Timber controversy at Home Depot annual meeting Thursday

There could be a little fireworks at Home Depot’s annual shareholders’ meeting Thursday morning at the Cobb Galleria.

Nothing, of course, can match the time when Bob Nardelli was running the company and its meetings. You might remember when the board of directors intentionally failed to show up — unbelievable — and Nardelli treated shareholders in attendance with disrespect, to say the least. (It’s a new blog, so I’m trying to start out by being nice.)

Current CEO Frank Blake appears to be a class act. But he may be tested a little bit tomorrow because a group called International Rivers is organizing what it bills as a “highly visible action” against the company. The group is protesting Home Depot’s purchase of timber from companies they say are threatening Chile’s rivers and forests.

Stay tuned.

21 comments Add your comment

Ron DeFeo / The Home Depot

May 27th, 2009
9:25 am

Henry – Congrats on the new blog and thanks for covering our meeting this week. We’re pleased to hold the meeting right here in Atlanta again for the 3rd year in a row.

We are aware of the concerns raised by International Rivers and I would like to be clear on this for your readers – we are not a party to this issue. They have suggested that we should take a position on a proposed Hydro electric dam in Chile; a matter which needs to be solved by the citizens of Chile and their government. Certainly we take seriously our ability to affect change by doing the right thing in the communities where we do business. We have, in fact, played a key role in previous timber disputes in Chile.

However, in this matter, The Home Depot has no role to play or influence to exert. First, we do not buy any wood within 1,000 miles of this region. The organizations involved in this situation are not directly involved in harvesting any of the wood we purchase and the companies that we do purchase from are in full compliance with our strict wood purchasing policy (http://www.homedepot.com/environment).

The only connection we have to this issue is that the president of our supplier’s parent company owns shares, along with his family, in one of the companies that would work on the project. This puts us several steps away from any ability to affect change, if any were warranted.

We understand that International Rivers, based out of Berkeley, California, needs a high profile company to heighten the awareness of their campaign and we sincerely hope that a sustainable solution is possible. Unfortunately we don’t think it’s our place to weigh in on an issue that we have no expertise or influence over.

This matter is about the future supply of electricity to the citizens of Chile. It is our understanding that the Chilean government is sorting through a variety of options in an effort to determine its future electricity sources, and this decision is best made by the country and its citizens.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow and hearing your thoughts on our meeting.

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

May 27th, 2009
10:13 am

First time I checked in- nice blog entry, and getting HD to comment right off. Sure beats the heck out Let’s Shop For the Bomb Shelter Oliver’s column, er, rant.

Panagioti Tsolkas

May 27th, 2009
1:43 pm

For Immediate Release: May, 27, 2009

Home Depot has Earth First! activists arrested for action against dams in Patagonia

Denver, CO– Two Earth First! activists were arrested at a Home Depot this morning in Glendale. The arrests followed a banner being hung off the roof of a Home Depot store reading “Dam Home Depot, NOT Patagonia!” Supporters of the arrested activists demand that Home Depot cut all ties and voice their opposition to this project at tomorrows corporate shareholders meeting tomorrow in Atlanta, Georgia.

The banner-drop action was intended to remind both the public and the company: “We’ve fought The Home Depot before and won.” Almost ten years ago, Earth First! groups around the country joined with Rainforest Action Network and others forced Home Depot to adopt wood product policies that removed old growth from their shelves. But their involvement in the HidroAysen project in Patagonia, Chile shows their commitments to ‘green business’ practices looking a lot like empty Public Relations.

International Rivers, an organization working to protect rivers and defend the rights of communities that depend on them, explains that:

The HidroAysen project involves 3 dams on the Pascua River and 2 dams on the Baker River that would flood globally rare forest ecosystems and some of the most productive agricultural land in the Aysen region. Electricity from these dams would be sent thousands of kilometers north to serve Chile’s biggest cities and its mammoth copper industry. More than 1,500 miles of transmission lines would require one of the world’s longest clearcuts–much of it through untouched temperate rainforests found nowhere else on the planet. US retailer The Home Depot is the largest buyer of timber products from the main Chilean interest promoting the dams. The Home Depot has been asked by thousands of people, including socially responsible investors, to stop buying timber from suppliers that plan to destroy the rivers and forests of Patagonia.

