Irish Environmental and Social Groups Unite to Demand Removal of Coillte Certificate

The following was submitted by the Irish Environmental and Social Stakeholders’ Alliance:

PRESS RELEASE

Embargo until: 00.01am Monday the 27th of November 2006

An alliance of environmental and social groups from Ireland today sent a detailed and powerful rebuttal of the environmental certification of Coillte, Ireland’s largest forestry company, to the Lord Peter Melchett and the Board of the Soil Association, who are responsible for the certificate.

In the rebuttal, the Irish Environmental and Social Stakeholders’ Alliance (IESS) slams Irish state forestry company Coillte’s record on the environment and social issues. IESS have now called on the Soil Association to immediately revoke Coillte’s ‘environment-friendly’ certificate, which was issued in August this year.

The move follows hot on the tail of a detailed examination of Coillte’s record over the last five years by IESS which shatters any remaining illusion of the state-owned company as environmentally, socially or economically sustainable.

The IESS alliance identified multiple infringements of Irish and EU laws and directives, failures to meet biodiversity targets, massive over-use of toxic chemicals, blatant disregard for local community and worker interests and concerns, and chaotic management practices.

Many of these issues should have automatically prevented the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) “eco-label” award.

Highlighting “kills of an internationally protected species, and levels of chemical fertiliser use that have made experts blanche,” an IESS spokesperson continued, “The conclusions are clear, and they are damning.”

The Soil Association, who issued the FSC certificate, also came in for severe criticism. Contracted to act as independent auditors of Coillte’s activities, “they side-stepped their own standards, issued the certificate, and got handsomely paid for their trouble.”

Bizarrely, when asked if the IESS findings raised any concerns in the Soil Association, the group’s Policy Director, Lord Peter Melchett, could only respond, “I don’t know.”

The IESS analysis demonstrates that Coillte:

  • Ignores international best-practice
  • Uses enormous quantities of toxic, environmentally damaging chemicals
  • Fails to meet broadleaf planting targets
  • Repeatedly sells state land regardless of local interests
  • Ruins fragile mountain and bog eco-systems
  • Ignores the concerns of its own forestry workers, unions and local communities

Coillte have also attracted international environmental attention, cited recently as one of thirteen global plantations “worst offenders” by the World Rainforest Movement, which includes operations from Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia.

Based on the latest findings, IESS have now repeated their call on the Soil Association to revoke the Coillte certificate. “There is a huge gulf between Coillte’s forestry methods and the standards Soil Association promote. We’re demanding that SA show those standards are not just empty words.”

ENDS

For verification and comment, please contact:

Stiof MacAmhailghaidh – calraige@eircom.net

The Original list of breaches of the FSC Principles and Criteria by Coillte is available on this site here .

The Soil Assocation’s response is available here.

The full new critique of Coillte and response to the Soil Association is available for download here:

0IESSResponsToSoilAssociation.pdf

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