C F Martin Guitars & Sustainable Tonewoods

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Martin The Journal of Acoustic Guitars is a glossy magazine published by CF Martin Guitars every 6 months.

The latest edition (Vol. 7, p. 64 – 69) contains a great article about what CF Martin are doing about promoting sustainable tonewoods.

https://issuu.com/cfmartin/docs/mag808_martin_journal_vol7-final_li?e=23350636/43337570

CF Martin has a problem, a problem called success.

Most of the world’s premium guitars are built from a combination of mahogany, rosewood, and ebony. However, these traditional tonewoods often come from areas of the world that are under severe pressure from logging and development.

“We’ve done such a good job of convincing the customer that these traditional, rare and exotic timbers make the best guitars, that it’s difficult to move customers away from those materials,” said CEO Chris Martin.

Being an old company can have its advantages and its disadvantages. In the case of CF Martin tradition and heritage can prevent change, even if that change is desperately needed. And in the international tonewood market change is definitely needed; change away from using rainforest and old growth timbers to a more sustainable future.

The customers of CF Martin are becoming a problem.

They are addicted to rosewood, mahogany and ebony!

So Martin Guitars approach to sustainable tonewoods is to establish a close working relationship with a third party forest certifier, in this case the Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

But…

one of the biggest challenges the FSC® and the Rainforest Alliance have had over the years is consumer awareness. “One of the goals has been to make the consumer more aware of these brands and, in turn, for these brands to become more relevant to the consumer.”

Hence the Rainforest Alliance has created the Follow the Frog program, which Martin Guitars has signed up to support.

https://www.martinguitar.com/FollowtheFrog

http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/followthefrog

www.fsc.org

Here’s a great video with Martin CEO Chris Martin explaining the history of the company’s relationship with the FSC and the Rainforest Alliance. Well worth watching:

In the mean time Martin Guitars are caught between an inflexible customer base and a rapidly changing tonewood market.

In the coming years, Martin will introduce a new line of guitars using temperate hardwoods from North America that relies on both historical and new shapes and designs.

I have absolutely no doubt about CF Martin’s commitment to sustainability, but I do have a few suggestions for them:

  • Can the FSC logo be displayed on the front page of the Martin website?
  • Under the “Guitars” section of the website, why can’t I select and view FSC guitars?
  • Even when I find an FSC guitar using the Search facility, the FSC logo isn’t prominently displayed.
  • And if I go to this page under Custom Shop (https://www.martinguitar.com/custom-shop/tonewoods/) the message is all about rare and exotic tonewoods.  Nothing about a sustainable future at all.

So whilst the commitment to sustainable tonewoods is there I think the marketing and promotion at CF Martin still needs extra work, whilst at the same time the focus on traditional, rare and exotic timbers needs to be ramped down.

I wish CF Martin all the luck in the world in their endeavours to change the acoustic guitar market.

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