Slovakia – the ‘race to the bottom’ for FSC’s certification standards

The certification by the Soil Association in 2001 of Presov Forest District (PFD, part of the state forestry service) in Slovakia, has always been controversial.

Local environmental groups, such as WOLF/Friends of the Earth Slovakia have long argued that PFD was in gross non-compliance with the FSC’s Principles and Criteria. They provided detailed, Principle-by-Principle critiques of PFD’s operations, both before and after the certificate was issued, detailing multiple failures to comply with the P&C. These were evidently ignored by the Soil Association, who issued the certificate, and maintained it until 2006.

But, inevitably, the problems with PFD have come back to haunt the certifier, and in a letter to WOLF, Kevin Jones, head of Soil Association WoodMark, admitted that “OZ Presov has continued to be a difficult certificate to manage and whilst they have made required improvements in some areas, you will be aware that we have issued some Major Conditions in relation to concerns about other aspects. Our intention was to evaluate these CARs in September/October. However, we have now written to OZ Presov advising that we will be terminating the certificate, as they have not provided agreement for us to carry out the proposed surveillance in September/October, and they have written to advise us that they intend to use another certification body.”

That ‘other certification body’ turns out to be SGS – who presumably will now find that PFD is certifiable after all…

The absurdity of this situation can only really be resolved by breaking the direst financial link between the certfiers and their ‘clients’ the logging companies. As long as the certifiers are competing with each other for business, there will always be a ‘race to the bottom’ of FSC’s certification standards: those certiifers with the lowest standards and who are the easiest to procure certificates from, will come to dominate the business. In fact, they already do.

The FSC also needs rules from preventing companies that are ‘de-certified’ from simply going to another, possibly more lax certifier.

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