Rainforest Alliance to launch new certification scheme to rival FSC

In a move that will further add to FSC’s woes, the biggest of its accredited ‘certifiers’, Rainforest Alliance SmartWood, has announced plans to launch it’s own ‘logging certification’ scheme, which is closely modelled on the FSC. In a consultation document circulated recently by SmartWood, the organisation claimed that it “remains an unequivocal, global supporter of the FSC system as the most credible forest certification system” but then, before introducing the proposed rival system, goes on to say that “we also believe that the FSC system can be improved”.

SmartWood’s consultation document states that “Recognizing the need for a third-party certification program for forest products harvesting companies, the SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance has worked with forest products companies, loggers, forestry specialists, academics, environmentalists and other interested parties to develop the “SmartLogging” program. The purpose of the program is performance-based, third-party logger certification, and the end goal will be to ensure a more sustainable supply of environmentally harvested forest products from the world’s working forests.”

SmartWood has come in for more criticism than other FSC-accredited certifiers for its lax interpretation of the FSC’s Principles and Criteria. Numerous of its certificates have had to be withdrawn after prolonged controversies which have scarred the credibility of the FSC. As FSC watch has previously reported, SmartWood has been found to have issued FSC certificates to various companies involved in illegal logging; its parent organisation, Rainforest Alliance, also issued ‘ethical certificates’ to a company which was actually working with Colombian terrorists.

SmartWood’s new scheme is, the certifier claims, specifically intended to “enhance the value of FSC certification for small landowners, SMEs and other types of enterprises.” This is certainly an area that FSC has seriously neglected (favouring instead to adapt its policies and systems for the largest of the loggers, much to the frustration of many of FSC’s members). But the draft “SmartLogging Generic Certification Standard, Version 6” (available below) shows that Rainforest Alliance’s proposed new revenue-earner is very much an ‘FSC Minus’ scheme.

Although closely modelled on the structure of the FSC’s Principles and Criteria, much of the valuable content of the P&C’s has been stripped out. There is nothing in the ‘SmartLogging’ draft generic standards about indigenous rights, for example. Formalising what SmartWood has been doing within the FSC system – the certification of companies not on the basis of their actual performance, but on the basis of ‘hoped-for future improvements’ – the new SmartLogging scheme incorporates the possibility of ‘continuous improvement’. There is nothing within the proposed scheme to take account of multiple stakeholder interests.

FSC-Watch believes that, whatever SmartWood claims about its continued support for FSC, this new scheme will be a clear competitor to FSC, and will serve to undermine it. It should mark a final end to SmartWood’s inclusion within the FSC system.

We believe this new scheme also shows how vulnerable to rivals the FSC has become because of its continued pitifully poor strategic leadership and management. The members of FSC can continue to expect more rivals to appear, as the management and Board of FSC allow the organisation’s credibility to plummet.

SmartWood’s draft generic ‘SmartLogging’ standard is available here:SL02SmartLoggingGenericStandard.pdf.

SmartWood is inviting comments on the proposed new scheme.

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