FSC-Watch recently received this update on the PNG Eco-Forestry Forum’s complaint to FSC over the Smartwood certification of Rimbunan Hijau subsidiary, Ernslaw One:
UPDATE: FSC Certification of Rimbunan Hijau in New Zealand/Aotearoa
In 2004 the Papua New Guinea Eco-Forestry Forum (“The Forum”) instigated complaints against the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of the plantation management operations of Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau (RH) in New Zealand.
Rimbunan Hijau has been internationally criticised for the poor quality of its logging operations across three continents and the seriously negative environmental, social and political consequences of its forest management (see for example The Untouchables: Rimbunan Hijau’s world of forest crime and political patronage, GPI. 2004).
Despite the wide criticism of Rimbunan Hijau, both Smartwood and SGS choose to issue FSC certificates for the plantation management operations of RH subsidiary Ernslaw One.
In early 2004, the Eco-Forestry Forum issued complaints to both certifying bodies.
The Forum pointed out that Ernslaw One could not demonstrate the requisite commitment to the Principles of the FSC as its wholly owned subsidiary company, The LumberBank, was importing sawn timber from the illegal and unsustainable harvesting operations of Rimbunan Hijau in Papua New Guinea.
In June/July 2004, both SGS and Smartwood rejected the complaints by the Eco-Forestry Forum. The Forum then submitted appeals through the certifiers’ own ‘independent’ processes.
In November 2004 the Forum was informed by Smartwood that its appeal had been unsuccessful (SGS took a further 12 months before it communicated a similar decision).
Neither Smartwood nor SGS disputed the fact that Ernslaw One’s subsidiary company was importing illegal and unsustainably harvested timber from the Papua New Guinea operations of Ernslaw mother company, Rimbunan Hijau.
Instead they upheld the Forest Management Certificates on their interpretation of the relationship between Ernslaw One and its wholly owned subsidiary as that of ‘sister’ companies with no hierarchical responsibility. They also rejected the argument that the certifications were bringing discredit on the FSC.
Unsatisfied with both the factual and legal interpretations by the certifying bodies, in January 2005 the Forum approached the FSC to register a complaint under the Informal Dispute Resolution procedures.
That application for informal resolution was rejected by the FSC in April 2005. The following month, May, the Forum lodged a Formal Complaint.
Twenty months later, that Complaint is still being processed by the FSC.
Currently the Forum is awaiting an Evaluation Summary from the FSC Accreditation Program that is due to be completed by 1st February.