According to Ron DeFeo of Home Depot (from a blog post this morning): “we don’t think it’s our place to weigh in on an issue that we have no expertise or influence over.” While DeFeo denies the company’s involvement and refuses to accept the research of International Rivers, his blog post admits that “the president of our supplier’s parent company owns shares, along with his family, in one of the companies that would work on the project.”

Earth First!, which is more of a movement than an organization, has autonomous groups around the world who target corporations that are responsible for devastating the planet. The movement currently has a national Roadshow crossing the country to mobilize people to take action against companies like Home Depot, which is currently featured on their website http://www.earthfirstroadshow.wordpress.com

More information about this campaign at: http://internationalrivers.org/patagonia



May 27th, 2009
3:57 pm

I will always shop with those who groups like Earth First protests. I encourage everyone to shop at Home Depot, better yet, shop at a locally owned non big box type home improvement store. Support your neighbors business first.
I also strive to have the largest carbon footprint possible just to spite those who belong to the global warming/climate change cult.

Remember folks. Grill out often. Use charcoal. Fill your tank at noon. Remember..it is the SUN that causes global warming. Not much we can do about that.


May 27th, 2009
4:21 pm

Oh yeah !! HomeDepot spokespeople have a lot of credibility ( NOT ). If there is ANY source of ANY product they can obtain that’s a fraction of a penny cheaper they will purchase it for resale. The HomeDepot creed:” Buy low Sell VERY HIGH- Screw the planet and especially the consumer” Now, in fairness, this policy is possibly nnot written but it is certainly demonstrated in their business practice. Boycott HomeDepot and support your local lumber yard and neigborhood hardware.


May 27th, 2009
4:22 pm

I am going to act like a liberal! There should be a law to recover all expenses but perceived damages over groups like the ACLU, abortion rights activist, gay activists, and the International Rivers. Make the law not ambiguous and simple.


May 27th, 2009
4:24 pm

Is some tree-hugger activist-type gonna climb a construction crane at HD headquarters again and drop a HUGE banner over I-285 about this timber issue… like they did a few years back? Hope so! That will make some good YouTube video nowadays.


May 27th, 2009
4:56 pm

Jess – you’re talking about something you know nothing about. Take you head out of your a$$. Yes Home Depot buys low and sells very high (NOT). Please go to your local hardware store and you will see their prices are much higher than Home Depot’s. Your logic is very skewed.

Earth Guardian

May 27th, 2009
6:52 pm

I read with eager anticipation the blog about the potential action by International Rivers.

What I find curious is that Home Depot has these canned positions about the environment that fall short of making any real change. Why does not anyone question Home Depot on the materials that they are selling that are cut from the rainforests of the world only to make a buck.

Golden Ply is one of their materials where the face and back veneer originates from illegally harvested sources in Myanmar. Or how about the 5.2mm Lauan they sell day after day where the face veneer is still harvested from the rain forests. I wish someone would ask Mr. DeFeo to comment on the sources of these two products.

Home Depot has made some inroads but their policies and their actual sources are in conflict with one another. Home Depot is still the greatest proliferators of rainforest destruction in the world and for what…….some hyperbole and to make a quick buck from the death of a resource we will never replace.

Home Depot needs to drop the rhetoric and step up and lead like they used to when the founders were at the helm……

Gary Hughes

May 27th, 2009
8:22 pm

I applaud the AJC for delving into this issue in order that their readership be informed about the Patagonia Dams controversy and the relationship that The Home Depot continues to maintain with the Chilean interests that are promoting the damming of wild rivers in Chile’s Patagonia.

By misrepresenting the role that their supplier (CMPC/Matte Group) has in the Patagonia Dams controversy, The Home Depot continues to do a disservice to their customers and, most importantly in this instance, to their shareholders.

The main Chilean partner in the Patagonia Dam joint-venture scheme known as HidroAysén is called Colbún. Colbún owns 49% of HidroAysén (Enel, an Italian energy multi-national corporation, controls the other 51%). The Home Depot supplier Matte Group (CMPC) is considered the “de-facto” owner of Colbún, with a 49% percent share and control of the board of directors.

This economic relationship ties customers of The Home Depot to the proposal to destroy rivers and forests in Chile’s Patagonia, and is clearly contrary to The Home Depot’s stated commitment to help their customers be environmentally conscious shoppers.

