Is Exotic Wood Sustainable? We Uncover The Truth

Is Exotic Wood Sustainable?

Having furniture made from exotic wood can be something of a status symbol. These hardwoods are stunning, not to mention how durable they are. It is possible to create some of the most beautiful furniture and wooden fixtures in the world but is exotic wood sustainable?

The main problem with exotic wood is that many species are heavily endangered. In a lot of cases, farming means that trees are being overharvested and there are also problems with the greenhouse gases emitted during the transportation of these woods. Therefore, no, not all Exotic Wood is sustainable, so it is best to choose your sources wisely.

Even more worrying is that the illegal exotic wood trade has a direct impact on things such as human rights violations, sex trafficking and corruption. There are many reasons to avoid using exotic woods or at least be very careful about how you source them.

What Is Exotic Wood?

The term exotic wood refers to any hardwood that comes from trees around the world, usually in tropical locations. Some of the most common places where you’ll find these species are areas like Australia, Brazil, China and many other Asian countries.

One of the main benefits of exotic wood is that it has a striking appearance. Much more than this, being hardwood, it is incredibly durable and ideal for making long-lasting pieces of furniture. A lot of exotic woods, such as teak, are used for wooden flooring.

Why Is Exotic Wood Not Sustainable?

The global demand for exotic hardwoods has become so great that it is becoming a serious challenge for sustainable farmers to produce what is needed. As a result of this, there are more and more examples of illegal harvesting which is directly impacting the endangered status of these trees.

So many exotic wood species are now facing becoming endangered and many of them already are. While there are measures in place to monitor how much of this wood we are using, it is impossible to effectively police the growing number of illegal harvests.

On top of this, even with legal harvesting, there is still the issue of transporting these woods to the rest of the world. The emissions put out through sending exotic hardwoods across the globe is having a serious impact on global warming; something that most countries are now trying to put a stop to.

The Most Unsustainable Exotic Woods In The World

There are hundreds of types of exotic woods including some that should be avoided altogether.  These include things like ebony, wenge and Brazilian mahogany. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most unsustainable exotic woods on the planet.


Rosewood is the most widely traded illegal product in the entire world and is referred to as the ivory of the forest. One of the main problems with using this type of wood is that it is near impossible to replace it as quickly as we can harvest it since rosewoods take an incredibly long time to grow.

Moreover, rosewood tends to grow in endangered forests and in some places, the trees are as close to extinction as you could get. Areas like Southeast Asia and Madagascar are some of the worst affected countries due to the high demand for rosewood furniture.

As a result of this, there is a worrying illegal rosewood trade in Madagascar which has removed all of the mature rosewood trees on the island. The main issue with removing these trees is the impact it has on wildlife. For example, lemurs are native to Madagascar and use the trees as shelter; if they are removed, it won’t be long before these already endangered animals decline in number even more.


Teak is one hardwood that really ought to be avoided. However, it is praised for how well it performs as a flooring material as well as for its use in furniture making. Teak is incredibly resistant and is extremely unlikely to suffer from rot.

But the problem is that this is one of the least sustainable woods and in areas like India and Thailand, the teak tree is now seriously endangered because of how much overharvesting it has suffered.

Still, the demand for teak and teak products is still alarmingly high. There are plantations being set up in Africa and South America. While this does introduce more teak trees, this is at the cost of the native trees in these countries.


People are attracted to purpleheart because of its gorgeous purple colour. On top of this, it is one of the most durable and resistant hardwoods on the planet. However, these properties mean that it is in high demand and has now become so rare that it’s as good as extinct.

Purpleheart grows natively in South and Central America. Here, indigenous people have long relied on trees for building homes but this is slowly becoming impossible. Not to mention the impact it has on local wildlife.

There is a lot of criminal activity and illegal harvesting of purplewood trees owing to how effective it is in making things like cabinets, furniture and even musical instruments.


Mahogany is a reddish-coloured wood that is often associated with beauty and elegance. There’s no getting away from the fact that it does look stunning and of course, it’s also brilliantly durable. However, the species of mahogany that are used in furniture making are native to South America and their numbers are declining rapidly. As a result, there is now some serious illegal activity taking place in the Amazon rainforests and surrounding areas.

Over in Asia, other species of mahogany have become endangered. In fact, out of the 70 Asian species of this tree, more than half of these are now considered to be at risk.

How To Source Sustainable Exotic Wood

Knowing where your wood has come from is one of the best ways of understanding how sustainably produced it is. When you purchase exotic hardwoods, make sure that it is FSC certified. The Forestry Stewardship Council is an organisation that promotes responsible management of forests around the world.

The FSC sets the standard for sustainability in the forestry industry and awards those that adhere to these standards with the right to display their logo.


The benefits of using exotic wood for furniture and other applications are pretty clear. But while these species may seem like an obvious option, they’re not always the best choice. Before using these types of hardwoods, you have to ask yourself is exotic wood sustainable?

While there are responsibly managed forests around the world, there is also a lot of illegal trading going on in the exotic wood industry. Many of the trees used for exotic woods are endangered and the transportation of the wood around the world is contributing to harmful emissions.

If you have to use exotic wood, then make sure that it is not one of the seriously endangered species we have discussed in this guide and also check for the FSC logo.

Is Exotic Wood Sustainable? We Uncover The Truth

Related Posts

Scroll to top