The joke that is FSC’s ‘Controlled Wood Standard’: the laundry is open for business

One of the more controversial of FSC’s policies has been the ‘Mixed Sources’ policy, which allows manufactured products such as plywood, paper and furniture to be labelled as ‘FSC’ even though the amount of wood fibre from FSC-certified sources is actually as little as 10% of the total wood material in the product.

Quite apart from the fact that such ‘Mixed Sources’-labelled products are likely to be seriously misleading to the consumer (following recent changes to FSC’s rules, the product labels no longer even have to say how much of the product is actually from FSC-certfied sources), there is also the question of ‘what about the remaining uncertified material’? Some FSC members have been warning for years that, in the absence of any meaningful controls, there is a real risk that Mixed Sources products would become a way of ‘laundering’ wood from unacceptable sources into FSC-labelled products.

In 2004, the FSC introduced the concept of ‘Controlled Wood’ to deal with this ‘non-certified’ portion of wood in Mixed Sources products. At its Board meeting in October 2006, the FSC Board approved new Controlled Wood Standards which supposedly sets out what the forest industry has to do in order for their non-certified wood to be allowed into FSC-labelled products.

The trouble with the ‘Controlled’ FSC wood is that it isn’t controlled. Under the new FSC standards, there are several categories of wood that are supposed to be completely excluded from FSC products. These include wood from areas where there are significant abuses of civil rights being perpetrated by logging companies, wood from illegal sources, and wood from areas of forest that are being cut down and completely destroyed.

But for each of these important categories, responsibility for ensuring compliance is left to the forest manager (i.e, logger) themselves. Thus, forest managers are asked to ensure that “There is evidence of no violation of the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples taking place in the FMUs under control of the Forest Management Enterprise.” In order to ensure this, the Forest Management Enterprise “shall implement a consultation process to identify potential conflicts relating to land tenure or land use rights of traditional or indigenous peoples groups in the areas affected by the Forest Management Enterprise operations.”

Similarly, the FSC supposedly requires that “Forest management activities in the FMU shall not threaten high conservation values”. But the way that this achieved is by the Forest Management Enterprise “keeping records of evidence to demonstrate compliance”.

In other words, compliance is left to the Forest Owner or Manager themselves. It is absolutely unclear who, how or when the loggers’ compliance with these so-called ‘standards’ would ever be checked or tested, or what would happen if loggers were found to be in breach of them. Moreover, as the information on this website amply illustrates, the FSC has not even been able to ensure compliance with such requirements in certified operations, let alone uncertified ones.

As anyone with any experience of dealing with the darker recesses of the logging industry could tell the FSC, timber companies in many countries of the world are extremely adept at circumventing not only such weak and enforceable ‘standards’, but also more complex legal rules. It is with good reason that agencies such as the World Bank continue to report on a regular basis of the massive extent of illegal logging, and that these nefarious practices continue with virtual impunity.

With its risible ‘Controlled Wood Standard’, FSC has now opened its doors to almost any logging company wishing to launder its wood into FSC ‘Mixed Sources’ products, regardless of whether it is from illegal sources, stolen from indigenous lands, or cut from areas of forest being totally destroyed.

FSC-Watch wonders how either the FSC Secretariat or Board can seriously believe that FSC will remain a credible certification system as long as this abomination of a policy remains in place.

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