Galicia, Spain: formal complaint submitted against NORFOR and ASI

The Galician environmental group Asociacion Pola Defensa da Ria (APDR) has submitted a formal complaint to the FSC about the certification of plantation company NORFOR and the assessment of it’s certifier, SGS that was undertaken by FSC’s Accreditation Services International. In their complaint, APDR argues that the FSC-ASI report on SGS’s certification of NORFOR is not only of very low quality, but it also fails to address the majority of the criticisms of NORFOR presented by a number of NGOs. Although the FSC-ASI report on the certification recognises a serious lack of compliance with FSC’s principles and criteria, it does not analyse more controversial points such as relations with local communities and benefits from the forests.

The omissions identified by APDR once again highlight FSC’s inability to control the certificates that it’s accredited certifiers are issuing – but they are perhaps not surprising. NORFOR’s FSC certificate was awarded in 2004 by SGS. It has been heavily criticized by local groups for being socially, environmentally and economically unsustainable, therefore blatantly failing to comply with FSC’s principles and criteria. In 2006, the Galician environmental movement decided to withdraw its support for the FSC. This was due to the FSC’s failure to suspend the NORFOR certificate, therefore undermining the credibility of the certification scheme as a whole. After several informal complaints, presented by APDR, Greenpeace and WWF/Adena, FSC’s Accreditation Services International (FSC-ASI) finally undertook an inspection of SGS’s certification of NORFOR in May 2007. Even though the FSC-ASI report recognised that NORFOR did not comply with FSC’s principles and criteria, the Eucalyptus plantations managed by the company continues to be FSC certified. Local expert group APDR was excluded from participation in SGS’s November 2007 audit of NORFOR, and recent field visits from APDR representatives suggest that there has been no change in the way NORFOR carries out its forest management activities.

In late 2007, the auditors admitted to having not read most of the documentation submitted by NGOs. Moreover, ASI director, Hubert de Bonafos, pledged that a social expert would take part in the ASI inspection of the certificate to ensure the communities were benefiting from the FSC concession – but nobody with this expertise was ever appointed.

APDR demands the immediate suspension of NORFOR’s FSC certificate, the suspension of SGS as an FSC certifier and the revision of all FSC certificates awarded by SGS.

A full dossier on the FSC certification of NORFOR is available here.

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