Ebony and Ivory – Wood and Steel


For nearly 20 years I have been strumming the same acoustic guitar and though I am extremely fond of it, I recently decided it was time to upgrade. After numerous visits to the local guitar store and hours of my kids asking “are we leaving soon?”, I made an investment in a new Taylor guitar. My purchase was made based on the pure tone and rich sound the Taylor projected without even thinking about sustainability. After registering my new guitar, I received the 2012 Summer edition of Wood & Steel magazine published by Taylor. Much to my surprise and delight the magazine contained an article talking about the scarcity of ebony and Taylor’s efforts in responsible sourcing of ebony wood. In the article Bob Taylor discusses an ugly discovery he made regarding wasteful lumber felling practices where he found that for every perfectly black ebony tree harvested, 10 ebony trees with a variegated grain are cut down and left to rot on the forest floor; a sickening similarity to elephant poaching for ivory!

Mr. Taylor also discusses how his company has made a business move with a partner to buy an ebony mill in Cameroon and run it focusing on the three responsibilities of sustainability; social well-being, environmental stewardship, and economic prosperity. This vertical integration in his business model gives Taylor control of its source of ebony and the ability to add value to the ebony before shipping. This control not only provides additional jobs (social) for locals, but also provices these jobs at double their former pay (economic). In addition, by better understanding the ebony harvesting practices that they now have control of, Taylor is committed to using what the forest provides by purchasing and using the variegated black ebony in its products and working with its competitors to do the same so that they can put a stop to the wasteful lumber practices (environment).

Although this edition of Wood & Steel is not yet available on-line, there is a great article and video available on the Taylor website at http://www.taylorguitars.com/about/sustainable-ebony . Whether you are a guitar player or an advocate for sustainable business practices, I highly recommend reading this article and viewing the video!

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