Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FoE EWNI) has confirmed that it no longer recognises the value of FSC certificates. FoE EWNI’s website is now advising that FoE EWNI “is deeply concerned by the number of FSC certifications that are now sparking controversy and threatening the credibility of the scheme. We cannot support a scheme that fails to guarantee high environmental and social standards. As a result we can no longer recommend the FSC standard”.
Friends of the Earth England and Wales pioneered timber certification during the 1980s and was one of FSC’s founders.
FoE EWNI’s website does state that “FSC certification is the strongest available standard for new wood” and that the FSC’s certifications have “improved forestry standards”. However, FoE EWNI’s lead in publicly stating its loss of confidence in the FSC is likely soon to be followed by criticism from other NGOs. Greenpeace is expected shortly to publish the report ‘Holding the Line’, its long-awaited investigation into numerous controversial FSC certificates. Several other European NGOs such as FERN are understood to be preparing a critical ‘statement’ to be delivered to the FSC’s forthcoming General Assembly in Cape Town. FSC will receive a hostile reception in South Africa from local NGOs, which have been campaigning for the de-certification of numerous non-compliant industrial plantation companies operating in their country.
FSC’s recently appointed Executive Director, Andrei de Freitas, now faces a mammoth task reversing the catastrophic legacy he has been handed by previous director, Heiko Liedeker. The international board, similarly suffering from years of ineffectiveness, will now have to give de Freitas a clear mandate to urgently clean the organisation up. FSC-Watch believes that, in order to restore confidence, they will have to break the direct financial link between certifiers and their clients, reverse the ‘race to the bottom’ of certification standards, and take decisive action against certifiers such as SGS, WoodMark and Rainforest Alliance which issue certificates to non-compliant forestry companies. The November General Assembly may be the organisation’s last chance for survival.
Update (29 October 2008): This article has been amended to clarify that FoE International is a federation of national organisations. Some of these support FSC and are members. Other FoE groups are either not members or openly criticise FSC. FoE International is not a member of FSC.