Response from SmartWood re Laos

SmartWood’s Richard Donovan sent this response to my email dated 11 January 2006. This is not the audit report, as Donovan promised by 22 January 2006 in his response to my email. “Review of our final audit report draft is still underway in Laos,” Donovan says in yesterday’s statement (below). I’ll wait for the final audit to be published before commenting further.

TO: Whom it may concern
FROM: Richard Z. Donovan, Chief of Forestry, Rainforest Alliance
Loy Jones, Asia Pacific Regional Manager, SmartWood
RE: Results of SmartWood audit of FSC certified forests in Laos and concerns of Mr. Chris Lang
DATE: January 22, 2007

In 2006, Chris Lang acquired a leaked, internal report that was written a consultant for the Sustainable Forestry and Rural Development Project (SUFORD) of the World Bank. Mr. Lang implied that wood produced by certified forest operations was illegal.

According to information SmartWood received, the SUFORD report was written with the intent of assisting the Lao Forestry Department and the Village Forestry Association in Savannahkhet (and other related forest operations, certified and non-certified) to prepare for the next annual FSC audit of two certified village forestry associations, and to assist them in improving capabilities overall in meeting FSC requirements.

As a result of the issues raised by Mr. Lang as per above, SmartWood moved the annual audit from its normal scheduled time in January 2007 to October 2006 to determine if the concerns expressed in the article were true. Two independent auditors were hired to conduct the audit; one an international forester and lead auditor trained in FSC and SmartWood systems and the other a local forestry specialist from Laos. The field portion of the audit was October 26-30, with subsequent draft and final reporting steps ensuing thereafter. Review of our final audit report draft is still underway in Laos. However the fundamental findings have been delivered and the forest operations are currently taking steps to address shortcomings. Once our full audit report is finalized, the public summary report will be posted at:, as normally done by SmartWood. The following is a short summary of the findings from this auditing process.

The quality of the log tracking system had indeed slipped from the FOMACOP Chain of Custody (CoC) system originally assessed by SmartWood and used at the time of certification. However, according to our findings, the forest unit is using the Provincial Agriculture Forestry Office (PAFO) system which uses a serial number that allows the origin of the log to be tracked back to the log landing and the Sub-Forestry Management Area (FMU). The PAFO is the government’s system, which appears adequate for general tracking of the logs. However, the PAFO system is not adequate for FSC logs because it does not track back to the stump, as previously designed. No FSC material has been sold or produced by the certified forest units. At the time of our late October field audit, improvements were already being made, the FSC CoC system was in place in the certified forests, and logs were being marked with both systems (FSC and Laos government requirements). According to forest managers, the data collection required for FSC CoC system will be carried out when FSC material is produced and sold.

In conclusion, the audit team and SmartWood disagree with Mr. Lang’s interpretation of “FSC certified timber is illegal” as coming from the Savannakhet Provincial Forestry Section because: a) They were meeting the requirements of Lao law; and, b) None of the timber previously being harvested was being sold as FSC.

For clarifications, contact Loy Jones ( or Richard Z. Donovan (


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