Laos: SmartWood certifies “village forestry”

In June 2006, I received a leaked report written by a consultant to a World Bank- Finnish government-funded “village forestry” project in Laos. About 50,000 hectares of the project area had been certified by SmartWood in January 2006. The report documented serious breaches of FSC principles and criteria, particularly the fact that the consultant found that logs were not marked properly. “Tracing and chain of custody of trees/logs is therefore impossible,” commented the consultant.

I wrote an article for the WRM Bulletin about this in September 2006. This triggered a fairlyheated discussion. I wrote another article for the WRM Bulletin in October 2006.

When SmartWood issued the certificate, in January 2006, they hadn’t visited the forest operations they were certifying for nearly three years. Although systems may have been in place (to mark the timber, for example), SmartWood could not say whether these systems were working at the time the certificate was issued. In a reply to my question about a condition that SmartWood issued regarding the timber marking, Richard Donovan replied, “The FSC does not require certifiers to begin monitoring compliance on Conditions (or CARs) until after a certificate is actually issued.”

This seems me to illustrate a serious problem. SmartWood did not know at the time the certificate was issued whether the timber was being marked properly (or whether the forestry operations were in breach of any other FSC standards). According to Donovan, they didn’t need to because they had issued a condition. In other words, forest managers do not need to meet FSC standards at the time the certificate is issued – SmartWood will issue a condition, then another, then another.

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