A fundamental element to being an environmentally conscious shopper is to know where the consumer dollar is going — and in this case the money that Home Depot customers are spending on wood products from their Chilean suppliers is going to corporate coffers that are working to destroy rivers and flood forests found nowhere else on the planet.

We encourage The Home Depot to take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to a rigorous definition of environmental and corporate responsibility by severing their relationship with the Matte Group/CMPC, and/or by using their influence to help protect pristine river ecosystems in one of the Earth’s last wild places.



May 27th, 2009
10:17 pm

I am the biggest spammer and troll on the internet. So since this online paper allows links…



May 27th, 2009
10:29 pm

Ron DeFeo,

Are you the guy that wrote this piece of PR garbage also?


I bet you are!!! They should fire you. Your PR skills suck.


Jesse Sewell

May 28th, 2009
3:50 pm

Do any of you know where I can buy some of that ‘old-growth’ timber for a dog house I’m working on. That sounds like good stuff.

Daniel Gonzalez

May 28th, 2009
5:20 pm

I write from Patagonia. As a Chilean I believe The Home Depot cannot avoid the fact that by purchasing products from one of Chile’s largest wood product company, CMPC, they are aiding in the destruction of our country’s remaining wild areas found in Patagonia. In the last 30 years most of our landscapes and ecosystems have been raped by foreign investors, aided by out of control investment laws endorsed by our own government. Corporations from the USA,Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan and other countries come to Chile to exploit our forests, soil, water, minerals and oceans, they directly or indirectly (by partnering with unscrupulous partners in Chile) mine, clear-cut, overfish, pollute, and in general destroy what little is left in terms of natural beauty. As Home Depot buys from powerful local economic groups like the Matte/CMPC conglomerate, they directly facilitate the expansion of these groups into other sectors of our unregulated extractive economy. It is in part Home Depot’s dollars (and other giant retailers) that allow CMPC investment in other companies like Colbun, the chilean energy giant, formerly owned by the state, now in control, along with italian Enel, of the mega dams project which if approved, will forever defaced one of the world’s remaining wilderness areas. We are running out of these areas, and with them hundreds of animal and plant species, magnificent glaciers, native forests, and local communities for years undisturbed and free of the anxieties and materialistic lives the so called “developed world” enjoys today. If the Home Depot is serious about leading the way in the social and enviro responsibility areas, then it should use its powerful influence as one of the world’s giants and tell suppliers like Matte/CMPC to reassess their involvement in destructive practices and projects like the current 2,700 megawatt proposal to dam the unique Baker and Pascua Rivers in Patagonia. Not doing it and still claim they are taking steps to help protect the world’s forests is nothing but bullshit, and in that case US customers should boycott the Home Depot. It’s pretty simple, so as a chilean I ask you americans to put pressure on this and any other companies destroying our “third world” right to clean water and healthy forests, and of course come and visit Patagonia, you won’t be disappointed


May 29th, 2009
4:18 am

Ron DeFeo,

You should be ashamed of yourself! What kind of PR hack posts rebuttals in the comments section? Come back on here and defend your position. This debacle is a perfect example of why you should be fired. Spamming the internet should only be left to the professionals like me!



May 29th, 2009
4:19 am

I hope the AJC doesn’t mind, but we linked this article on…



June 22nd, 2009
7:25 am

AKFNkz comment1 ,


July 6th, 2009
11:27 am

Just found this blog and would like to share my opinion regarding Home Depot…Mr. Unger writes about how Bob Nardelli was disrespectful to the shareholders at a meeting for home depot.
If this Mr. Frank Blake is a class act? He needs to check in on how his management team leads people! I wish I could remember the names of two supervisors at corporate that are DISRESPECTFUL to their employees. I know people have favorites but when you disrespect the other workers that is not right! A GOOD manager can control all sitiuations and help out when things get behind not throw workers under the bus! (i have heard more than a couple people complain about immature, bully type managers and when human resources can’t help that is a pathtic company to work for. I have told my neighbors and friends to shop at LOWES and your local lumber yards and support the people that care and respect others.


October 19th, 2009
8:15 am

Хорошая инфа, автор +5 за слог :) Понравилось…


October 26th, 2009
10:40 am

Спасибо за Ваш блог. Много хорошего и интересного материалла. Огромное пожелание не бросать его и продолжать развивать. Редко встретишь достойные ресурсы в рунете…один повтор сплошником и откровенное г…