Norwegian government: ‘FSC not good enough for procurement policy’

The Norwegian government has decided that it it cannot rely on any certification system, not even the FSC, to help implement it’s newly announced ‘ethical procurement’ policy. The Norwegian authorities instead decided to ban all use of tropical timber in public buildings, stating that “The government wants to stop all trade with unsustainably or illegally logged tropical forest products. Today there is no international or national certification that can guarantee in a reliable manner that imported wood is legally and sustainably logged”.

This damning decision follows earlier concerns which the Oslo authorities had raised about the FSC’s reliability as long ago as 2002. Then, following an investigation into a FSC ‘mixed-label’ product, the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman ruled that the use of such labels was “misleading” and illegal. Since this time, FSC’s rules on the labelling of products with non-certified components have been weakened further still.

However, the new announcement acknowledges growing concerns about the FSC system as a whole. It is likely to increase pressure on other governments – such as that of the UK – to drop FSC from it’s procurement policy, because of increasingly serious, and visible, gaps in the FSC’s reliability.

FSC’s members and funders will no doubt be questioning why the organisation’s leadership is allowing the FSC’s reliability and credibility to continue to slide rapidly downhill.

The following is a press release from Rainforest Foundation Norway, concerning the government’s announcement.

Norway bans tropical timber in public procurement Press release Oslo Norway – June 28, 2007.

Last week the Norwegian government released its public procurement policy.

The plan gives Norway a leading role internationally by putting a ban on all use of tropical timber in public buildings. For the first time, a strict no tropical wood-policy is formalized and adapted at the governmental level in Norway. The occasion is the “Plan of Action for Environmental and Social Responsibility in Public Procurement” that was presented by the Norwegian government last week.

The plan contains various initiatives for strengthening the environmental and social profile within public procurement, and the requirements concerning tropical wood are ambitious and leave no room for doubt:

“Tropical wood shall not be used neither in the building itself nor in materials used in the building process” the plan states.

” We are very satisfied with the ambitious aims established by the Norwegian government in this action plan. The state is a big consumer and an important role model in the society, and it establishes an important example by saying no to all tropical timber”, Lars Løvold, director of Rainforest Foundation Norway, says.

Destruction of the world’s rainforests is one of the major ecological challenges of our time. Every year an area half the size of Norway is being destroyed. This threatens the unique biodiversity in the forests and the existence of millions of people depending on it for food and shelter.

In addition, deforestation is one of the major causes of climate change, counting globally for about 1/5 of all greenhouse gas emissions.

No reliable forest certification

Concerned by rampant deforestation in tropical areas, two ministers appealed in 2002 to all public institutions to only use sustainably logged tropical wood. In spite of the appeal, several governmental institutions have used wood from threatened rainforests in building projects during the past five years.

These scandals have been widely exposed in national media, and in one case the then Minister of Modernization, Morten Meyer, ordered The Directorate of Public Construction and Property (Statsbygg) to remove bintangor-wood from a building under construction.

As a result Statsbygg created a strict policy against all use of tropical timber.

In the absence of a reliable forest certification system the government has chosen to adopt Statsbygg’s strict policy and ban the use of all tropical wood, including certified wood:

“The government wants to stop all trade with unsustainably or illegally logged tropical forest products. Today there is no international or national certification that can guarantee in a reliable manner that imported wood is legally and sustainably logged” the plan states.

“Putting a ban on all tropical wood in public buildings makes Norway an international pioneer in this field. As far as we know, no other countries have an equally strict and ambitious public procurement policy on tropical timber. Hopefully this will inspire other countries to strengthen their policies too”, Løvold says.

“We are not fundamentally against logging in tropical forests. The problem is that today there exists no reliable certification scheme for logging in tropical countries. Until such reliable schemes are in place or we have other ways to secure that logging is made in a sustainable way, we support the government?s decision to ban the use of tropical wood”, Løvold says.


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