat

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Japan vowed that the 2020 Olympics would be the greenest games in history, and the Tokyo committee’s sustainable sourcing code requires that the timber it uses is legal, planned, and “considerate” towards ecosystems. But nearly 90 percent of the wood used in the construction of facilities and venues was sourced from Malaysia and Indonesia, home to ten percent of the world’s remaining and endangered tropical forests, a breach of the commitment by Olympic organizers to host a sustainable Olympic Games in 2020.

Between 2000 and 2012, Malaysia had the world’s highest deforestation rate. As deforestation advances, orangutans are also on the brink of extinction. An estimated 80%  of orangutans now live outside protected areas—making them highly vulnerable to logging, plantation, and mining operations.

According to Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Europe, the US, and Japan are the main nations responsible for tropical deforestation and related human rights abuses. With Japan in the lead globally, the banking industry provides loans for businesses to engage in the deforestation of Southeast Asia. Currently, RAN aims to hold banks responsible through strong safeguard policies and due diligence systems to ensure banks are only loaning to accountable forest and energy clients.


Andrew McNicol, “How the Tokyo 2020 games Are Killing Rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia,” South China Morning Post, April 8, 2018, https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2140659/how-tokyo-2020-games-are-killing-rainforests-malaysia-and

Arthur Neslen, “Tokyo Olympics Venues ‘Built with Wood from Threatened Rainforests,’” The Guardian, November 29, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/29/tokyo-olympics-venues-built-with-wood-from-threatened-rainforests.

Jack Tarrant, “NGOs say Tokyo 2020 falling short on timber sustainability.” Reuters, January 31, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020/ngos-say-tokyo-2020-falling-short-on-timber-sustainability-idUSKCN1PP1WV.

Student Researcher: Sonia Chen (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)